The bar-bookshop at Florence Station

We are travelling through the very long new appennine tunnel on our journey to Milan for expo 2015. Since there isn’t much to see in a tunnel I’m writing this post to describe the brilliant Feltrinelli bookshop and coffee bar in Florence station. What a welcome change from the usual retail places in railway stations!

The selection of books from this publisher is awesome.P_20150831_095645

The coffee’s great at standard cafe prices.


There are two wonderful mural by the great Florentine artist Rosai.


Quotes from Amy Winehouse and Feltrinelli on the walls


A lovely view of Santa Maria Novella though the shop window:


A reading area and free WiFi

We’re boarding a high speed train to whisk us to Milan expo in less than two hours:

It’s a lovely sunshiney day to enjoy our time there.

What more could one wish for in early morning, I wonder?

Gombereto Celebrates its Fourteenth Festa Mediovale

Last night’s festa Mediovale at Gombereto was an unqualified success.

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The best Sbandieratori in our area, the ones from Gallicano, put on a show which displayed their virtuosity in flag twirling to the full, from the youngest to the most experienced, with a fine drum and trumpet band with well-thought out harmonies and exciting rhythms all weaved together into an elegant choreography.

There was mediaeval combat.

Plenty of stalls

A clown for the children

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Handicraft from Montefegatesi:

An exhibition of paintings in the little church:

And a goodly crowd.

This was the fourteenth festa Mediovale di Gombereto, each one set up and run by the indefatigable Claudio Geminiani.

Some people did remark that the attendance was not as good as it had been in some previous years but the temporary car park seemed full and all those who were there were certainly enjoying themselves.

The festa ended with a spectacular fireworks display, one of the best I have ever seen at Gombereto.

We certainly look forwards to the fifteenth festa Mediovale next year. Bravissimo Claudio!

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Triennial Festival Revisited at San Cassiano

Many religious festivals in Italy operate on a triennial basis; that is they occur on a large scale every three years. I suppose this underlines the mystery of the Holy Trinity: three-in-one and one-in-three. San Cassiano’s festa Del Crocifisso is an example of a triennial religious festival.

I have covered this festival for last year at

It takes place in one of the most beautiful romanesque churches of the Lucchesia with extraordinary sculptures loaded with differently interpreted symbolisms by various scholars.

The chess board clearly represents the battle between good and evil:

There is plenty more of interest both inside and outside this beautiful church:

Looking back into my photographic archive I note that I was there ten years ago when all these pictures were taken:

The climax of the ceremony is when the crucifix comes gently down a specially-built ramp from above the altar where it has been placed.

The descent from on high is, of course, meant to symbolise the incarnation of God in the figure of his Son Jesus Christ, who become a man.

It’s also ‘Ecce homo’, (here is the man) as Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea says (in St John’ gospel) to the mass of people in front of him when he has had Jesus flagellated. Pontius thought this was good enough punishment but the high priest wanted more and Jesus was crucified.

After the religious part of the ceremony and the solemn procession beating the bounds of San Cassiano, the whole village was treated to a concert by the excellent Corsagna ‘G. Verdi’ band.

I hope I’ll still be here to celebrate and photograph the SS Crocifisso festival when it next comes round in 2017. It’s truly the most spectacular event in our parish!

Val di Lima and the Mediaeval Festa

This Saturday the mediaeval festa comes to Val di Lima at Gombereto. Here is its poster designed by local artist Kety Bastiani:


However, there was a time when the Val di Lima boasted three annual mediaeval feste: not just at Gombereto but also at Casoli and Lucchio.  Shortly after 2009 they were sadly discontinued. I don’t know the reason why. Many enterprises fail in Italy not merely because of financial problems but also because of organizational difficulties.

Casoli, (described by Debra Kolkka at, had a particularly colourful mediaeval festa with great attendance and many costumed participants. There was also a re-enactment of the time that Casoli was saved from the Florentine enemy by the bravery of two girls using a cunning plan (not Baldrick’s!).

The following photographs go back ten years. I had only just become a permanent resident in the Val di Lima and this was probably my first mediaeval festa.

