Of Summer Love and Death

Our area’s summer season is warming up both in terms of activities and temperature. It’s difficult to enjoy late nights and manage to get up and take advantage of the morning freshness at 5 am. So forget ‘mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the noonday sun’ and enjoy your siesta or, as more correctly said in Italian, ‘schiacciate un pisolino’.

Today, for example, there are five events listed in my diary.

First, there’s the presentation of a book on the notes the great critic and champion of democracy, Benedetto Croce, made when opening the first post-fascist government in Bari in 1944 – notes, incidentally, recently rediscovered in Bagni di Lucca’s library. It’s at 10.30 in Bagni’s library.

Second, there’s an equally interesting book presentation at Gallicano’s Istituto Comprensivo (where I taught for some years.) The subject is the area’s resistance during WW II.

Third, at Shelley House in Bagni di Lucca the Shelley festival continues with a seminar at 5 pm on romanticism with Luca P. B. Guidi and Bartolomeo Puccetti

Fourth, there’s going to be a Midsummer Night’s Dream at Lucca’s Teatro San Girolamo with the English theatre company at 7 pm.

Fifth, at 9 pm there’s a choir festival at Gallicano’s beautiful church of San Iacopo.

Undoubtedly there will be many more things happening today in our area. What to do? Everywhere to go and everything to do! Walking for a start in this wonderful weather, like I did with friends around Vico Pancellorum yesterday.

I’m aware that life is not only short but also can be brutish. The high hopes, in all senses of the word, of an Italian couple escaping from this country’s work shortage  to a promising future in London only to die in what will turn out to be  the United Kingdom’s worst peacetime accident with (I so sadly regret to say) a number exceeding the up-to-now worst peacetime accident in the UK when, in 1952 at Harrow and Wealdstone station, an express train crashed into the back of a stationary passenger train only for the two to be struck by a third train causing a death toll of 112 people.

I can do nothing more than to quote an email sent to me last night by my wife, Alexandra who is still in London:

This evening on late news it was announced that two Italian were amongst that horror: Gloria Trevisan and Mario Gotardi. I heard the other day that there was an Italian couple with children. I wonder about them. The whole situation seems most suspicious. Do we still want Mrs May at the helm?

I feel quite ill over all this and our near fatal accident too (see https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/about-guardian-angels/). You seem to be coping a lot better than me in amongst all this. (p.s. I’m not…)

There is a reason for everything that happens in life; we are all part of a bigger plan – just pawns in a bigger game of fleeting life. All these horrors on UK shores have put compassion, love, faith, friendship in the forefront. I feel that we are all affected and changed by these horrors. Life is and will not be the same amongst all this. It’s an indescribable sadness and heartache – I cannot eradicate the suffering that must have been inflicted on these innocent people. It is really all too unbearable.

Coraggio Sandra!

Gloria’s facebook page now bears the added poignant phrase ‘in memoria di’. They were such a beautiful couple: the best of Italy whose people are now blaming the Italian government for not providing the opportunities for its young people who have to flee to other countries to find work.

If you are of strong heart do remember the life of Gloria (and so many others who travelled over the rainbow bridge of life in that terrible night) by visiting her facebook page at



‘Dear mamma thank you for helping me so much

Dear papa I wish I could hug you now for the last time

I had my whole life ahead of me. It’s not fair. I don’t want to die. I wanted to help you, to thank you for all you did for me.

I am about to go to heaven, I will help you from there.’









Avant-Garde Events at Lo Scompiglio, Verno, Lucca

La Tenuta dello Scompiglio, just south of Lucca off the road to Pisa, is the nearest equivalent in our part of the world of London’s I. C. A. If you are looking for  way-out happenings, amazing food, state-of-the art bio-technology, mind-expanding exhibitions,  then check out its programme, also at https://www.google.it/search?q=lo+scompiglio&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=ZXDFV4y1C8HD8gelw6-YAw


A multidisciplinary season focusing on the relationship between individuality and conflict entitled “Assemblaggi provvisori” resumes at the Tenuta Del Scompiglio near Vorno, Lucca.  There will be performances, concerts, installations, exhibitions, meetings, workshops and youth theatre.
On Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th September, from 11 am to 7 pm, at the SPE – Performing Space and Exhibition centre, there’s a laboratory called Laboratorio tra autodeterminazione e violenza (between self-determination and violence) directed by the A j R i o t – A l V m e n u s company with Nina Negri director, performer, choreographer, actor and Isadora Pei director, performer, visual artist, and actor.
The theatrical performance (a collective of performers, dancers, directors and artists from different parts of Europe) will meet the group at 11 am. The audience is invited to ask questions about the dynamics of self-determination and violence inherent in the processes of subjection, not only through the issue of sexuality and prostitution, but also through the participants’ daily experience.

