For much of its length in Mediavalle and Garfagnana the river Serchio has roads on both its banks. For example, if one is going from Bagni di di Lucca to Lucca one can either take the Brennero route on the left bank or the Lodovica route (named after the last duke of Lucca) on the right.
Similarly, going from Bagni di Lucca to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, the next major centre going north, it’s possible for much of the way to choose the route through Fornaci di Barga (an excellent shopping centre) or Gallicano (with its Conad superstore).
However, there’s a joining of the two roads at Ponte di Campia when just one route goes through the narrow gorge on its way to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.
Nevertheless, from Gallicano there’s an alternative route to Castelnuovo which takes one over the top of a spur which has several delightful village clinging onto it. I’ve described two of these, Palleroso and Perpoli, at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/rosy-straw/ and https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/precipitous-perpoli/ and others, including Bonini’s excellent restaurant, at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/saint-anthonys-pastures/.
One place I haven’t yet described is Cascio which lies just a little to the left of the ridge road.
Cascio forms part of the comune of Molazzana and has around three hundred people living there. It’s one of the oldest villages in the area and its name is supposedly derived from the Latin, Fundus Cassii, which points to the founding of the settlement by a retired Roman centurion (as is often the case with several villages in our area).
The walls around Cascio were built as a result of various wars between the Estensi and Lucchese at the start of the the seventeenth century. In 1603 the town was conquered by Lucca. It was then re-captured by the Estensi (from Ferrara) and the inhabitants were forced to build the walls as a result of their supposed cowardice in ceding Cascio to the Luccans.
Cascio was in another war in 1944-5 when it stood on the second gothic line. Some buildings were damaged as a result.
The walls are almost 2,000 feet in length and the inhabitants must have been kept very busy in building them! There are some impressive gateways through them:
In the centre of Cascio there’s a sweet square with a church dedicated to Saints Laurence and Stephen inside which there’s a terracotta Madonna with Child from Benedetto Buglioni’s workshop. (Buglioni was a pupil of Della Robbia and the Madonna dates from the fifteenth century.) The church itself dates back to the start of the tenth century and once belonged to the Luccan monastery of san Ponziano. In 1378 it was taken over by the Olivetian Benedictine order. Little, however, remains of the original construction which was radically transformed into its present nineteenth century appearance
We’ve been to Cascio’s most notable event, the sagra Della Criscioletta, which take place at the end of July and start of August. Indeed, as part of Expo 2015, there’s been a presentation of the Cascio criscioletta there too!
But what is a criscioletta?
It’s a sort of pancake made from maize flour, water and salt. It’ cooked on a heated, locally made, steel base. Adding bacon or cheese greatly enhances its flavour.
Until a short while ago the sagra Della criscioletta was held in the sports centre to the right of the ridge road. This enabled everyone passing on that route to see the festival but it wasn’t particularly atmospheric. For a few years now it’s held in the actual village itself and has gained greatly from the picturesque surroundings.
We’ve never been to the relocated sagra but fully intend to do so next year when the village is also characteristically decorated – not one week late like this year when these photographs were taken.
There’s a facebook page on Cascio at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Conoscere-Cascio-in-Garfagnana/392604264157943 which will keep one informed on events there.