Some of my followers may recognize themselves in these now historic pictures….

It was, I feel, a happier time not just for Casoli, not just for the Val di Lima, not just for Italy but also for Europe. We knew nothing then of any impending financial crisis and the, now daily, terrible things happening to the surge of emigrant fleeing from impossible situations in other continents.

It’s so important to be positive about life but it’s getting much more of a challenge to be so now. It’s a comforting, nostalgic experience to look back at how we were just ten years ago.

All praise must, therefore, be due to Claudio Geminiani for his great efforts in keeping our last mediaeval festa going despite so many obstacles.

Here are some photographs of a show at Gombereto’s mediaeval festa I attended ten year ago!

The festa is free entrance. You can buy a food ticket (18 euros) and great entertainment is guaranteed, as usual, with the traditional Sbandieratori (flag twirlers), a re-enactment of the knighting of a mediaeval prince and plenty more.

More Music Events for September in Lucca


The “Laboratory Brunier” Artistic Cultural Association presents “Questione di… Stili 2015” for the Lucchese September. It’s about musical genres and styles by the musicologist Renzo Cresti. This is its fifth year and there are three events highlighting the artistic excellence of Lucca’s musical history.


The concert on Friday September 18 at 9 pm, in the Ademollo Hall, Palazzo Ducale, will be dedicated to Gaetano Luporini, an important composer and musical director of Lucca from 1902 to 1936, with his music together with Giovanni Pacini, founder in 1842, of Lucca’s famous music school which bore his name until it was changed in 1943 to “Luigi Boccherini”. The evening’s program ends with another great Luccan musician: Alfredo Catalani. The concert will be presented by Renzo Cresti and will be attended by Gaetano Giani Luporini, grandson of Gaetano Luporini. Soprano Roberta Ceccotti, mezzo-soprano Maria Bruno and bass Graziano Polidori perform arias from the opera and chamber music repertoire of the three composers accompanied by pianist Loredana Bruno. The event is organized in collaboration with the City and the Province of Lucca and Lucca’s CRL and BML Foundations.


On Sunday 20th in the Ademollo Hall, at 5.30 pm there’s the first event of the day (the second is at 9 pm). It is a round table entitled “Preservatione Viva”. The event, organized in collaboration with the Archimedes Association, will focus on the conservation of musical archives and is introduced by Renzo Cresti. After greetings of City of Lucca representatives, the Head of the Maria Pia Mencacci Music School and representatives from CRL and BML foundations of Lucca, there will be papers by Benedetto Benedetti, Antonio Romiti, Walter Rinaldi and Giorgio Belluardo and a  delegation composed from Modica with Loredana Vernuccio, Fabio Bruno, Orazio and Giacomo Di Giorgio Belluardo, who will talk about the relationship between Lucca and Modica, the music of the two city high schools and the re-emergence of Gaetano Luporini and Pietro Floridia. At the round table’s conclusion there’s a buffet for all participants. In honour of the Modica delegation piano pieces from “In the Country” by Pietro Floridia will be performed. The event is organized in collaboration with the City and the Province of Lucca and Foundations CRL and BML of Lucca


On Sunday 20th in the Ademollo Hall, at 9 pm there’s the second event of the day (the first is at 5.30 pm) with an unusual presentation of theatrical costumes from Laboratorio Brunier made by costume designer Franco Nieri, who, over the years, has created around a thousand costumes for Lucca which will be exhibited in the Palazzo Ducale hall. Loredana Bruno interviews Franco Nieri on the secrets of the costume designer’s work, a craft that has produced important designs that deserve to be in a permanent exhibition. The costumes will be worn by the students, by Maria Bruno’s singing class students and by Lucca’s “M. Civitali ” fashion industry Institute students, coordinated by Professor Antonella Malagnino. The instrumental ensemble music class ensemble led by Professor Guido Masini and the singing class of the High School Musical will delight the audience with “At the end of the day” from the “Les Miserables”. The event is organized in collaboration with the City and the Province of Lucca and the CRL and BML Foundations of Lucca


