G(oats) for Breakfast?

‘Capra’ means ‘goat’ in Italian. So what are ‘capre nane’ – nanny goats? No, ‘nano’ means ‘dwarf’ so we’re talking about ‘dwarf goats’ – (AKA pygmy goats).

Longoio used to have these goats which were tended by a certain Giacomo, now sadly departed. The little ones were a delightful adjunct to the domestic scene in our village and, looking back at these photos taken in November 2005, I can only regret that the caprette no longer wander about our fields.

Capre Nane or Caprette are today more and more regarded as companions rather than just farmyard animals. The trend is increasingly to have them as pets grazing in one’s garden (mind the flowers…) rather than having them bred for their milk or meat (or, until quite recently, for their wool). A dwarf goat, in fact, doesn’t give enough milk for the needs even of a single family, and certainly it wouldn’t (luckily!) provide for a Sunday roast.

Now should I get one to keep my grass down next growing season?

(PS Miniature goats are sometimes known as Tibetan goats. They are also called African goats since they originated in present-day Somalia).





A Carrot and Stick?

On the way to Chifenti from Ponte a Seraglio on the Via Brennero there’s a metal factory. I’ve used it to provide a drain cover in the past but haven’t stopped there for ages.

Yesterday, however, I had to pause there since these donkeys (and horse) in the adjoining field looked so appealing.

The same space has also hosted ostriches and lamas. Now am I seeing things? Not at all. Next time I’ll try to find out if the metal factory owner still has them somewhere. Don’t think I’m eggsaggerating!


The metal owner is also responsible for this tower. It’s so sad that this item now reminds us all of something dreadful that recently happened in that city:

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A Baker Passes On

Sad news. Shortly after the death of a well-known and much-loved person at San Cassiano another noted figure has left us. He’s Albano Fini who died in his sleep. Albano ran the delicious bakery and pizzeria at the forno described by Debra Kolkka in her post at http://bellabagnidilucca.com/2015/02/13/bread-and-pizza/

Albano’s bread was certainly the best in town and he and his bakery will be much missed. Although Albano did say that he was thinking of giving up the business, having been there for over twenty years, higher forces regrettably made the decision for him.

In a smallish community like ours it’s all the more sad when someone leaves us and when they’re just fifty-one it’s even worse.

There’s an obituary at





How to Get Rid of Nuisance Demons

The frescoed lunettes, painted by Domenico Manfredi from Camaiore, and decorating the cloister of the ex-monastery of San Francesco at Borgo a Mozzano are an utter delight with their naïve but felt devotion. Each lunette represents an episode in the life of Saint Francis who, like the present Pope his namesake, is a quite revolutionary figure in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

For example, Saint Francis entered into dialogue with other world religions. Here he is having a chat with the Muslim Sultan of Egypt.


What a conversation it must have been! Again, the example is today for all of us to follow: dialogue is the only way forwards whether it be in politics, religion or day-to-day social relationships. Without it nothing is possible and lack of dialogue can only lead to confrontation and worse…

When I took a look at the cloister yesterday a restorer of the frescoes was busy at work. For over two years now the lunettes are being brought back to their original bright colours and any damage to them is being conservatively repaired.

Here is a lunette before restoration:

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And here it is after restoration:

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An artistic cataract operation, in fact!

One lunette has revealed a miraculous banquet – miraculous because Francis performed a later version of the gospel loaves and  fishes when he found the monastery larder was empty:

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I bet the cat in the middle of the refectory floor must have been glad that the fish suddenly multiplied. He certainly looks it!

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Francis seems to have had an extraordinary propensity for wide-ranging dialogue. He also, as is well-known, preached to the birds and also had to encounter animals of a very different appearance. Here is a lunette showing Francis in the middle of a horde of diabolical creatures. The caption reads that Francis was faced with these unattractive figures sent by the devil, but with the sign of the cross managed to send them packing. How great it would be for us to be able to do the same with all those tedious people we have to deal with!

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However, if you want to get rid of any blue devils there’s no better place to do so than at Ponte a Moriano tomorrow, for from 11 am tomorrow there’s a blues festival happening there. Can’t miss that!


The friars departed in 1983 but if you wish to live in the monastery you’ll have to be of a certain age: the place is now an old folks’ home…


Thanksgiving in the Lucchesia

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day. A National Holiday in Canada and the USA on the last Thursday of November, Thanksgiving associates a harvest festival together with the commemoration of the Pilgrim Fathers’ survival through their first days when they landed from the good ship Mayflower onto the shores of a ‘new’ continent

The fact that the Pilgrim Fathers survived at all was largely due (somewhat ironically as it later turned out) to the local native Indian population. It was Squanto of the Wampanoag tribe who taught the newcomers from England’s Plymouth where and how to find food. Thanks to him the pilgrims learnt how to catch eels and grow maize. They were also introduced to sources of nourishment such as turkey, pumpkin, cranberries and potatoes, none of which had been known in the country they came from.

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These foodstuffs featured heavily in the delightful Italo-American menu prepared by Paolo Monti the brilliant chef of La Cucina di Carignano.

