The Old Wash-House

Barely a generation ago television sets were a rarity in the villages of the Val di Lima. An old boy from Longoio told me how people would collect in the only bar (which sadly closed around fifteen years ago) to watch the one TV the village had. But by the end of the 1990’s every house had its own set, some complete with remote and satellite dish. Looking through the receipts left by the previous owner of my house I note that he installed his satellite dish in 1997. It’s the same one I use to receive terrestrial TV to this day (with a new  top box, of course.)

The situation regarding technology wasn’t much different with washing machines. While the men were in the bar the women used to meet at the lavatoio or wash-house. I passed this place yesterday on a walk with two of our cats, Carlotta and Cheeky. The good thing about winter walks is that the undergrowth retires somewhat allowing one to go on old disused paths without having to bring a pennato (local type of machete) to hack away at the insidious brambles.

Now the lavatoio, which is fed by a torrent, is used to bring water down to some fields through the use of hosepipes. I wonder if there is a set system of water rights here or whether it’s just a free-for-all. On one side of the washhouse there’s an incredibly overgrown stone hut. Perhaps it was used as a shelter but it seemed impossible to enter it now. Must get a better pennato!

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The path ascends and eventually reaches the summit of the hill behind Longoio. It must have been a broad mule-track once but now its’s getting ever more narrow through landslides and some parts have disappeared altogether.

Eventually, the brambles clear somewhat and, because of the present leafless trees, it’s possible to get some wide-ranging views over the surrounding villages.

We descended down past the old chiesina (chapel)

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There was sufficient sunlight left for some of us to relax on the window sill:

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Bagni di Lucca has a couple of laundromats but they are certainly no replacement for the gossip corner the old lavatoio must have been.

We live in an age where less and less communal facilities remain required by us. Even the cinemas, which always used to be packed, are rapidly closing down in today’s Italy.

It may have been often cold and uncomfortable to do one’s washing in Longoio’s old lavatoio but at least it was more interesting than watching one’s duvet going round and round in one of Bagni’s laundromats (although if you see at my post at there can be considerable – unwanted – drama with washing machines too.)

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