Five dates, nine concerts, including a special closing event, and five side events, from 10th September to 17th October, for the eleventh year of Lucca Jazz Donna. Thirty-two women in the festival (21 musicians and 11 guests) from Italy, Europe and the United States and five charitable organizations involved in the first completely free entry event. These are the statistics for Lucca Jazz Donna 2015, the festival dedicated to female jazz talents organized since 2005 by the Lucca Jazz Club with the City and Province of Lucca, support from Tuscany Region, Lucca’s CRL and BML Foundations and the collaboration of many individuals and associations. This year Capannori is included which hosts a concert and panel discussion.

Thursday, September 10th at 5 pm at the Palazzo Ducale (Maria Luisa room), it’s the second year of “Quando la passione diventa professione “. The Round Table guests are Emiliana Martinelli (designer), Talitha Ciancarella (librarian), Federica Gennai (jazz singer) and Cristina Puccinelli (actress and director). Chair is Anna Benedetto (journalist).

In the dining room there’s a preview of Cynthia Guidetti’s photographic exhibition and a musical interlude by Gaia Mattiuzzi vocals and Francesco Cusa drums, with the “Skinshout” project. At the event there’s entertainment for children aged 3 to 12, by the Province of Lucca with the financing of the Tuscany Region.

Information and reservations: +390583417489 (; +390583442444 (; +393297084432;


On Saturday, September 12th at 5.30 pm at Palazzo Ducale (Mario Tobini Room) there’s the inauguration of Cynthia Guidetti’s exhibition with 18 photos depicting 18 women in music, which will be on display until September 30th. These are portraits of singers and instrumentalists who have participated in some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in Tuscany and Italy.

At the inauguration there’s a concert by the Settemeno Acoustic Duo formed by Elena Carrossa vocals and Leonardo Landini guitar.


On Tuesday, September 15th at 4 pm in Capannori (sala Atena, Via Carlo Piaggia), there’s a workshop Dalla carta al web: evoluzioni per la creatività nella comunicazione.  The workshop, held by Ilaria Ferrari (art director) and Chiara Cinelli (webmaster & wordpress developer), will focus on the evolution of communication tools and the working methods that characterize the fast evolving field of graphic communication. Chair is Anna Benedetto (journalist). From Tuesday, September 15th, at the Palazzo Ducale, and during all the Lucca Jazz Donna concerts, there’s a photography workshop by Laura Casotti.


On Monday, 12th October at 9.15 pm in San Micheletto there’s a film in collaboration with the Lucca Cinema Club.


On Saturday, September 19th at 9.15 pm at Palazzo Ducale (Ademollo Room) it’s the 11th year of the Lucca Jazz Donna Festival with two sets. In the first there’s the Flores Ensemble with Anastasia Ossipova and Ilaria Gigli violins, Marta Degli’Innocenti viola, and Chandra Ughi cello and Gioia Giusti piano.

In the second set there’s Ladies in Mercedes, with Francesca Fattori guitar, Giulia Facco piano, Camilla Missio bass and Serena Davini on drums.

It’s an evening in collaboration with the “La Luna” association.


On Saturday, September 26th at 9.15 pm in the Sala Artè (Capannori, Via Carlo Piaggia) there’s a jazz concert divided in two sets. In the first set there’s  “Circle Time” – Cecilia Sanchietti jazz project with Davide Grottelli sax, David Boato trumpet, Gaia Possenti, piano, Stefano Napoli bass, Cecilia Sanchietti drums, with guest artiste Federica Zammarchi.

The second set is the Betta Blues Society: Elisabetta Maulo vocals, Lorenzo Marianelli guitar, Filippo Ceccarini trumpet, Beppe Scardino baritone sax and bass Fabrizio Balest.

Evening in collaboration with the Emergency association.


Friday, October 9th at 9.15 pm at Teatro di San Girolamo there’s an evening with international guests. In the first set, there’s Jazz Women! Allison Adams Tucker vocals, Emmanuel Massarotti piano, Marco Panascia bass and Enzo Zirilli drums.

