Hydrangeas rule in Boveglio

Boveglio is a village clinging to the mountainside not far from Benabbio on the road towards Collodi and Pescia. It belongs to the Comune di Villa Basilica and has a population of about 150 people.

Little of the ancient village is visible from the road. I parked at the top and walked down the steep path to explore. One of the first things I noticed was the lovely gardens, many filled with hydrangeas in bloom. My visit was a little while ago, so they are probably past their best now.

Come for a walk through Boveglio…

 

 

 

 


The village was bigger than I expected. There were several narrow streets spreading up and down the incline.

I came to the piazza where I found a bar beside the statue dedicated to fallen soldiers.

 

From the terrace I had an excellent view of the village and surrounds.

 

 

Then it was back up to the top.

 

 

 

Boveglio is delightful. The gardens are beautifully cared for. Most houses are built of grey stone, so it could quite drab without the riot if colour provided by the lovely flowers. Thank you to the green fingered gardeners who made this walk through the village so joyful.

Isola Santa

When you have explored all the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca there are hundreds of interesting hamlets to visit in nearby Garfagnana.

Isola Santa is a partially submerged village not far from Castelnuovo in the Garfagnana. It was built in the Middle Ages, probably the 13th century, around a hospice for travellers and pilgrims.

The hospice was disbanded in 1575. It was brought back to life in 1608 and rebuilt as the church of St Jacopo, which still stands today. The detached bell tower was built in 1899.

In 1950 the construction of a hydroelectric station forced the inhabitants to leave. A dam was built and the old bridge and a mill were flooded. Years later some inhabitants returned and restored some of the buildings, but these days it is almost deserted.

It doesn’t take long to explore a Isola Santa…come for a walk through the village.



The best reason to come to Isola Santa is to enjoy the calm, clear water held back by the dam. It is a great place to have a picnic, eat at one of the restaurants or go fishing.



 

Isola Santa would be a lovely day trip from Bagni di Lucca.

 

 

The English past of Bagni di Lucca

The most recent guided walk I did was in La Villa, the central village of Bagni di Lucca. The walk focused on the English presence in Bagni di Lucca. In the early 1800s the area was a popular part of the Grand Tour. Many English came to visit and some stayed a while.

We began our tour at the most obvious place, the English Church in Via Evangelina Whipple.

The English community wanted their own place to worship. They had been meeting from 1829 in part of the Hotel Pellicano (now Hotel Regina). By 1838 they had a permanent pastor, Robbins, and requested permission for a church a year later. In 1840 Carlo Ludivico di Borbone granted that permission provided it did not look like a church.

Architect Giuseppe Pardini designed what was called a Palace for the English Nation. Its last activity as a church was in 1936 and in 1976 it became a library and archive centre.

We walked past the pharmacy where the English bought their tea as well as medical supplies. It still has its old interior.

The Teatro Accademico was built in 1790. It attracted famous performers and patrons from all over Italy. When the casino opened in Ponte a Serraglio in 1839 it was an important part of the social scene and took over as the place to go in the winter when the casino was closed.

In 1939 it converted to a cinema before reverting to live performance in the 1970s. It was restored in 1980 and holds regular performances, including hosting the Teatro Scuole each  spring for the last 26 years. Students come from all over Italy to take part.

Circolo dei Forestieri, Foreigners’ Club, was built to cater for the number of foreigners arriving. The French court of Elise Bonaparte came first, then the English. A young Puccini played here. It was renovated in 1928. On the first floor roulette was played under the eye of Galeazzo Ciano and his wife Edda Mussolini. These days the upstairs rooms are used for events, exhibitions and meetings. The ground floor houses a restaurant.

We walked across the passerella built in the early 1900s. To get to the English cemetery.

In 1842 the Stisted family acquired 1800 square metres of land to build the English cemetery. The last burial took place in 1953 and the cemetery was closed. It fell into disrepair, but is being beautifully restored by a group of volunteers.

Is the the final resting place for many notable people, including the Stisteds who had a lot to do with the English community in Bagni di Lucca.

Marie Louise de la Remee, known as Ouida is buried here. She was a famous writer, born in Suffolk in 1839. She was a prolific novelist and an animal lover. She lived in Bagni di Lucca for a time and died in Viareggio in 1908.

