Was the Flute Really Magic?

It’s certainly not your average Italian opera house which has the classic horseshoe shape for the auditorium and a majority of seating in boxes. Outside, this venue is elegantly minimalist and entering its foyer one isn’t sure whether it’s an opera house, a museum, a railway station or perhaps an airport foyer. This is ‘Opera Firenze’, Florence’s opera house which, since 2011, has been providing the city of the lily with a state-of-the-art building for opera and concerts as part of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival.

I’d been to Opera Firenze before, in 2015, to see a performance of Bellini’s ‘I Puritani’. (See my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/seductive-puritans-in-florence/) and was impressed by the three most important things an opera house should offer: excellent acoustics, good sight-lines and comfortable seats. When I tuned into a performance of Mozart’s  ‘Die Zauberflöte a couple of nights ago I knew I had to be in Florence to attend a performance of this immortal work, usually termed a Singspiel or German operetta with spoken dialogue.

This was the production and singing cast at the performance on 28th March (shown with the original German role names):

Conductor Roland Böer

Director Damiano Michieletto
Scenes Paolo Fantin
Costumes Carla Teti
Light design Alessandro Carletti
Video design Carmen Zimmermann/Roland Horvath
Choir director Lorenzo Fratini
Orchestra and Choir of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Sarastro Goran Jurić
Tamino Juan Francisco Gatell

Pamina Ekaterina Sadovnikova
Königin der Nacht Olga Pudova
Papageno Alessio Arduini

Der Sprecher Philip Smith
Monostatos Marcello Nardis

Papagena Giulia Bolcato

Erste Dame Heera Bae
Zweite Dame Cecilia Bernini
Dritte Dame Veta Pilipenko
Erster Geharnischte/Zweiter Priester Cristiano Olivieri
Zweiter Geharnischte/Erster Priester Oliver Puerckhauer
Alte Dame Daniela Foà
Alte Dame Daniela Foà
Die Drei Knaben Soloists del Muenchner Knabenchor

What is Die Zauberflote about? For me it’s principally about the most heavenly music Mozart ever wrote. In it he displayed every type of musical form he’d learnt in his all too short life: from the semi-fugal overture, to the lied, to the revenge aria, to the chorale prelude, to the solemn choir. It’s all there in an unparalleled quintessence of beauty. Indeed, I would regard Die Zauberflote as a way of distinguishing true friends from false. Together with the love of cats and the belief in a European community, appreciation of the opera is a prime way of helping one to choose genuine companions.

Plot-wise the Magic Flute can be taken on two levels. First, there’s the interaction of wildly differing characters, for example, the rebellion of a daughter against her mother, the comical naivety of some country folk and the trials of life itself without which there’s no gain without pain. On another level one enters the world of freemasonry and the new age of enlightenment which the opera underwrites. In this sense Pamina’s mother, the Queen of the Night, represents decaying religious dogma and inflexible, intolerant rules while Sarastro displays the new world of ideas of brotherhood and the dignity of humankind. Indeed, for the high priest, man has the possibility to transform himself into a god and the earth can indeed become a paradise. How wonderful and, at the same time, how fatuously hopeful when viewed from the present times!

The production certainly made an effort to highlight these dichotomies. The scene was largely set in a 1950’s classroom with Tamino and Pamina as adolescent schoolchildren. The three ladies were dressed as nuns with severe rules to match. In the second act the schoolroom was ‘lifted’ to reveal a primeval forest where the trials Pamina and Tamino would have to go through to prove their love were played out.

Ok the idea is novel but it’s only half-effective: the libretto has so many references to doors opening and gates closing that did not find their actualization in the stage set. What did compensate to a certain extent was the intelligent class blackboard which ‘drew’ the snake that pursued Tamino at the opera’s opening and which was used to illustrate other aspects of the libretto throughout the evening.

What was lacking, however, was any convincing idea of pomp and mysticism which permeates the original conception of Die Zauberflöte. I remember many years ago seeing this twice-magical opera in the setting of London’s Freemason’s hall. There, under the vaulted stars and the symbols derived from ancient Egypt, the work really did come to life and enact its arcane metaphors.

