Presepe in Pieve di Monti di Villa

The living nativity in Pieve di Monti di Villa was a great success. Lots of people attended and got into the spirit of things. I was unable to attend as I am currently in Australia, but luckily my friends Teri and Charlotte were there and took some photos.

Presepe Pieve Monti di Villa

Valerio Ceccarelli also captured the event.

Presepe di Monti di Villa

Presepe Pieve di Monti di Villa

Presepe Pieve di Monti di Villa

Presepe Pieve di Monti di VillaPresepe Pieve di Monti di VillaPresepe Pieve di Monti di VillaPresepe Pieve di Monti di VillaIt is wonderful to see so many people take part and to see a crowd of people enjoying the event. These local festivals are a delightful part of life in the villages of Bagni di Lucca…long may they continue.

An old tradition in Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca has a long history of making figurines from Plaster of Paris, or gesso, as it is called here. The tradition began in the 13th century when people from Bagni di Lucca started going to France to sell their silk and they became intrigued by the use of Plaster of Paris to make mortuary masks.

They experimented with it, as the soft alabaster, one of the main ingredients to make that type of plaster, was abundant in the area. They realised it would be possible to make inexpensive religious statues by making moulds and filling them with plaster…much cheaper than the usual carved marble or stone.

The figurines became very popular, as not everybody could afford a Della Robbia, or other original for their home or church. Presepi, or nativity scenes were big sellers and salesmen from the area would travel far and wide selling their wares.

I was very lucky to be able to see one of the last producers of figurines in Bagni di Lucca, and the only one who still makes his statues by hand. Meet Simone from Arte Barsanti.


The business was started by Simone’s great-grandfather in 1900. At its peak there were 60 people employed. Now it is just Simone with some helpful advice from his uncle Carmelo.


The little factory is a treasure trove of figurines, moulds and paraphernalia from years of work.


Simone took us through the process of making a figurine. First the mould is prepared.


The plaster powder is mixed with water until it is the consistency of yoghurt.


Then is poured into the prepared mould and shaken to get out as many air bubbles as possible.


The statue is then left to cure for about 20 minutes. If the figurines are under 30cm high they are solid plaster. If they are bigger than that they are hollow to save on plaster and to make them less heavy.

Once out of the mould, the figurines are finished by hand to remove any rough patches and fill any small imperfections.


They are then fired in the wood fired oven room.


The next step is to hand paint each figurine. The flesh coloured parts are spray painted first.


The rest is painted with brushes of varying sizes.


We were taken to the top floor where there is a little museum with some of the history of the business.





There is a photo of a recent Pope receiving a Barsanti figurine.


…and some old presepi, including one in a pumpkin.



…some old accounting equipment.


Best of all was an old suitcase which the travelling salesmen would take around the country to display their wares.


There is a delightful story that when Christopher Columbus arrived in America the first person he saw was a fellow from Lucca with a suitcase full of presepi for him to choose from.

We were given a beautiful presepio to take with us…my first…thank you Simone and Carmelo for a wonderful visit.


I really hope this wonderful tradition can be kept alive in Bagni di Lucca.

39 0583 87882

Christmas in Bagni di Lucca

Lots of fun things have been happening in Bagni di Lucca for Christmas. I am in sunny Australia now, but luckily for us Morena from Borgo degli Artisti has been taking photos of events around town.

There has been a presepe exhibition at the Circolo dei Forestieri in La Villa. Bagni di Lucca has a history of making presepe…nativity scenes.




An old mould is on display to show how the statues are made.


A couple of wonderful old paintings are included in the exhibition.


016 (1)

A special presepe has been created by Fontanini, a local company still making presepe, and is in place on the balcony of Circolo dei Forestieri.




The exhibition will be on display for another couple of weeks…go upstairs at the Circolo dei Forestieri if you are in the area.

A wonderful event took place in the area in front of Circolo dei Forestieri with the making of an enormous necci.  The fires were lit.


The giant pans were put in place.



The necci batter was spread on the pan.


The top of the pan was put on and heat applied.


Soon the necci was ready to eat.




I can’t tell you how much I wish I had been there for this. I love it when the whole community gets involved.

Paula Chesterman has been busy organising a choir and with the help of enthusiastic locals, an hour of hymns and readings from the bible took place the other night.

011 (2)

024 (2)

019 (1)

Mulled wine and mince pies were served afterwards…well deserved.

029 (2)

The choir will meet again in March. Click here for more information.

Morena has been busy with the children of the village with a workshop on elf making. The children then designed a ‘mailart’ envelope with stamp and letters were written to Santa. The best 5 envelopes will awarded on 5th January at the theatre in La Villa.

022 (2)-Elves

022 (1)-Elves




Thank you Morena for being roving reporter for the blog and sharing wonderful local activities with us.