As if the re-opening of Bagni di Lucca’s iconic “Circolo dei Forestieri” were not another wonder to re-awaken Bagni di Lucca after its recent traumatic past, a jewel of a building has cast away its scaffolding to reveal itself in its full wonder.
In my opinion it’s probably the most beautiful house in the whole valley and also the most historic. This is where, after all, Robert Browning, from my own borough of Camberwell London SE where I was born, lived and educated, and Elizabeth Barrett, who Robert saved from a dangerously possessive father, enjoyed their most idyllic moments, wrote their most entrancing verses, wandered on their most bewitching walks, lived their most affectionate memories of a love that has captured the world with its intensity, its sensitivity and its creativity.
This is the house (which I originally described at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/not-browned-off/ and which was most recently lived in by a well-known army general) which has been brought back to life as a sleeping beauty by that prince of architects, Francesco Rondina, himself and the bounty of a couple, Florentine and English in turn. Through the cobwebs of neglect, through the brambles of dereliction it has once more seen the light of a new dawn.
The courage, the pride, the ultimate beauty of the result is yet another example of how Bagni di Lucca is re-awakening with courage and determination thanks to the force and generosity of people with sufficient vision to see what a unique corner of Tuscany (and the world) we have the privilege to live in.
I have absolutely no doubt that the extraordinary finds of this house (I am only showing the external decorations but within there are the most exquisitely languorous art nouveau women you could possibly imagine) will finally confirm Bagni di Lucca as not only a historic spa town but as one which was inspired by all the latest currents of that seductive art nouveau (“stile liberty in Italian) which permeated Lucca and its provinces as much as other parts of Italy and turned it into a centre of the beau monde and of the highest intellectual life with such greats as Carducci, Pascoli and (of course) Giacomo Puccini himself.
O that we had never had those terrible two ghastly wars in the last century! The tragedy of Europe, of a continent as it was once known and loved…… How much more we would have reached the beauty, the sexiness, the absolute joie de vivre which was beginning to burgeon at the start of the twentieth century and which could have produced a paradise on earth or at least around the Val di Lima. No wonder E. M. Forster (who I was so happy to know and appreciate during my undergraduate days) was unable to write any more “European novels” after that horror.
Bagni di Lucca’s most beautiful house encapsulates all those aspirations which were so utterly dashed between 1914 and 1918 never to rise again in their hoped-for form. Let us look at it, admire it and be inspired.
Meanwhile, I send my heartfelt congratulations to all those responsible for the rebirth of an ecstatic architectural beauty in Val di Lima and Bagni di Lucca.
For, as Keats famously said:
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
I do wish more people would realise that………..