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Rose Elizabeth Cleveland was the sister of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd president of the USA. She was his First Lady until he married. During a visit to Bagni di Lucca during WWI she met, and became close friends with, Evangelina Whipple who was a wealthy widow. Together they did philanthropic work including building an orphanage.

They volunteered for the Red Cross with their friend Erichsen. Whipple helped during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. Erichsen contracted the flu and died several days after the war ended. Cleveland died several days later after nursing her friend. Whipple died in 1930 and was buried beside her friend.

 

The Stisted’s, who were a vital part of the community, are buried side by side.

The renovation work continues in the cemetery.

The guided walks have been an excellent initiative in Bagni di Lucca this summer. Thank you to all involved in their organisation.

There is still one more coming up on 23rd August.

 

 

A walk in Bagno alla Villa

On Sunday I joined a guided walk to the old houses in Bagno alla Villa, one of the older parts of La Villa, the main village of Bagni di Lucca. It was organised by the Fondazione Culturale Michel de Montaigne.

We began at the English church in Via Evangelina Whipple. To cater for the English community in Bagni di Lucca in the 19th century, in 1839 Carlo Ludovico, Duke of Lucca, granted permission to build the “Palace of the English Nation” as it was called. The building was designed by Giuseppe Pardini. The church is now a wonderful library, which is now closed because of the disruptions caused by Covid 19.

Across the road from the church is a path that takes you up to meet the road going to Bagno alla Villa.

There is a great view of the church from up here.

The view also includes La Villa and behind to San Cassiano.

The first Villa we came to was once the summer home of Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister. There were no gates in her day. People preferred there gardens to be open.

We walked on to Villa Mansi, built between 1622 and 1669 by the Mansi family, one of the families of the Lucca aristocracy.

On a wall beside the above entrance is what is believed to be an original Della Robbia. It is in excellent condition.

 

The next house is lovely.

Further on is the house where Montaigne stayed in the summer of 1571.

 

 

The highlight of the visit for me was being able to go inside the Terme

The baths have been closed for many years. It is a great pity that these wonderful establishments have not been able to be opened and used. They could be an asset to Bagni di Lucca.

 

 

Above the Terme we came to Villa Web, where Lord Byron stayed in 1822. The house is sometimes open for events and it is full of wonderful things from Bagni di Lucca’s past.

Beside it is the house where his friend Percy Shelley stayed.

From this level there is an excellent view of the top of the Terme. These structures were added to bring light and ventilation to the baths.

We walked back down towards Via Evangelina Whipple.


I particularly liked this little garden corner.

We came to the stables for the villas, now apartments.

Through the gates beside the stables is Villa Ada, which we didn’t visit. Here are photos I took a few years ago. This is another house begging to be restored and put to good use.

I am really enjoying these walks in Bagni di Lucca. Thank you to the organisers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A walk in Cocciglia and Pallegio

On Sunday I joined another of the guided walks to some of the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca. This time the walk took us to Cocciglia and nearby Pallegio.

We began at the bottom of Cocciglia.


First there was a small detour to Ponte Nero, the old bridge that crosses the Lima River at Strette di Cocciglia.

From the bridge you can see the stunning Strette di Cocciglia, a beautiful part of the river,  now the home of Canyon Park adventures.


We were able to see inside the Oratorio di San Rocco, the little church dating from 1532, at the beginning of the bridge.

Then it was back to the path towards Cocciglia. The village was named after a late Roman settler called Caucilius or Cocilius. Along the way we saw some well kept farm plots and this very stylish little shrine.


Just before the path that takes you up the hill to Cocciglia is the Oratorio San Michele, dating from the 13th century, with its well kept cemetery.


Across from the Oratorio is the path to the village. This was the only way to the village before the road was built in the not too distant past.

 




From the path there is a good view of Pallegio, the village we visited next.


Our first stop at the beginning of the village was here.

We walked along a tiny laneway where the wall was covered with caper plants.

Cocciglia is a maze of tiny streets with archways and tunnels, the remnants of old defence gateways into the town. Houses are tucked inside these structures. The doors to keep enemies out are long gone, but you can see where they were.

