Yesterday was the first Sunday of spring and it was good to remember this gently sunny day of the new season with two events which demonstrate some of the best of Italy: its food and its music.
At the formerly abandoned village of Pian di Fiume, rescued by mayor of Bagni di Lucca Massimo Betti, a spring lunch was laid on for a very reasonable price and of the highest culinary quality.
The menu was as follows:
In case one doesn’t know what a Cinta Senese is it’s an ancient breed of pig brought back from near extinction and providing the best pork cuts one is likely to taste anywhere. We saw a lot of these pigs in the Maremma last summer and with their distinctive colouring they were really enjoying the wide spaces they need to graze in (probably why intensive farming didn’t like them) for the last thing le cinte like to see is a pig-sty.
(apologies for vegetarians and pig-lovers)
Daniela, the mayor’s partner, served the large crowd which was well over a hundred with her usual efficiency and there was truly a buoyant atmosphere in this resurrected village.
Mayor Massimo was most hospitable towards us and showed me pictures I’d never seen before from a wedding album in which I had been asked by him to conduct a same-sex marriage between two charming girls (the civil one having been carried out in the UK). I remember that occasion with great affection and the sweet little open air semi-circular theatre which forms part of Pian di Fiume lent itself well to that equally-packed occasion.
(Me as master of ceremonies with my wife at that special wedding)
As some of you may know the ideal wedding ceremony arranger in this part of the world is Lisa Redgrave who also uses Pian di Fiume for her wedding settings. Her web site is at.
Sports activities were also available which included white-water rafting, pony trekking, quad excursions and mountain biking. After the meal, however, I was more interested in the music part of my Sunday afternoon which was held at BdL’s Teatro Accademico at the civilized time of 4.30 PM and not at the standard 9.00 pm time for such events which I still cannot get used to (unless I have an afternoon forty winks).
Again, this was another event to welcome in the spring and cheer us up which we all (believe me) needed after the madness of the weather a couple of weeks ago. Our box was in an excellent situation to enjoy to the fullest the vocal concert which consisted of the following items.
All the singers delivered their parts with proficiency but I was particularly entranced by the voice of Valentina Boi, brought in at the last minute, who wore a stunning high-slashed black dress. Her aria “Tu che di gel sei cinta” from Puccini’s Turandot was particularly touching as was her dramatic performance of “Pace pace mio Dio” from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. I look forward to hearing Valentina sing Liu at this summer’s Torre Del Lago festival.
After the performance we had a drink in the nicely refurbished bar of the recently re- opened circolo dei forestieri whose saloon was packed with evening diners.
Our Sunday was certainly “bread and circuses” but of the highest quality and we all returned home with lightened spirits and happier hearts ready now to believe that spring had truly sprung.