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The cucina and restaurant nestles below the west Luccan hills and where a motley crowd of fifty odd gathered to celebrate the special day. (See http://www.cucina-italiana.com/it/ for information about Monti’s cooking school).

Here was the menu.

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And here were the four courses:

Sea food salad with shrimp, squid, mussels,scallops, peppers and baby corn:

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The Italian stowaway’s pumpkin ravioli recipe:

Tuscan-style turkey roast with stuffing. Sweet potatoes with lime and coriander. Peas and ham. Butter smashed potatoes with butternut squash:

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Pumpkin Tiramisu:

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Thanksgiving is not just an American celebration. Together with widespread harvest festivals from the UK to Italy (see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/thanksgiving-for-tractors/) to Australia’s Norfolk Island, it is truly a feast of solidarity and appreciation that one will have enough food and resources to get through another winter.

Such symbolic gestures as ’pardoning the turkey’ (whereby the US President is given three turkeys, one of which is still alive and gets pardoned by him so that it can spend the rest of its days running wild among the fields), and the President himself serving in a canteen providing nourishment to homeless people, are all indicators of the sense of community which permeates the day.


(President Obama pardons Totus the turkey)

It’s therefore, even more important that these ties be strengthened at a time when just two weeks ago an event occurred whose grotesque and mistaken purpose was to divide people and fill them with fear rather than with friendship.

The gentle countryside surrounding Carignano was full of the beauty of the fruits of the earth: it truly spelled concord.

Full and hearty thanks are due to Norma Jean Bishop, editor of our English-language Lucca magazine, ‘Grapevine’ and great organiser of events designed to further the cause of conviviality, exchange and harmony!

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Wholly Santinis

Barga’s Chiesa Del Santissimo Crocifisso (church of the most Holy Crucifix) is the second oldest church in the town after the Duomo. It was originally a chapel of prayer founded in the 13th century. In the 16th century the church became the headquarters of the Society of the Crucifix who enlarged it considerably and added some quite sumptuous ornamentation.

Today the building consists of a nave and two aisles with barrel vaults. The exterior has a sober and dignified appearance:

The interior, however, is quite another matter in its exuberant decoration.


The prize piece here is the altarpiece dating from 1646 and which has only recently been shown (after the discovery of his signature) to be the work of Francesco Santini di Cerreto.


There’s also a wooden crucifix dating from the 15th century and several paintings of the Tuscan school dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

There are few churches in our part of the world with woodwork of such a high standard. It’s truly worth talking a look at this building which stands in the shadow of the Duomo but which in my opinion is of considerable worth.

Who was Francesco Santini?

Santini was born in Cerreto which is just above Borgo a Mozzano and there is news of him from 1640 to 1660. He came from a family of highly regarded carvers in the area. Santini’s first work is a wooden altar, dating from 1642, in the monastery church of San Francesco in Borgo a Mozzano. It’s the first altar you see on the right entering the church and was commissioned by the Society of the Immaculate Conception. I have always been taken by this altar. Its superb carving of the serpentine columns, unadorned by any overlying paint, reminds me somewhat of England’s own marvellous Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721).


In 1661 came the altar of Borgo a Mozzano’s main church, San Jacopo. Here the play of scrolls and assured architectural features shows the sculptor at his most mature.


Francesco Santini is a good example of an exceptional artist born into a thriving craft tradition. Much in the same way as other creators spring from a family tradition, (a great example is the number of musicians in the Bach family), he was just one of many other Santinis who carried on what they considered a craft but what many of us today would consider an art. A later Santini, for example, Alessandro created the altar of another of Barga’s churches, San Rocco.

At least we are able to give names to the Santinis. I wonder how many other great artistic works lie in our territory with their creator’s name remaining unknown!

There’s a very useful web site at http://sacrumluce.sns.it/mv/html/sacrumluce.html which you can investigate for more religious treasures in our area. My own photographs date from November 2006.


Snowy Mountains (in Lucchesia)

While shopping at Penny Market yesterday I was suddenly made aware of the snow that has recently fallen on the main ridge of the Apennines.

Here is a picture taken near the Ponte Della Maddalena (devil’s bridge to lesser mortals) which is close to the supermarket.

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Lunch time at la Ruota restaurant at Fornoli confirmed that I was not wrong in describing the food there as excellent. (See my post at


The farfalle with gorgonzola and radicchio (chicory) was delicious.

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The scaloppine (thinly sliced veal dredged in wheat flour, sautéed, heated and served with a wine sauce) with mushrooms and, thankfully non-frozen, chips was equally tasty.

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All this, washed down with a quarter litres of red wine and sparkling water and ending with a café macchiato, for 11 euros can’t be bad…

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Returned home I took my cats for a walk (or perhaps they took me) in the Longoio hinterland.

The long shadows and autumn colours were stunning. The cats had a great time too. It’s a pity that because of traffic many cats can’t be taken for a decent walk. I don’t think they’d appreciate being dragged along on a lead!

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Cosily freezing nights and true blue sky days may you long continue!

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