In the second set the Francesca Tandoi European Quartet with Francesca Tandoi piano, Frits Landesbergen vibraphone, Frans van Geest bass and Giovanni Campanella on drums.

Free admission by reservation. Evening in collaboration with UNICEF.


Saturday, October 10th at 9.15 pm there’s a jazz concert divided in two sets. the first will host Elisabetta Antonini – women next door with Elisabetta Antonini on vocals, Silvia Manco piano, Federica Michisanti bass and Danielle Di Majo on alto sax.

In the second set there’s Rosa Brunello y los fermentos “brasserie” with Francesca Viaro vocals, David Boato on trumpet, flugelhorn and composition, Dan Kinzelman on tenor sax and clarinet, Filippo Vignato trombone and compositions, Enzo Carniel piano, Rosa Brunello bass and composition and Luca Colussi drums.

Free admission by booking. Evening in collaboration with the Archimedes Association.


Saturday, 17th October at 9.15 pm in the church of San Francesco the 2015 Lucca Jazz Donna Festival closes with a special event from Lucca Jazz Club along with the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca.

During the evening there’s a selection of photos from the Festival’s photography workshop.

Evening in collaboration with the Anffas association.


As per tradition, the evening of September 13th at approximately 10 pm at the Cathedral of St. Martin there’s the mottettone. This year it’s Annunziate A Tutte Le Genti by Marino Pratali from Lucca (1915-1997) marking the centenary of his birth.

Performed for the first time in 1976, and then again in 1981 and in 1997, the text of mottettone Annunziate A Tutte Le Genti was composed by Pratali citing various antiphons of the Liturgy of the Cross. The structure of the piece is in the tripartite classic form: Mosso Andante, Adagio, Andante Mosso (with fugal finale).

The mottettone will be performed by the “Santa Cecilia” choir directed by Luca Bacci and accompanied on the organ by Giulia Biagetti. Free admission.
















Late Summer

Every day now we’re waking up to a fresh morning with a beautifully clear landscape before our bedroom window.

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It’s truly inviting for walks in the chestnut-ready woods

or when it begins to heat up towards eleven a.m. for a swim in the river Lima (see my post at for that)

It’s also wonderful for our flowers which are truly glad for the recent rains.

Our vine is doing well. We’re not wine-makers but love munching its grapes, so sweet and delicious!

It’s definitely a time to be out and about as the wake up call from one of our calico cats declares!

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Two Marine Trumpets Hit Italy

Yesterday Tuscany was flagellated by terrific storms. After one of the hottest summers we’ve experienced in the ten years we’ve been here the rain came with a vengeance. It’s a well-known saying that after the big summer bank holiday called Ferragosto and taking place in mid –August, the weather’s liable to alter but this change was dramatic. It shows how temperature changes are becoming ever more contrasted and is another dangerous sign of global warming.

Fortunately, we avoided the worst of it in Longoio but further south and, especially along the Tyrhennian coast, many holidaymakers must have thought they were in the middle of a Caribbean hurricane.

My part-time neighbour, Aldo, from Pisa told me his city was on its knees and his own residence there suffered some damage. After patching it up he decided he’d come to a safer place, Longoio!

Here are some pictures, taken from the papers, of Pisa on its knees.

It was literally what the Italians call a tromba marina (marine trumpet) i.e. a sea-twister or sea-spout. Here’s a photo showing its approach near Livorno.

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Dryden’s line, the trumpet’s loud clangour excites us to arms’in the St Cecilia ode, somewhat inappropriately, came to mind but it led me to music and a recent meeting with the director of’ La Serenissima’, the major period instrument band dedicated to Vivaldi’s music, (‘La Repubblica Serenissima di Venezia’) Adrian Chandler, at a cordial barbecue by a friend’s house situated in remote Apennine heights quite near us. How did Adrian chance to be there? It’s because my friend is secretary of the friends of this much-applauded and awarded group of musicians whose web site is at

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(A view of the sunset during our meal)

Another marine trumpet or ‘tromba marina’ hit me, though in a much gentler way, talking to Adrian. For the tromba marina is a single-stringed (although sympathetic strings may be added) long triangularly shaped instrument with a history dating even before mediaeval times (it’s, in fact, played by Goth neo-mediaeval group Corvus Corax – see ) and in vogue until the eighteenth century.