I could not fault the singers in any way. Queen of Night Olga Pudova’s two virtuoso arias were passionately delivered and the duet between Papageno (Alessio Arduini) and Pamina (Ekaterina Sadovnikova) was near-sublime. Sarastro hit those deep notes confidently and the choir was very effective. It seems sad, however, that the ‘three boys’ had to be imported from Munich rather than have three boys trained up for the parts in Florence. If anything too, the orchestra could have chosen a slightly slower tempo for the overture which fizzed along almost out of breath

All in all I was glad to have made the journey to Florence to see Die Zauberflote (and visit other things as well!).

On my return I was startled to note that earlier in the year there had been another Magic Flute at Pisa with costumes and choreography by Lindsay Kemp. Although I understand the singing there didn’t match the Florence performance I felt I could have empathised more fully with the production, especially in its emphasis on the opera’s magic aspect.

The most tragic what-if in the history of western music is ‘what if Mozart had survived the rheumatic fever he caught in 1791?’ In my wildest dreams I hear the music that this gift from god might have composed. Perhaps we shall hear that music in heaven – if there is such a place, of course.


For information of further productions at Opera di Firenze see




The Greatest of all Singers: his Villa

He was the world’s greatest recorded singing voice – demonstrated by the fact that over one hundred years later his recordings are still best-sellers. He was also the world’s first media star. Feted by over half the world, a film star, a regular feature in the gossip columns his fame lives on and on. Despite far better technology today, despite all the great singers that have followed him, including the three tenors, he will live for ever as the supreme golden voice. And yesterday I finally trod the hallowed grounds of his splendid villa at Lastra a Signa near Florence.

If you’ve seen that extraordinary film ‘Fitzcarraldo’ from 1982 you’ll know immediately who I’m talking about. It’s Enrico Caruso, of course. And the villa I visited is Bellosguardo – ‘Beautiful view’ – a gorgeous baroque fantasy dating from the sixteenth century built by Giovanni Dosio, with which the great Caruso fell in love in 1905. It was Bellosguardo which the tenor returned to again and again to relax in the paradisiacal Tuscan landscape after his world tours which took him to such places as Buenos Aires, Saint Petersburg and, most famously, New York. Indeed, our own Luccan-born Giacomo Puccini wrote ‘La Fanciulla del West’ (The Girl of the Golden West) with Enrico in mind. For when Giacomo heard Enrico’s voice he asked him ‘whose sent you to me? God perhaps?’

(Caruso as Dick Johnson in Puccini’s ‘La Fanciulla del West’, 1910)

The villa has two main blocks connected by a gallery. To the left is an agricultural museum open by appointment. To the right is the Caruso museum. It’s beautifully laid out with audio guide, film snippets featuring Caruso and themed rooms displaying every aspect of this amazing ambassador for everything that’s top-class in Italy.

There are photographs from Caruso’s family life which wasn’t all smooth sailing especially when his big love, Ada Giachetti, went off with the chauffeur.

(The woman who preferred her chauffeur to Caruso)

His beloved children and his seaside holidays are also there.

Another room shows the maliciously witty caricatures of himself and his contemporaries Caruso loved to draw.

There are fine collections of his phonograph/gramophones,

some precious costumes including the one from ‘I Pagliacci’, which role Caruso truly made his own:

and his bedroom, which has been atmospherically recreated together with his touring trunk.

I had the place to myself and it was incredible to wander around the villa as if I owned it. It was such a beautiful day too and the grounds, laid out in classical fashion with parterres, statues and avenues, were truly to die for.

In 1918 Caruso wedded New Yorker Dorothy Park Benjamin from which he had one daughter, Gloria. They planned to have an idyllic life at Bellosguardo. Alas, in 1921 Enrico died of peritonitis not even fifty years old. His daughter died only in 1999.

(Enrico and Dorothy)

I could have said so much more about Caruso: how he was a heavy smoker of Egyptian cigarettes, how he loved to play the card game called  ‘scopa’, how he was never without his good luck charms, how he was an elegant dresser and how he took two baths a day but….

Caruso’s villa is also an excellent place for wedding celebrations and receptions. Want to know more? Check out the villa’s web page at http://www.museoenricocaruso.it/it/

Now let’s hear this astounding voice again – over a hundred years later!