This wall of a house is ancient. It could tell some stories.

We kept going up towards the parish church dedicated to San Bartolommeo.

Some of the construction is Roman with additions in medieval times.


 

You can see the repairs and additions in this wall at the base of the church.

We arrived at the top of Cocciglia.

In the church is a cross depicting the crucifixion.

From the top we walked down the road to drive to Pallegio. Before the town is the Oratorio di Santa Maria della Quercia, with a stunning interior. These precious churches have to be firmly locked to prevent theft of the treasures inside.




From here we walked down a leafy path to the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge, part of the ancient path between Cocciglia and Pallegio.

Just past the bridge is a remnant of the Roman path.

On one of the stones is the mark of the man who placed it all those years ago. It is amazing to me that I can stand on a path that has existed for 2000 years or more.

Further up the hill is the tiny town of Pallegio.
Very few people now live in the village and the parish church is now closed. We stopped for refreshments and spoke to some of the friendly people from the town. It would be sad to see these villages become empty. Let’s hope some people come to buy the old houses and bring new life.


 


 

 


On the walk back to the car there were excellent views of Cocciglia and Casoli in the distance.

…a last look at Pallegio.

Once again the walk was great fun and very informative. Thank you to Antonio and Virgilio for sharing their love and knowledge of these beautiful villages. We are so lucky to have these intact, authentic places to explore in Bagni di Lucca.

There are more walks to come.

Summer walks in Bagni di Lucca

Several guided walks to help us learn more about our lovely villages have been organised over the next few weeks.

The first one is tomorrow in Vico Pancellorum. Call 0583 809945 to see if there some places left. Only 10 people at a time can join. The group will gather in front of Circolo dei Forestieri at 9.00am before being taken to the destination.

This is a great initiative. I hope the walks will be well patronised.

Be sure to call for more information or to book a place.

The pool opens Saturday 4th July

Excellent news! Our beautiful pool in Bagni di Lucca opens for the season Saturday 4th July from 9.00am until 19.00. Call 339 2376523 for more information.

This pool is surely in the most stunning position…an excellent asset for Bagni di Lucca.

As well as this good news, free Wifi is now available in many areas in La Villa.

Auser reopening

The excellent shop in Ponte a Serraglio that sells a wonderful selection of second hand household items is open on Saturdays and Sundays…10.00 – 12.00 and 15.00 – 18.00.

Anyone setting up house in the area would to well to drop in and see the beautiful items they have for sale at excellent prices. An added benefit is that the profits are used to help people in need.

There simply must be something you need in this collection.


 

The clothing section of the shop is not open yet, but will happen in the future. 


Auser Is on the road between Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa, not far from Ristorante da Bruno. The Auser Association runs the shop and takes its name from an old name for the Serchio river.

 

 

La Corona, a new opening

We are very excited at Ponte a Serraglio to see the opening of La Corona, the newly renovated hotel and restaurant.

Perhaps the name is a little unfortunate right now, but the up side it is easy to remember.

We arrived just as heavy rain began. This was a pity as the outside areas of the hotel are lovely. I will show you those on a better day. We gathered in the brand new bar area.

There was delightful entertainment.

We were taken up to the first floor to see some of the rooms of the hotel. There are 15 rooms and they look great. Each room is decorated individually, with well appointed bathrooms. Several rooms have views over the river, with great views and a couple have their own balcony.

 


My good friend Tina and I were the first guests in the beautiful restaurant.

The food was excellent. We began with a selection of Tuscan delights.

We both chose the risotto.

Tina had pork belly with crustaceans.

 

I enjoyed the guinea fowl on a bed of chestnut bread.

La Corona is an excellent addition to Ponte a Seraglio. I wish everyone involved the best and hope they get lots of visitors soon.

There was huge storm last night which began while we were at the restaurant. It settled a bit, but in the middle of the night I was woken by the noise of the river rushing past my window. The water was as high and as turbulent as I have ever seen it. This morning the river had settled a lot, but it was still brown and flowing quickly under the bridge.

Unfortunately the forecast is for another week of stormy weather. I hope the weather bureau is wrong on this.

La Corona…Ponte a Serraglio.

http://www.lacoronabdl.com