Womens’ day celebrations

The Casino in Ponte a Serraglio will be holding lots of events to celebrate Womens’ Day. The opening event is on Sunday 5th March at 5.00pm and the Casino will be open every day from 5.00pm until Sunday 12th March.

Womens' Day Womens' Day img_6314

There will be music and art, food and conversations, make your own mandala…something for everyone. Please email Morena for more information morenaguarna@hotmail.com 

Making figurines

Bagni di Lucca has long been known for making figurines. As a cheaper alternative to carved marble or stone, religious statues were made with Plaster of Paris, or gesso. Presepi, or nativity scenes, were particularly popular and salesmen from Bagni di Lucca took them to the world.

Arte Basanti

The industry still exists in Bagni di Lucca and there is now a plan to introduce a course in the making of figurines. A contribution from Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca has enabled a small group of people including the mayor, Massimo Betti, Alessandro Gabrielli, Sonia Lena and Mariano Mariani to initiate a course of lessons in this traditional art.

The lessons will be open to anyone over 16 and will be managed by Simone Fiori from Arte Basanti, a firm that still makes figurines by hand in the old tradition. (Click here to see the post about it) He will be helped by Mariano Mariano, Luca Marchi and Marco Fontanini from other local businesses.

Arte Basanti

Figurines in BdL

Applications for the course can be made until 23rd December at the education office in the Comune in La Villa or through the website http://www.comunebagnidilucca.it.

The course, or courses, if there is enough interest, will begin in the new year and will consist of lessons over 5 mornings and 2 afternoons. The cost will be €50 for residents and €80 for non residents. Each course will be limited to 10 people.

For information call (39) 0583 809940.

I think this is an excellent initiative and I hope it is successful. It would be great if it becomes popular and attracts people from outside the area as well as locals.

Residents of Bagni di Lucca took their plaster skills all over the world when they migrated to other countries. It would be wonderful  to revive the skill and provide a fun thing for visitors to do.

Please share this post and spread the word.

A win for Bagni di Lucca

I am happy to let you know that Bella Bagni di Lucca was awarded Runner Up for Best Single Art and Culture Post for the post called An old tradition in Bagni di Lucca.Arte Barsanti

Arte Barsanti

The post is about Arte Barsanti, a small, family owned company that makes figurines. It has been in business for more than 100 years. I am delighted that the win will focus attention on this wonderful tradition.

I found out a couple of days ago, but the weather bomb (tornado) seemed a bit more important. This are getting back to normal. Some houses are still without power, but I hope this will soon be fixed. Many roofs will need to be repaired and the fallen trees will all need to be cleared. It will take some time.

The weather has been fine since the wind, which is good, we don’t need any rain just yet.

The village looked so calm the night after the wind, it seemed difficult to believe it happened at all.

Ponte a Serraglio


About the blog

I recently received a comment on a post I wrote in 2013 about Arte Barsanti, a local company that still makes plaster of paris figurines in the same way as they have been made in the area for centuries.

The comment was made by a man from USA. He says that his father was born in Riolo and went to America as a 14 year old boy and worked for people who came from Bagni di Lucca making the figurines. He later founded his own business which his sons now operate.

I started the first blog, Bagni di Lucca and Beyond, to inform our friends who came to the village about where to go and what to see. It grew to include all my travels, so I started Bella Bagni di Lucca to share only stories and photos of the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca.

An unexpected and delightful thing about writing the blogs has been comments such as the one mentioned. It is quite amazing how many people around the world have a connection with Bagni di Lucca.

I have received dozens of comments on the blogs and emails from people who have told me that their grandparents lived in one of the houses I have photographed, or that they remember playing in a tiny street in one of the villages, or they have heard their families talk about Bagni di Lucca.

People have told me that they have come to Bagni di Lucca because of what I write about the villages. Some have liked the place so much that they have returned several times. Some have even gone on to buy property in the area.

Fellow Bagni di Lucca blogger, Francis of From London to Longoio, has just done a post along the same lines.

Writing a blog takes quite a bit of time, but it is all worthwhile when we receive these wonderful comments from people with an interest in Bagni di Lucca.

Thank you to all those who follow the blog and take the time to share thoughts.

Click here to see the post on Arte Barsanti.



Merry Christmas from Bagni di Lucca

Christmas is a lovely time to be in Bagni di Lucca. Christmas lights appear, panettone is eaten and little festivals happen.

One of the most delightful of these is the Presepi Viventi…Living Nativity. This year Granaiola was turned into a living nativity scene. It was a cold afternoon but everyone kept warm with wine, crepes and roasted chestnuts.

Visitors walked through the village to witness displays of traditonal crafts, food and entertainment. It is wonderful to see everyone take part.

Here are some photos kindly forwarded by my friend Belinda.

Presepi Viventi Granaiola

Presepi Viventi Granaiola

Presepi Viventi Granaiola

Presepi Viventi Granaiola


Presepi Viventi Granaiola

Presepi Viventi Granaiola

Presepi Viventi Granaiola

Presepi Viventi Granaiola

Presepi Viventi Granaiola

I hope you all have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS.