A Meeting with the Mayor of Lucca

Italy has more wonderful buildings than any other country in the world. Indeed, it has too many for its own good: so many architectural miracles are at risk or inaccessible to the public. It’s for this reason that every year there’s an open day in March when such buildings open their doors. This is courtesy of the country’s major heritage and conservation body FAI. FAI stands for Fondo Ambiente Italiano (Association for the Italian Environment) and is probably the nearest one can get in Italy to England’s own National Trust. Indeed, there’s collaboration between the two associations whereby there’s free entry to each other’s list of buildings in their care. To find out more see FAI’ web site at http://eng.fondoambiente.it/about-us.asp

On FAI open day in 2014, I visited the extraordinarily beautiful little church of Saint Catherine near the old cigar making factory in Lucca. It was thanks to such open days that S. Caterina was saved from further decay and is now yet another jewel in Lucca’s crown of lovely buildings. You may have read my ‘Grapevine’ article on this church. If not there’s my post at


Last year we visited an exquisite art nouveau villa at Viareggio which I’ve described at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/tiger-hunting-in-viareggios-most-exquisite-art-nouveau-villa/ .

This year I’d wanted to visit Puccini’s last villa at Viareggio which is being rescued by FAI from total abandonment. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible this time as the visits to the villa had been fully booked up but at least I’m now on the waiting list. You can read my post on this superb Puccini-and-Pilotti designed villa at


This year I headed for Lucca and its palazzo Orsetti for my FAI treat.

Palazzo Orsetti is in Via S, Giustinia in the north-west quarter of Lucca and was built by the Diodati family in the sixteenth century on the foundations of a medieval palace. Today the palazzo is one of Lucca’s town council headquarters and houses the mayor’s offices. Indeed mayor Alessandro Tambellini came to personally give us a tour of this wondrous palazzo, prefacing it by a fascinating account of the history of Lucca and the building.

There can be few more learned mayors in Italy (perhaps Vittorio Sgarbi?) and I learnt so much about the place from Alessandro including this:

In 1541, Carlo Diodati was baptized in the palace by Pope Paul III with, in attendance, Emperor Charles V as Carlo’s godfather. In 1567 Diodati was suspected of heresy when he was found with a copy of the King James Version of the Bible. Diodati emigrated to Geneva where he married Carlo Flaminia Micheli, also originally from Lucca. After her death he married Maria Mei, also from Lucca. From this marriage was born, in 1576, Giovanni Diodati, the great Protestant theologian and first translator of the Bible in Italian. In 1661 and 1662, since the Diodatis left no heirs, Lelio Orsetti bought the entire building with furnishings included paintings by Pietro Paolini including the one illustrating Wallenstein’s trial and which, together with a Pontormo, is in the palace to this day. The Orsettis made loads of money through international trade. Indeed, there’s an Orsetti castle in present-day Poland. (See https://www.poland.travel/en-us/museums/the-orsetti-family-tenement-house for more fascinating history).

However, hard times hit the Orsettis last century and in 1963 the building was sold by them to the municipality of Lucca for just 74,000 pounds sterling…

The palazzo has a charming garden now dedicated to that great Luccan composer, Geminiani, who made his fortune in the UK when free movement of labour was still encouraged. (See my post on geminiani at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/lets-celebrate-francis-xaverio-geminiani/ )

The palazzo has two monumental entrances, probably the finest in the whole of Lucca which, otherwise, has more restraint in its palace architecture. The sandstone portals bear trophies in relief. At the top of one portal there is a triton, at the top of the other there’s a siren.

There’s a stately staircase.

This is where Pontormo’s ‘Cupid and Psyche’ is situated.

There’s also “The conspiracy against Wallenstein” by Pietro Paolini.

The interior is full of spectacular stately rooms. Among them there’s the Hall of mirrors. This room was the ballroom of the palace. It is decorated with original eighteenth-century Empire furniture. The hall is used for official meetings.

There’s the music room with gorgeous stucco ceiling decorations and an elegant scagliola false marble floor. This room is furnished with original furniture and upholstery. It has a beautiful eighteenth-century chandelier and sumptuous red curtains. The acoustics of the room is another important feature. You can test them by clapping your hands under the central chandelier. The vibrations are amazing!

