Cider by Chris

My friend Chris Buxton has a lovely little cottage in Colle, above Ponte a Serraglio.

This is Chris…I’ll let him tell you the cider story.

Chris' cider

At a lovely late September barbecue, looking over an orchard teeming with fruit, missing my English pub and the real ales and ciders, I wondered what is done with all the apples…not much it seems…and no one makes or drinks cider…what a waste.

My friend, Super Mario, as I call him, found the owner, who said I could help myself to the apples. Others knocked on my door and Mario Morotti offered me the apples below his vineyard. If only I had known how steep and how far below!

It looked as though I had passed the point of no return. Thankfully some Ponte people offered their assistance and cider production was underway…with some extra help from Luna.

Chris' cider

Chris' cider

Chris' cider

There was a bit of research, a bit of borrowing equipment from friends and neighbours and some advice from local wine makers.

Chris' cider

Chris' cider

Chris' cider…some supervision by Luna.

Chris' cider I won’t bore you with the details, but there’s not an awful lot more to do than get the juice from the apples and let nature take its course.

The end result? Some weak, some strong, some bottled clear and fizzy, some the way traditionalists like it, natural and cloudy.

Chris' cider

It has been fun tasting it, sharing it…

Chris' cider

…but alas it is not to everyone’s taste.

Chris' cider

Thank you Chris for sharing your tale of cider. I hope there is some left when I get back to Bagni di Lucca.

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.

Oriana

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.

Paolo is back

It is no secret that Paolo is one of my favourite Bagni di Luccans. We were all saddened and worried when we learned of his recent accident.

I can happily report that he is back at work and on the mend. His back brace will stay on a bit longer, and he looks a bit battered and bruised, but he should make a full recovery.

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Drop in to Catene Cafe in Fornoli and wish him well…and have a coffee or one of his delicious gelati.

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Welcome back Paolo.

Alighiero and friend

We have a delightful man at Ponte a Serraglio who takes care of the wild ducks on the river. Until recently we also had a white duck and a goose. The duck has been around as long as I have been coming to the village, but he died not long ago, leaving just the goose.

Fortunately he has Alighiero to make sure he is not lonely.

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I hope you all have at least one good friend like Alighiero. Have a happy and healthy 2014…see you in Bagni di Lucca one day soon.

Meet Tina from Ponte a Serraglio

Tina was one of the first people I met when I came to Ponte a Serraglio, lucky me. She has been a great help to us in all things, in fact, our lives here would have been much more difficult if not for Tina. She knows everything worth knowing about Bagni di Lucca….and she speaks perfect English.

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Tina’s mother was from Bagni di Lucca, and her father came from Piacenza, but she was born in New York. Her father died when she was young, and at 12 years of age she came with her mother to live at Ponte a Serraglio in 1949, in the lean years after the war. I asked her to tell me some of what she remembers of her life in the village.

Tina arrived after the war, but memories were still fresh then. There was a lot of fighting in the area. Remnants of the Gottica Line can still be seen nearby.

The Ponte a Serraglio piazza was damaged during World War 11. The retreating Germans destroyed the bridge and a temporary one was put in by the Allied Troops. Tina’s grandmother told of an incident involving the over enthusiastic use of dynamite to widen the road to allow tanks through, which resulted in the near destruction of several buildings in the square. The front of our building also suffered some damage, but was able to be repaired.

What is now the Bar Italia and the Bridge Hotel were rebuilt in 1951 – 1952 along with the new bridge. Things slowly improved in the 1950s when buildings were repaired and painted and by the 1960s Ponte a Serraglio was a thriving town.

There were 3 grocery stores, 2 fruit and vegetable shops, 2 butchers, a pharmacy, 2 hairdressers and 2 barbers, a hardware store, 2 bakeries, a fabric store and one that sold sewing machines, a cigarette and cigar store, a shoe store, shoe repairers and bicycle repairs and a bank.

As well as the 2 bars, which are still operating, there were 3 osterias to provide meals and places for people to gather and socialise.

At the time ready to wear clothing was still not popular and there were a few seamstresses in the village. Not everyone had a well equipped kitchen and people would take their roast dinners and cakes and biscuits to the bakeries to be cooked after the bread was done for the day. One of the cooks was particularly good with biscuits and quite a few of hers never made it home.

There was a police station near Villa Fiori which supplied a source of eligible men for the village. New recruits were quickly snapped up by the local girls.

I asked Tina what happened to all the shops and businesses as there are very few left. She said it was a combination of things. Before the war families had lots of children. Tina told me that the school she attended wasn’t big enough to hold all the children and some of them were sent to a nearby building for their lessons. The school building is still there, but is now empty and in need of serious renovation. It would make a great apartment building.

During the 1950s and 1960s there were fewer babies born. Most families had only 1 or 2. This coupled with young people slowly moving away to find better paid work than was offered in the few factories in the area, meant that the population slowly declined and the businesses couldn’t survive.

Tina remembers that there was still a horse and carriage to take people to the station and to make deliveries when she was young. One of the first cars to appear after the war was a Fiat Cinquecento, which must have caused a bit of excitement.

Foreigners, like us, are now moving into the area and buying the empty houses and apartments. While this may not be the perfect solution, I think is better than having the village die. It is good to see the houses lived in and gardens growing again. Our little piazza is constantly full with locals and people from all over the world. We have English, Australian, Norwegian, Brazilian, Finnish, American, Dutch and lots of other nationalities chattering to each other in the bar and I think it is great. It is still an authentic Italian village and I don’t think any of the foreigners want to change anything.

I would love to have seen Ponte a Serraglio in its heyday, it must have been a lively, fun place. I think it is delightful now and buying our apartment near the bridge has been a wonderful thing, allowing us to spend several months a year in the village.

If you see Tina at Bar Italia, say hello. She often sits with a group of lovely Ponte ladies.

The photo below was taken in early 2018. The next one is an earlier photo.

Tina

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