The slow bells

Slow bells toll when someone dies in our village. The bells ring to announce the funeral and when the body is taken from the church for the last journey.

The bells rang slowly recently for Oriana, one of the lovely old ladies who lived in Ponte a Serraglio. I met her soon after I arrived in the village. She was always ready with a smile and a chat.

She was part of a group of oldish ladies who would gather in the morning for coffee and a good old chinwag.  Several of them are still at the bar every day and there is a cheery “Buongiorno” for me. I haven’t seen Oriana for some time and it appears that she spent the last days of her life in hospital.

There used to be quite a large group of old gentlemen at the bar every morning where they would solve the problems of the world for a few hours, before strolling off home for lunch. This group has dwindled to two or three. I find it very sad to watch them grow old and then disappear one day.

I went to the church to farewell Oriana. She will be missed.


I think it is a lovely tribute to a treasured member of the community. The slow bells allow time to think about the life that has been lived, and recall happy memories.

Flowers everywhere

On All Souls’ Day, November 2, Italians take flowers to cemeteries to honour their deceased relatives. Florists do a roaring trade and cemeteries come alive with people.

Far from being a gloomy event, it is quite festive. People dress up and stroll around looking at the graves. Cemeteries look beautiful with colourful flowers decorating the tombs. Graves are generally well kept anyway, but this is special.

All souls day

All Souls' day

All Souls' Day


All Souls' Day

All Souls' Day

All Souls's Day

All Souls' Day

This is a lovely tradition. How nice to think that someone cared enough to keep your grave clean and tidy and bring flowers sometimes.


I love this word. It means good luck charm, or chase / sweep your troubles away. This is a scacciaguai.


It is on the wall just around the corner from the entrance to a restaurant named Scacciaguai in Barga.

The restaurant is run by 2 brothers and I think it is very good. I have been a few times and have had delicious food and good service each time.


Scacciaguai restaurant


Now for the food.

ScacciaguaiScacciaguaiScaggiaguaiScacciaguaiScacciaguaiScacciaguaiThey very kindly offer instructions on how to sweep away your troubles. Make the horns with your index finger and your little finger and poke the eyes of the Scacciaguai.


I should be OK now.



Via di Mezzo 25,

Barga. (39) 0583 711368


For more on scacciaguai read My Kitchen Witch.

Mario Lena, a special Ponte person

Mario Lena, poet at Ponte a Serraglio and remarkable previous Mayor of Bagni di Lucca, recently celebrated entering his 90th year. Maura Bertolozzi and Agostino Rieter organised a marble plaque to be hand carved in Pietrasanta with one of Mario’s poems. It was installed at Il Monaco, where Mario likes to have his breakfast in the morning. Our current Mayor, Dr Massimo Betti, officiated the ceremony to unveil the plaque.

Mario Lena was a respected scientist and teacher as well as a very popular mayor for 10 years from 1960.

Friends of poetry and Mario gathered for the unveiling of the poem.




Take the time to read the poem next time you are at Il Monaco and say hello if you see him. He is a very friendly and delightful man.

A few days later a second plaque was unveiled at the edge of Agostino’s property, beside a seat, where visitors are invited to rest a while, enjoy the poem and the magnificent view of Mario’s favourite place, Bagni di Lucca.








Writers from Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland and Italy have been drawn to Bagni di Lucca for centuries…Byron, Shelley, the Barrett Brownings and many more have spent time in the beautiful villages, no doubt taking inspiration from their surroundings, just like Mario Lena.

Agostino has had the brilliant idea to establish a “Poetry Path” and connect 17 sites around Ponte a Serraglio, Bagni Caldi, Il Paretaio, Bagno alla Villa and La Villa where famous writers lived or visited. People will be invited to walk to the sites, admire the view and read about the writers.

A proposal has been put to the Foundatione Michel de Montaigne and if approval is given, anyone interested in helping to get the idea off the ground will be invited to get involved.

We are hoping the Mayor and the Council of the Comune will give full cooperation. I will keep you up to date with developments.

I think something that encourages locals and visitors alike to walk around the area and appreciate the spectacular scenery and learn something about our literary residents and visitors is a wonderful idea.

Bagni di Lucca’s treasure, Mario Lena

Mario Lena is Bagni di Lucca’s very own poet. He was born in Bagni di Lucca in 1925 and came to poetry later in life. He trained as a scientist and was a mathematics teacher in Lucca.

He was mayor of Bagni di Lucca in the 1960s.

On Saturday 5th October there was an event at the Teatro Accademico to celebrate Signore Lena’s latest book of poetry and prose.


There was a large crowd at the theatre and Signore Lena was joined on the stage by several people who spoke at length about the poet and his work.




Signore Lena also spoke and recited several of his poems to a very enthusiastic audience.


I’m sure his latest book is going to be very popular.

Here is one of Mario Lena’s poems about Bagni di Lucca.

Le Cinque Finestre

Sopra le acque del Lima
le case.
Sopra le antiche case
le colline.
Sopra i rami delle colline
le nuvole dell’Appennino.
Sopra le nuvole
la gente
a reggere questo cielo
e la sua confortevole civilta.