The Green Room was the palace’s living room and owes its name to the green curtains and upholstery brocade that covers the walls. Today it is used for civil marriages – one of my friends was married in it. What a place to tie the knot in and with Napoleon’s sister Eliza, princess of Lucca, gazing down upon you…

There are other rooms decorated in neoclassical style. At the highest floor of the building there are sixteenth century painted wooden beams only recently rediscovered under a false ceiling.

Thanks Mayor Tambellini for the talk for the tour of your offices! And thanks to your assistants, the students from Lucca’s Liceo Scientifico and classico, who also walked and talked us around the palazzo in exemplary fashion.

There are so many aristocratic palaces in Lucca. I wonder if we’ll get a chance to visit their secrets in the near future. Perhaps more should be added to the FAI. Certainly the Orsetti palace wetted my appetite.

For more on FAI see my post at


The Dormouse’s Den

If one takes the Via Brennero on the Lima’s other side from Bagni di Lucca one comes across this shop.

‘La Tana Del Ghiro’ means ‘the dormouse’s den’ and has only recently opened for business. The subtitle ‘dal campo alla tavola’ means ‘from the field to the table’ so the food is surely guaranteed free from those debilitating and polluting transport costs which shamefully characterise so much of the foodstuffs we buy today.

It’s a place that sells local agricultural products and also has a restaurant. At the moment the Tana is just starting but the proprietors have assured me that by the summer they’ll have plenty of food stocked which comes from our area. This includes olive oil, honey, potatoes, jams, cheeses, maize flour, vegetables, fruit, pickled vegetables inlcuding onions, crostini sauce, tomato puree, chestnut and wheat flour and mushrooms.

The restaurant is only open for evening meals on some days but the ambience looks promising and certainly what will be served will be both genuine and local.

I gather one thing ‘La Tana del Ghiro’ won’t serve you with is dormice. Although popular with the ancient Romans I’m glad these delightful furry creatures, which spent a large part of their lives sleeping, won’t be on the shelves!

Do phone up the Tana before going there for a meal. Its phone number and email are:

Tel. 0583 805864 – latanadelghiro@hotmail.com

Camellias, Kumihimo and a Concert

Camellias originate in eastern and southern Asia and were introduced into Europe during the eighteenth century. The tea plant is a member of the camellia family and, indeed, the expansion of the tea trade enabled many new varieties to be brought into Europe. Hybridization did the rest.

Every March at Sant’Andrea di Compito, by the slopes of the Monte Pisano, south of Lucca there is a camellia festival where one can fully appreciate the variety of flower forms and colours of this perfume-less plant. A shuttle bus takes you to the camellias – the only way to get there as the narrow roads would soon be clogged up with cars. The camellarium is spectacular at this time, the mill-stream walk is delightful.

The exhibitions are most informative, there are many stalls selling local products and there are also musical events.

The camellia festival of Sant’Andrea is something we always try to attend. You can read my account of our visit there in 2013 at


and in 2015 at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/la-traviatas-favourite-flower/ when Sandra’s mum, then 93 years old, accompanied us.

And in 2016 at


Why choose this area for camellias? The fact is that the climate is ideal for them. It was the English ex-pats of the nineteenth century, escaping from the torrid summer of the Tuscan plains, who discovered this and introduced the camellia to these hills. Indeed, dotted around the Compitese are many aristocratic villas complete with their luscious camellias

and there is even a society dedicated to old varieties of camellias in Lucca province.

Could I add anything new about the visit to the camellias this year? Not much except that as things of beauty these flowering shrubs remain a joy for ever.

The day started off very sunny but storm cloud started to gather in the late afternoon. However, the rain held off until the last stretch of my homeward journey.

The setting of the camellia festa is so very beautiful. Sant’Andrea is nestled in a valley of the Pisan hills and the town is quiet charming. Near the entrance is an exhibition centre with some prize camellias.

There was a section on the Japanese art of braiding known as Kumihimo and using a special loom. These braids are used to fasten the button-less Kimono.

An open-air exhibition brought photographs, whimsical sculptures  and sly cartoons together.

There was also a tea ceremony in which we were allowed to participate.

At the top of the Sant’Andrea is the magnificent parish church.

I arrived in time for a concert given by an unusual ensemble consisting of two double bases, accordion and flute. The fine performance included pieces by Piazzolla, Bartok, Domenico Scarlatti and Bottesini, who was the Paganini of the double bass.