The dimension of physicality through various disciplines of theatre and movement will be integrated – from Butoh training to various physical movements – by working on theatre improvisation, dance to choreography.

The workshop is open to anyone interested in the topic: professional or amateur.
(Nina Negri and Isadora Pei)

SPE Booking office – Performing Space and Exhibition
Thursday to Sunday from 3 pm to 7 pm | tel. +39 0583 971125

Dello Scompiglio Cultural Association
Via di Vorno, 67 – Vorno, Capannori (LU) | tel. +39 0583 971475



Saturday 10th at 5.30 pm and Sunday 11th
There’s La Fabrique SoMArT the edge of the road: a travelling workshop, the brainchild of Serge Cartellier.
Conception, dramaturgy, direction and scripts by Faria Sophie and Serge Cartellier.
Translations by Luca Greco, performers Julie Fonroget and Serge Cartellier, costumes and accessories Sylvie Blondeau Hollier, sound by Sébastien Rouiller, scenery by Paolo Morelli and Cipriano Menchini.


Saturday 10 and Sunday 11, at 9 pm, at the SPE – Performing Space and Exhibition centre, there’s a show called G i r l i s a n G u n with the Aja Riot-Alma Venus Company.
Direction, lights, music by Nina Negri and Isadora Pei, with Chiara Capitani, Susanna Dimitri, Andrea Lanciotti, Nina Negri, Isadora Pei and Loic Samar.
Recommended for adults only.
SPE Booking office – Performing Space and Exhibition centre
from Thursday to Sunday from 3 pm to 7 pm | tel. +39 0583 971125

Dello Scompiglio Cultural Association
Via di Vorno, 67 – Vorno, Capannori (LU) | tel. +39 0583 971475


Saturday 17th, 10 -12.30 am and 3 pm- 5 pm, at the SPE – Performing Space and Exhibition centre and on Sunday 18th, 10 -12.30 am there’s a series of meetings entitled “Gender in the arts: performance, theatre, cinema, music” with Luca Greco.
This series of lectures will focus on the relationship between feminism, gender and art (cinema, theatre, performance, music). How do gender and feminist studies help artistic media and create originality? How is creativity influenced by gender and how does it present new subjects and relationships?

The meetings will begin on Saturday at 10 am with the following schedule:
10.00-12.30 am

Luca Greco
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III
Presentation of the two days

Marco Pustianaz
University of Eastern Piedmont
Le sentinelle in piedi: una performance

Catherine Deutsch
Université Sorbonne Paris Cité
Oltre il linguaggio: fare e disfare il genere in musica

3 – 5 pm
Giovanna Zapperi
ENSAB – Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Art, Bourges
L’arte, il lavoro e la vita: una critica femminista

Manuel Billi
Independent researcher and filmmaker
Due o tre cose sul cinema post-identitario: performanza, poesia, frammento

Sunday 18th
10.00-12.30 Panel discussion
Moderator Daniele Del Pozzo, artistic director of the Gender Bender Festival, Bologna


A multidisciplinary season focusing on the relationship between individuality and conflict entitled “Assemblaggi provvisori” resumes at the Tenuta Del Scompiglio near Vorno, Lucca.  There will be performances, concerts, installations, exhibitions, meetings, workshops and youth theatre.
Saturday 17th, AT 7 pm at SPE – Performing Space and Exhibition centre, there’s an “Omaggio a Demetrio Stratos” with the following events:
7 pm, presentation of the book Stratos e Area by Lelli e Masotti, Arcana Editions, 2015

9 pm, concert
John Cage: Mesostico per Demetrio Stratos   (World Premier)
David Moss vocals
Patrizio Fariselli piano and keyboards
Luigi Ceccarelli electronics
Antonio Caggiano percussion



