Another Fabulous Borgo Azalea Festival

It doesn’t matter how many times one goes to Borgo a Mozzano’s annual Azalea festival for there’s always something new to delight and it’s not just the azaleas which, as ever, are artistically displayed througout the narrow main street with its ancient houses often reaching five stories in height.

The displays are not only sponsored by flower nurseries but also by towns and communities wishing to advertise their attractions.

This year Bagni di Lucca was represented for the first time. Our Mayor Betti was not the only mayor pleased with the result organised by the indefatigable Valerio Ceccarelli of Bagni Pro Loco.The theme was water: the thermal water from Bagni’s hot springs and also the amazing white-water rafting of our river Lima.

I spotted mayors from Borgo itself, of course, and other adjoining comuni too.

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There are also the stalls selling various crafts.

I couldn’t resist this one and was happily persuaded by a friend accompanying me that I should buy it. It only cost a frippery of euros too. Amazing for something sculpted out of Tuscany’s famed pietra Serena.

Chair art is truly imaginative here!

There was a diminished presence of azalea-selling stalls. I’m sure there will be more today:

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The photographic displays were of the highest quality. I was stunned by these displays of flowers, and their sensuous associations, by an extremely talented group of photographers.

The highlight, however, was the display organised by the ever-untiring Gemma Fazzi who is seen(second left) in this inauguration photo:

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The display, which stemmed from a talk Gemma gave to Unitre, displayed women’s changing role in the work situation and included photographs taken from early last century to just thirty odd years ago, picture which form part of Lucca’s precious photographic archive. A picture is worth more than a thousand words: it’s worth a million. Look at these pre-washing-machine women doing their laundry in the Serchio River.

This one shows a lady baking bread in a local oven at Benabbio in 1980.

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In Longoio the bread oven continues to thrive and supply the local BDL shops. It’s a great place to warm up if one is coming back home late in winter on one’s scooter!

This is becoming a rarer vocation in Italy:

Factory employment, especially in the textile sector, was a great point in helping women’s emancipation. At last women were able to start developing some economic independence. The Società Anonima FIFC (Fabbriche Italiane di Filati Cucirini), became Cucirini Cantoni Coats (CCC), when it was bought up by the Scottish Coats firm in 1904. That firm prided itself on improved care for its employees and I remember a now sadly deceased lady from Longoio, Stella, telling me how proud she’d been working for this British firm near Lucca!

The following photograph is so poignant. It shows the last silk-worm market in Lucca in 1935. The people are selling their silk-worm cocoons (bozzoli).  Raising silkworms was a common part-time activity for many people in our area from the growth of the pupa to the chrysalis and the boiling of the cocoons killing the little worms before they could burrow their way through and destroy the precious silk thread.

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It’s worth going to the azalea festival just to see this fascinating exhibition.

How many occupations have been lost in the past few years in Italy! During our visit to Cambodia last December we were pleased to find that at least there, during a visit to a silk-worm farm, that the silk industry (which made mediaeval Lucca so important and wealthy – just look at the Arnolfini’s portrait in London’s National Gallery depicting a wealthy silk merchant and his wife from the walled city)

is thriving and providing new employment for a country which has suffered so much.

Last but not least, one of the pleasures of going to the Azalea festival is that one bumps into friends and acquaintances without any need to make appointments beforehand. Azalea birds of a feather obviously flock together!

Don’t’ miss today’s last day of the festival, especially the concert at 4 pm in the courtyard of the Santini palace which has been organised by artist Simonetta Cassai and her team from the local Salotti music school.

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