Today is the final day of the Camellia show in the Compitese. So if you are in the area and haven’t been there do so now! It would be truly sad to miss one of Lucchesia’s most colourful and evocative events.



PS If you fancy your cup of tea not only can you buy delicious camellia tea but you can have the ultimate Italian invention: camellia-tea flavoured ice-cream!












Happy Sixtieth Birthday European Community!

Today Europe will be celebrating sixty years of peace. The last time this happened was around two thousand years ago during an age described by the historian Gibbon in these glowing terms:

“If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.”

As clocks adjust in Italy to ‘ora legale’ by putting the clocks forward one hour the UK will be starting to put its clocks back over seventy years, returning to the dark ages of a country shaking the dust and destruction off a six year long war.

Just the achievement of sixty years peace for the members of the European community – for which that same community obtained the Nobel peace prize in 2012 – should make one hang on to something that is imperfect though precious, riddled with mistakes yet right-minded. The European community has not only preserved us from the utter waste of war but has also safeguarded our right to work, study, live and love within its area. It was thanks to the EU that I went on a teacher exchange to Genoa in 1995. It was again thanks to the EU and the Comenius project that I was able to have a  collaboration with Austrian schools in 1999. Again, thanks to these valuable and enriching experiences, I subsequently obtained jobs with Italian schools and colleges ever since I became a resident in Italy over ten years ago.

So many other areas, like human rights, employment protection, and climate change, are directly touched by the EU. Furthermore, this community is the largest and most powerful free trade area in the world and the only one to be able to fully compete with the rising economies of the Far East. Quitting it will just leave a post-colonial stump of a country begging for bread-crumb trading deals with some of the most questionable nations of the world who share few of the ideas of democracy and freedom which the UK is proud of.

Yet this week-end, thanks to an ill-informed slight referendum majority fed by false and bigoted information, all these hard-won benefits will be placed in jeopardy for the population of the United Kingdom: that is, unless Northern Ireland uses its majority opinion to join with Irish republic and make a unified state or if Scotland manages to obtain and win a second independence referendum. In that case we shall clearly see the break-up of a nation.

The issue which swayed the otherwise negligible majority to vote to quit wasn’t anything to do with the uneatable British sausage having to be renamed the emulsified high-fat offal tube, or the equally unpleasant British imitation of real chocolate being called vegichoc, or something equally unpalatable, and looking remarkably like dishwater, being passed off as real coffee.

(Yes Minister, of course)

No, it wasn’t even the European economy which has dragged up the UK from the dismal abyss into which it had landed before joining the common market 1973 with worn-out industries, tired-looking cars and demoralised work-forces. It was, in fact, the subject of immigration. Not immigration from Commonwealth countries, however, which, starting with the arrival of Jamaicans on board the MV Empire Windrush at the port of Tilbury in 1948, provided a much needed workforce to help rebuild the UK after WWII (in which so many servicemen from Commonwealth countries too, gave their lives). No, it couldn’t be that sort of Powell-discredited immigration which I vaguely remember as a child was characterised by notices like ‘no blacks’ on properties to rent.  Immigration against people of a different colours skin would now immediately be classed as racist and the perpetrators be accused of race hate.

No. It wasn’t that immigration which had to be controlled. Yet take a white person who doesn’t speak English, or speaks it with a ‘foreign’ accent, then it’s different. Sadly, this is the type of immigration the bigoted Daily Muck readers want to control – in short, the free movement of labour within the European community. It doesn’t matter if there will be skills shortages, especially in hospitals and service industries, as already is happening now from an uneasy European work-force in the UK. It doesn’t matter if members of the European Youth Orchestra, at present based in the UK, will have to move abroad in order to preserve this freedom of movement. It doesn’t matter if City banks are relocating or have plans to move to mainland European financial capitals such as Frankfurt. It doesn’t matter if so much of the field of education and the arts will suffer and be depleted as a result. It doesn’t matter if research and science opportunities for UK youth to work in the European community will be slashed.  At least these specimens of UK Daily Muck readers will say they will be spared the offence of people speaking Italian, French, Rumanian, or any other of the twenty-three officially recognised EU languages, as they catch the 176 bus driven by a Pole or do their shopping at the local convenience store served by a Lithuanian.