Here’s a picture of the instrument (centre down) played by the Corvus Corax goths:


Based on harmonics and with a trembly bridge, the tromba marina produce a somewhat raspy sound evocative of a trumpet. Then why not play a trumpet? It’s because it was once not considered appropriate for women, and especially nuns, to play the trumpet (would it excite them too much?).

Vivaldi did not specifically write music for the tromba marina but instead wrote several concerti with violins ‘in tromba marina’. What did this exactly mean? Adrian, working in conjunction with Prof. Talbot, the supreme Vivaldi scholar, has invented a special violin bridge which helps the violin produce tromba marina- like tone. I’ve heard of authentic music practice research but this example must be one of the most ingenious ones to date and, remarkably, could be the nearest we’ve ever got to Vivaldi’s sound at Venice’s Pio Ospedale della Pietà where he was music master for many years for the unwanted girls deposited there (unwanted because either illegitimate or from overly poor families or from mothers unable to feed them).


(A modern reconstruction of a tromba marina)

Incidentally, the nomenclature ‘tromba marina’ comes from German Marientrompete or ‘Mary’s Trumpet’ referring to the Madonna worshipped by the nuns in their religious institutions.

I’ve often thought that the girls, segregated behind a grill in the Pietà, and playing divine music by a divine master were hidden from public view because of their beauty and seductive qualities. This was promptly dashed by Adrian who remarked that several of them were getting on a bit (some were in their seventies) and others were just plain ugly.

(Our meal could have been more seductive than many of those gals at la Pietà)

The second tromba marina will hit Cartmel Priory in Cumbria UK, on 26th September 2015 at 7:30 pm. More details at

Thankfully, this second tromba marina will be a lot less destructive than the first and, indeed, will be a welcomed antidote to the world’s troubles, weather-wise and other. I shall also listen more carefully to the composer’s four seasons – especially the change between summer and autumn!

To La Serra with a Cat

Now that the weather has cooled down considerably it’s become much more a pleasure to take a walk.

Yesterday we did a local circular tour which brings one to La Serra (‘pass’) where there’s a little chapel which’ve already written about at and at

It’s a nice walk and our tortoiseshell little Carlotta accompanied us (or we accompanied her!). Carlotta is now three years old.

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How Carlotta adopted us is described in my post at

Fortunately, those cat hazards, dog and car were almost unspotted.  Carlotta seemed unphased even by some impressive goats.

We are glad to know that the wandering Giuliano, who lives near the goats and who walked for miles and used to be met everywhere in our area but who was unfortunately knocked down by a car while crossing on a pedestrian crossing (!) earlier this year at Chiffenti is well on the way to recovery.

There are some lovely long views across to Longoio, other villages and the Prato Fiorito on this walk.

We passed the fountain with a strange head carved on it:

When we reached the pretty little chapel we were made aware of how lucky it had been to avoid serious damage from the March hurricane.

Nearby there were scene of devastation to remind us of how strong the wind had been at this spot.

We then returned to our village following a slightly different route:

This morning its Bartholomew’s fair at Bagni di Lucca. Unfortunately it’s a really cloudy start to the day since overnight there were violent thunderstorms.

There is a slightly autumnal feel in the air already and soon that quintessential Italian season of mushroom collecting will start and, of course, la Vendemmia too.



Two New Must-See Exhibitions in Bagni di Lucca Villa

Even in our area there are so many events happening that clashes are bound to occur and decisions made as to what to take part in.

In the town hall foyer, now, thanks to the efforts of San Cassiano artist Kety Bastiani, turned into an art gallery, the exhibitions continued with a new one which opened on the 21st.