Sunday 18th at 4 and 6 pm performance called Ginkgo by Giulia Quadrelli.
Performers Lisa Borini, Giulia Quadrelli, Ulysses Romanò, Alice Roger, Mario Scandale, Luca Tanganelli and directed by Giulia Quadrelli and Mario Scandale
Theatrical collaborators Luisa Borini, Ulisse Romanò, Alice Ruggero, Mario Scandale.-
Illustrations by Giulia Quadrelli
Technical support by Paolo Morelli
Costumes by Francesca Marra

SPE Booking office – Performing Space and Exhibition
from Thursday to Sunday from 3 pm to 7 pm | tel. +39 0583 971125

Dello Scompiglio Cultural Association
Via di Vorno, 67 – Vorno, Capannori (LU) | tel. +39 0583 971475




The Real Winners at Villa Fiori’s Extempore Painting Competition

At the end of a sizzling day the judges convened to deliver their verdicts on the best paintings in Bagni di Lucca’s 9th extempore painting competition last Sunday.

Here are the names and qualifications of the judges:

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It’s not an easy task and, frankly, if the judges agreed among themselves, the spectators often had differing views. But this is the nature of art. Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life and who remembers much of the once popular Millais today?

Artistic Creation is certainly not an exact science and for us the real winners were those who organised the competition, the goodly affluence of people present, the lovely weather and the sheer energy of those artists who’d take the trouble to come along to Bagni di Lucca, some of them for the very first time, and so spread news to the rest of the world of our lovely part of the world.

Without comments I’ll present all those paintings submitted. If you want to know the prize winners you’ll have to consult Debra Kolkka’s post at https://bellabagnidilucca.com/2016/07/12/colori-e-sapori-2/

There was real disagreement among us as to the winners, although each painting was seriously considered with an account of why it was chosen by the jury to receive a prize.

As usual the top five winners were announced in reversed order. Moreover, eight further paintings were chosen for an exhibition at Barga’s Comune Art Gallery. Mayor Betti and other noteworthies gave short speeches emphasising the fact that the competition was a true festival for all the lucky citizens of lovely Bagni di Lucca:

The children competing all won first prize just for entering. I think, anyway, that a prize should be offered to everyone who had the boldness to enter – although, of course, the prize winners did get a cash prize amounting up to four hundred euros.

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Next year it’s going to be a very special year for the Extempore Art Competition. It’s its tenth anniversary. So all you budding Turners and Canalettos don’t forget to enrol!



Il Gombo – Pisa’s Ex-Presidential Seaside Villa and Park

The Tenuta di San Rossore (San Rossore estate) is a natural park situated between Pisa and the Tyrhennian coast. It’s a truly wonderful area of typical Mediterranean ‘macchia’ and forest vegetation.  Away from the seaside resorts of the Versilia, San Rossore provides a valuable insight into how the coastal area from the river Magra in the north to the Arno in the south once looked like. It is 4,800 hectares in area and contains a very wide range of vegetation from evergreens to deciduous. High sand dunes separate it from the sea and the park hosts a large variety of wildlife including deer, wild boar and many birds (best watched during the wintering period and the spring migration).

There are information boards in the park showing the fauna and flora one can spot in this beautiful natural park. These are also useful for expanding one’s Italian vocabulary as far as natural history is concerned.

Historically, the park was owned in the middle Ages by the Chapter of canons at Pisa.  In the eighteenth century the House of Lorraine, who succeeded the Medici in the government of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, started reforestation with the planting of oak, ash, elm, holm oak and pine trees to meet the growing need for timber. The Lorraines also began a drainage scheme with the building of new canals to reclaim part of the wetlands.


With the unification of Italy, the Royal Savoy family received the estate. They modified the existing buildings, built new facilities, and made it their summer residence and exclusive hunting reserve. Almost all these buildings were destroyed in the fierce fighting around Pisa in World War II. When the monarchy fell, the estate formed part of the new republic and in 1957 became the Italian president’s summer resort.

In 1999 the president donated the estate to Tuscany and since that date it has been freely accessible to the public.


One can also visit various buildings including the Rotunda, the old Stables (where exhibitions are held (in 2007 the exhibitors were Mario Rodio, Franco Cecconi, Luciano Betti, Luciano da Livorno, Alessandro Ceccotti , Mara Corfini, Enrico Nazi, Pour Abdolah Firuzeh, Alvaro Torti) and the racetrack where it’s possible to hire a horse:

All vehicle must be left in the car park next to the race-track. There are some very characteristic ways of moving around the park by public transport:

I loved these ‘animal’ park benches:

In the centre of the park is a building called ‘Il Gombo’. Previously this used to be the summer resort and hunting lodge of the kings of Italy and was built in a chalet-like style. Completely destroyed in WWII the villa was rebuilt in modern style and, until the end of the last millennium, housed the president on his summer holidays.