‘Ah yes’, they will say. ‘At least we’ll be able to control our country, free from all those EC laws.’ What laws in particular? I’ve asked some of these people. None could give me any specific example…

For me the ultimate insult to anything that is of value in an organisation which has saved us from so much evil that previous European generations had to endure is that dismal crowd of so-called expats – immigrants in fact  – that propagate their ridiculous views in such places as the otherwise acceptable bar at Ponte a Serraglio, Bagni di Lucca. To use anagrams in order to avoid libel and name in this way just two: the soft roes and retoolings of this world.

How can immigrants from the UK, resident in an Italian comune for over ten years and getting their income from this country, ever have had the idiocy of voting to quit a union that has achieved so much for a great continent that last century all but destroyed itself twice over? I suggest that these ‘Cretini’ could leave and spare the likes of me the ‘Daily Merde’ back-chat that soils the atmosphere of an otherwise pleasant ambience in Bagni di Lucca.

Happy Sixtieth Birthday European Community! Long may you live and may your children have the chance to continue to build upon the great foundations laid by Italy’s De Gasperi, Germany’s Adenauer, France’s Monnet and, last but not least, Britain’s Churchill who said at the congress of Europe in 1948:  ‘I look forward to a United States of Europe, in which the barriers between the nations will be greatly minimised and unrestricted travel will be possible….Britain must play her full part as a member of the European family’

Viva L’Europa!

PS I cannot leave this rant without a sad thought, but a defiance one, for those victims of the recent terrorist attack in London. Of the killed and injured victims three were French children, two were Romanians, one was German, one was Polish, one was Irish, two were Italian, and two were Greeks – all countries of the European Union – and all of which countries pasted ‘I am a Londoner’ on my facebook page too.

Tales of the Night

What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than attend a talk as part of the Unitre (university of the third age) programme. Natalia Sereni, our local historian is well-known for her books on, among other subjects, the Prato Fiorito, Bagni di Lucca’s part in World War One and the entry of Fornoli in the comune.

Sereni’s subject yesterday was ‘Racconti Notturni’ (Tales of the Night). To this day stories are told locally of witches, demons, sorcerers, elves, sibyls and soothsayers. Indeed, Italy today is even fuller of what are generally called superstitions. Horoscopes are eagerly read and broadcast and posters advertising fortune tellers and card-readers drape our town walls. Why should beliefs in magic and witchcraft still be flourishing and expanding in what is supposed to be a rational and scientific age?

The fact is that these beliefs go back an incredibly long way and are rooted in ancient pagan beliefs. Indeed, the word ‘pagan’ comes from the root for ‘village’ and that’s where these beliefs survive to this day. Religion (derived from the Latin ‘religio’ – tying together) systematised and created a hierarchy of these credences with God placed firmly on top of the pyramid.

In post-reformation northern Europe there was no place for magic and witchcraft. Indeed, such practices were actively discouraged by burning perpetrators of anti-religious heresy at the stake. A manual, ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, (the hammer of witches) written by clergyman Heinrich Kramer and published in 1487 and apparently still in use by the church is an excellent guidebook to the discovery of witches and the ways of interrogating them with appropriate punishments and the correct instruments of torture to use.

So it was the Protestants who led the league in the burning of witches, especially during the start of the seventeenth century. Indeed, King James I was a specialist in the subject – no wonder that Shakespeare dedicated ‘Macbeth’ to him. In catholic Italy there was less burning and persecution going on – the last witch was killed off in 1828.

The reason for this is that the Catholic Church used a process of syncretism in which previous pagan beliefs were incorporated into a new scheme approved by the ecclesiastical authorities. Thus, the Earth goddess Diana was incorporated into the Virgin; the attributes of wizards were made part of the characteristics of St John the Baptist and at least one divinity who protected shepherds’ herds and farm animals became St Anthony Abbot (whose ancient statue incidentally graces our local church at San Cassiano).

No wonder so many churches here are built on the foundations of pre-Christian temples and shrines. Recently we visited Tamilnadu in India and were amazed by the fact that the rites carried out in the magnificent temples of that part of the world have remained the same for thousands of years. Even the appearance of an Asian messiah in the form of Gautama did not interrupt rituals of worship but became incorporated within the multiplicity of idols which adorn these religious centres through the process of syncretism.