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No, it wasn’t the retrospective of a local sculptor as originally described in the events folder but, instead, a photographic exhibition by Alberto Della Discendenza Coppola entitled ‘La realtà diventa sogno’ (reality become a dream).

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All photograph were taken using analogue film (remember that?) and involved absolutely no tampering with digital aids like Photoshop etc. The clever use of double exposure, dark-room developing techniques produced results that went beyond reality. This was the theme of the display. As the invention of photography in the nineteenth century meant that artists were no longer strictly bound to imitate the reality around them but could, in fact, perceive the world beyond this reality, so too, photography has now reached a maturity which enables it to transcend immediate reality.

A picture is worth a thousand words so here is a small selection of what we saw yesterday.

Even an electricity pylon against a sunset can become an evocative image. Reflections in an upturned glass reveal subconscious images. A seagull against a lonely marshland becomes a symbol of solitude and longing…

Coppola’s exhibition runs until 4th September and is open, Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to 2 pm.

A second exhibition opened at 6 pm in the Sala Rosa of the Circolo dei Forestieri. Curated by Rebecca Palagi and Luca Guidi, they juxtaposed paintings by Michelangelo Cupisti with poems selected by Luca Guidi reflecting the mood of the paintings in words.

Rebecca Palagi is well-known to those who attended her stunning monologue on Eleonora Duse presented on International Women’ day earlier this year, for her equally imaginative recreation of Shelley’s last days mentioned in my post at: and for her appearance at our Browning riverside walk  evening described at

Who was Cupisti? Michelangelo Cupisti was a Viareggian painter who died aged 77 in 2012. He developed to new sensibilities the tradition of nineteenth century landscapists and some of his most haunting works depict the coastline of the Versilia and the Maremma. Cupisti was also a great still-lifer and his paintings of flowers have a sort of Morandi-post-impressionist feel about them. They are all expressions of a painter whose posthumous reputation can only increase world-wide.

Mayor Betti presided at the opening of this exhibition.

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It was really unfortunate that just a handful of people attended the opening of the exhibition which is well worth investigating.

Cupisti’s exhibition runs until September 5th and is open 10am-1 pm and 3-6 pm daily.

The third event which we were unable to attended was a book launch by Sergio Talenti, he of the film projected in the camera oscura during the Bagni di Lucca Festival, followed by a concert given at San Cassiano. A friend we met later described the concert as exquisite, especially the flute playing. There again, however, she stated that attendance was disappointing.

All these events are free, are easily reached and have been publicised. Signs abound in bars where attendance is certainly not disappointing! Here are just a few events coming up now, for example:

It seem to me also that 6 pm is not a very propitious hour for events in Italy (unless they are in the open air and clearly visible to everyone). Nevertheless, it is sad that with such an influx of tourists in the area (especially from Britain where the euro pound exchanges is much to the brit’ advantage) attendance at these events displaying verve and creativity seems so poor.

There should be absolutely no complaints about feeling bored here!

The Voice of Italy

Last night’s operatic gala in aid of fund raising for restoring Bagni d Lucca’s Contessa Casalini Public Park which had also been devastated by last March’s shattering hurricane was a complete success.

The elegant neo-classical setting of Ponte a Serraglio’s casinò made for a perfect scenario for the three singers, Simone Tanini (baritone), Erika Fonzar (mezzo soprano) and our own Claudio Sassetti (tenor) to display their skills in a variety of arias and songs ranging from Verdi, through Puccini to Neapolitan which they did with élan and enthusiasm.

The pianist was Ettore Candela who not only accompanied the singers, who all sang without any payment, but also played three virtuosistic pieces he’d composed.

There were some lovely flower arrangements, again given freely:

The presenter, actress Mikela Innocenti, interspersed the items with recitations about life and nature. She reminded us that we would never see the new trees in all their full glory in our lifetime but would have the joy of realising that future generations would be able to enjoy them.

I am quite sure that the capacity audience gave generously for the restoration fund. The whole evening was a wonderful example of how this part of the world can pull together and forget any differences when it comes to emergency situations and when it comes to giving something back to the community.

Bravissimi to all concerned!