A book to read

I recently given a wonderful book to read by the author, Dawn Cumming, who lives in Granaiola. Dawn is an art historian specialising in Italian Renaissance Art. She divides her time between Bagni di Lucca and the UK. She has a passion for Tuscany, particularly its art and culture.
Her book is called In Search of Annalena. A Life of Tragedy and Triumph in Renaissance Florence, published in October 2020. It follows the life of Annalena, born in the time of the Medici. Her story is set in Florence where she marries, becomes a young widow and establishes a convent. Part of the building still exists.

I loved the book! I felt that I was with Annalena in Florence, walking the streets she walked, seeing the buildings she saw and getting a feeling of life in Renaissance Florence.

In Search of Annalena is exquisitely researched. Dawn’s love of Florence is clear. I look forward to my next trip to Florence so that I can visit Casa di Annalena and find the other places that were important in her life. She was a remarkable woman with a fascinating life.

The book is available through http://troubadour.co.uk, http://Amazon.co.uk

For further information about the author http://www.tuscanyathome.co.uk

A new edition of Pieve di Controne

Ann Barsi is working on a new edition of the 2012 edition of Pieve di Controne, a book by Elio Carlotti on the history of the village. The 2012 edition, which was actually the second print, sold almost all 500 copies. The book sale proceeds help the Pieve parish and  those looking for their Pieve roots.

This edition would like to include more family pages, so anyone with a story to tell is encouraged to take a page in the book. It helps to make the book more personal with individual stories of the village and interesting tales of descendants’ lives, past and present.The Family Page could be your own family story, a family tree, photos and stories of life in the village.

Here are some examples of family pages.

You can help in 3 ways, pre-order the book, buy a Family Page or donate any amount.The books will cost €25 and a Family Page is €150.

For more information please contact Ann Barsi…abarsi@verizon.net

Pieve di Controne…second edition

Anyone who lives in Pieve di Controne…or has visited and fallen in love with the area…or has ancestors who come from the hamlets around Bagni di Lucca, will be interested in reading the second edition of Pieve di Controne.


First published in 1971, Pievano Don Elio Carlotti tells the story of the ancient parish of Pieve di Controne from its early inhabitants in the centuries before Christ, up to the years following WWII. He shares his love of these hill towns above Bagni di Lucca, its churches, ceremonies and its people.

The second edition has Don Carlotti’s text in both Italian and English. Genealogical trees for over 50 of the parish’s families have been expanded by Ann Barsi to include ancestors from the 1600s to the present day. New to the second edition are Family Pages submitted by the descendants of the Pieve community from around the world, showing us where they are now, and how they fondly remember their Nonni from the Pieve. Photos old and new give us a closeup look at the beauty of the Pieve di Controne.





All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to help fund the repairs to the Campanile at Pieve di Controne…an excellent reason to buy it…apart from the fact that it is a great read and of interest to anyone who loves this area. At one time Ponte a Serraglio and Chifenti were part of the Plebato of Pieve di Controne.

The book is €20 and is available from Claudio Gemignani in Gombereto and Andreina Bianchi at Via Tovani 19, Fornoli.

Or email Ann Barsi at abarsi@verizon.net

Bagni di Lucca has the first casino in Europe


The Royal Casino in Ponte a Serraglio was the first public casino in Europe. Gambling was already popular in the area and people would gather in one of the buildings in Bagni Caldi, which now houses the thermal baths, until Carlo Lodovico di Borbone commissioned Giuseppe Pardini to build the casino in 1837.

the casino today

The interior of the building is beautiful and was lovingly restored recently, bringing back to life the walls decorated with the gilded lilies on a blue background, similar to the Florentine iris. The original ornate crystal chandeliers are still there along with some of the original furnishings.

the beautiful ceiling and the original chandeliers

the Florentine lily

2 French gentlemen, Adrien Mathis and Edouard Ginnestet were allowed the management of the gambling. European aristocracy gambled fortunes at “biribosso”, a game of chance using numbered counters, said to be the beginnings of roulette. Several early gambling games were originally played here in Bagni di Lucca. The profits from the casino helped with the management of the spas in the area.

It must have been a fun place to be, with poetry, plays and concerts performed by the famous musicians of the day, including Franz Liszt.

where the musicians used to perform

The casino closed after WWII, but reopened in 2005 after the renovations, which took 2 years. It was used for a time as the information centre and is now available for exhibitions and private functions.

the restaurant

beautiful walls in the restaurant

the well stocked bar

I love the details on the walls and ceilings. I was here when the restoration work was being done and the patient workers would occasionally let me watch them at work. It inspired me to paint my walls at home. I wish they looked as good as the ones at the casino.

decoration on the walls

detail on the ceiling

decoration on the ceiling

the interior took 2 years to restore

The casino is in Ponte a Serraglio, Via del Casino 66/68. There is parking space at Villa Fiori across the river and you can walk to the casino via the passerella (walking bridge).

Ponte a Serraglio

Casino Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte della Maddalena…..Devil’s Bridge

Ponte Maddalena

While this gorgeous bridge is not actually in Bagni di Lucca it is synonymous with the area, and a perfect introduction to our villages . The very beautiful Ponte Diavolo crosses the Serchio river at Borgo a Mozzano, just 4 kilometres before Bagni di Lucca.

The bridge was thought to be commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany around 1080 – 1100 to enable people to cross the Serchio and get access to the spas in Bagno di Corsena, as Bagni di Lucca was then called.

The name Ponte Maddalena comes from a life size image of Maddalena, a painting from the Della Robbia school, which was in an oratory at the foot of the bridge. You can now see it in the Church of S. Jacopo in Borgo a Mozzano.

The bridge’s more popular name, Devil’s Bridge, comes from the legend from the time of Saint Julian, the protector of travellers. The devil was asked for help to construct the bridge and in return he was offered the soul of whoever crossed the bridge first. Saint Julian arranged for a dog to cross the bridge for the first time.

In 1836 a flood damaged the bridge and it required significant repairs. An extra arch was added in the early 1900s to make more room for a surfaced roadway.

spring at Ponte della Maddalena

beside the bridge

a perfect reflection

the main arch is 18.5 metres high

looking down from the top

looking towards Bagni di Lucca

from the top

a perfect spring day

looking towards Borgo a Mozzano

the beautiful Serchio valley

Lucky for us it is still intact and it is possible to walk across the bridge and to admire the excellent view from the highest arch.

The bridge takes on a completely different look in winter. I think it looked wonderful in 2011 with the huge flag put there to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

a rainy day at Ponte della Maddalena

even the ducks are impressed

There is a car park beside the bridge to allow you to stop for a while. I tried walking there from Bagni di Lucca once, but that was a bit scary. There is no footpath and the road is narrow and I was shouted at by drivers. There is a bus stop there, so if you can coordinate the buses, that would be an option. Walking from Borgo a Mozzano is a bit less dramatic.

I think the perfect solution would be a footpath constructed beside the road, over the river, which would give excellent pedestrian access…… is anyone listening?