The multiplicity of saints in the Roman Catholic faith may be regarded as replacements for the many gods, sprites, fauns and deities of ‘pagan’ times. Catholics are in reality, worshipping in a structure which systematises and orders primeval beliefs whose main object was to help people understand the weird world they lived in. Myths and legends are, in fact, narratives which explain why things come to be and are what they are. If one complains saying that science has done away with this sort of ‘magic’ interpretation then think again: there as so many things which happen in one’s life, so many strange coincidences, phenomena, intuitions, singularities, miracles even, which cannot simply be explained by the laws of quantum mechanics or physics or, indeed, any other form of scientific or rational theory.

An aside by Bagni di Lucca’s own Vito, who combines modern medical science with holistic practices and psychoanalysis, was most perceptive, especially when regarding dreams. Vito sees dreams as the only state where mankind experiences complete freedom: in daily life we are obliged to place the chains of social restrain on us. Dreams, therefore, can provide an indication of who we really are and where we are likely to go. The problem, however, is the way we interpret them.

Natalia Sereni finished her perceptive and provoking talk with a quote from Hamlet: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’. After all even I have difficulty in explaining that our planet is a globe to a determined believer in flat earth theory. That’s why I’m off to the local wise woman to get some advice on what is the best washing powder I should buy.


Road-Works (At Last!)

It may be extra funds coming in or just a final major work-job launched by the mayor, who within a few months will be seeking re-election in the local elections, but the road to our part of the world, is receiving some much needed improvements. Black tops are being laid on those sections to the Controneria which were notorious for their pot-holes:

And walls damaged by cars bumping into them or just by the vagaries of the weather

are being repaired.


It’s nice to see these things happening. Every little bit matters and I’m glad that us hill folk are not being forgotten.


Cat Walks in Longoio

Hi all you cats out there. Do your owners servants let you go on walks with them? If not complain! However, I should say that if you live in those horrible places full of traffic then your adorers are probably wise in not letting you follow them wherever they go. We are lucky, however, for where we live there’s only one road to cross and that has just one tractor a day on it. We can hear it in time and so can avoid the fate of so many of our compatriots.

After this road it’s all fun and games, Cheeky has a propensity for climbing up trees and she’s clever in coming down them too – just by reversing.


Carlotta is persevering and just walks and walks. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth now (what teeth I have left) and so I’m happy just to blaze the trail, have a good rest and let the others release their feline energies.

It’s so wonderful to sniff new smells, experience different sounds and generally have a nice sleep after our epic journey from my devotee’s house in Longoio to the little paradise field. I think we are quite lucky cats after all!


Ford Anglia Sighted at Diecimo

Diecimo’s mercantino ‘Ti Riuso’ is a veritable treasure trove if you like to delve into second-hand stores. There’s everything to be found there from sports equipment to books to kitchenware to heaps of furniture and even a wooden spiral staircase. I visited it yesterday and found a young couple attempting to load four garden chairs into their hatch-back. They were still trying to work it out when I left.

Here are snaps of some of the items on sale. Don’t miss out on the tents outside which are a prime source for exercise bikes, among other items!

For me the most exciting find was a Ford Anglia with its distinctive raked-back rear window, 1960’s vintage.

Did I buy anything? Yes, an excellent and recent illustrated guidebook on Umbria priced at less than one Euro.

The Ti Riuso mercantino will also take items for sale if they are suitable. The seller must present his or her ‘documenti’ including fiscal number and the items are duly noted in a database and a receipt issued. The seller can set the price for the item and the mercantino takes a commission. It’s worth investigating if your Italian attic is getting a bit full or if you want to return to enjoy post-Brexit Britain.

Which reminds me: thinking about politics is bad for one’s health and talking about it to people with opposite view to one’s own is even worse.

Let the United Kingdom – or what will be left of it at the end of the process – pursue its lemming-type course. By that time I’ll still have a passport with EC printed on it – Italian, of course, courtesy of my wife’s lineage. However, you can still apply for one if you have no such luck. See   https://www.thelocal.it/20160624/how-to-get-italian-citizenship-or-at-least-stay-forever for more details.

Do I still hanker after Diecimo’s Ford Anglia? At least that car was built in a country which could support itself with its own manufacturing base. I really do wonder what will happen after the UK leaves the world’s largest free market……