It will be remembered that when ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Italy in 1999 (he always enjoys his Tuscan holidays) he was guest of the president at il Gombo and public access to five kilometers of  the beach was prohibited for security reasons. This caused widespread protests and the government relented at Blair’s request and reopened the beach. Shortly afterwards the estate was definitively handed over to the Tuscany region for public enjoyment. (For the whole story see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/413473.stm )

President Gronchi ordered the present building at the end of the fifties. It was designed by architects Amedeo Lucchichenti and Vincenzo Monaco (who designed the Olympic village for the 1960 games held in Rome) and is an iconic building of its time. Suspended on steel cantilevers, the villa encloses a square courtyard and is divided into public and private quarters. I was amazed to find that I could freely wander around in it without any supervision.

In May 2007 I was privileged to attend a concert given by the Fattori Trio at the villa.The concert, organised by my friend Giovanni Ranieri Fascetti, who also gave readings between the concert items, was a great delight.

Giovanni, is the curator of the Fortess of Vicopisano – described in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/vicopisano-and-brunelleschis-military-architecture/ – and the Temple of Minerva Medica – described in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/a-mysterious-temple/ – besides being an inspirational teacher and the author of several important books on local history. (See my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/of-dragons-irises-and-knights/ ).

Playing in the villa’s courtyard the trio, consisting of Annarosa Carnieri (piano), Laura Sarti (violin) and Giuseppe Cecchin (cello), performed a programme consisting of both classical and modern music.

The concert was part of the European Day of Parks which San Rossore also celebrated:

The trio is still going strong and not too long ago performed in the Garfagnana as part of the Muse del Serchio summer festival programme.

The whole Gombo area is a delight and a wonderful escape from the often crowded-out touristy areas of Pisa.

The estate is open to the public at the following times:

November – March from 8 am to 13.30 pm
April – October from 8 am to 5.30 pm

There is a nice refreshment point by the old stables. Don’t miss out on il Gombo’s ‘festa del parco’ which is on now. Full details are at http://www.parks.it/parco.migliarino.san.rossore/nov.php

Omaggio Alla Donna 2016

While outside, in the rising twilight, the Lima was tempestuously pouring down vast quantities of water descending from the mountains it helped to drain from yesterday’s storm, inside the casinò at Ponte a Serraglio the week celebrating international women’s day ‘Omaggio alla Donna’ officially opened.

Chairperson Natalia Sereni opened the proceedings and there were speeches by the mayor and all those who had helped to organise this, the fourth ‘Omaggio alla Donna’ of Bagni di Lucca.

Speeches were mercifully kept short and to the point which meant that Barbara Kelly was able to enchant us with her ever more beautiful voice in renderings from Handel, Samuel Barber and Saint-Saens’ ‘Samson and Delilah’ (men beware!)

I would suggest that this year the artistic input has been the highest so far in the celebrations. Contributions have come from more parts of Italy than previously and there were many new artists present. Approaches spread from naturalistic to impressionistic to metaphysical to abstract but all expressed great individuality and mastery of the medium.

Here is a list of artists exhibiting:

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Men were not exempt and there were fine examples from Dariush of Iranian background

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and Kraczyna of Polish origin, world master and teacher of multi-plate colour etching (Italian= acquaforte). Indeed, members of his class were also present at the opening.

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The theme of the exhibitions was women’s dreams and I was especially attracted to the works of Simonetta Cassai who transforms mythological subjects in a particularly subtle way.

Here is her Diana (the Greek Artemis) goddess of hunting and archaic earth-goddess of Italy. Indeed, I have written about this aspect of the lunar goddess at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/cassiopeia-and-the-female-principle/.

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And here is her interpretation of that beautiful story from Cupid and Psyche as told by Apuleius:

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There is a section of some very creative jewellery:

There is also a photographic section with an emphasis of women at work. Many photographs have come down to us by accident. So much is thrown away in our attics but photos remain a major source of historical research particularly before this digital age when there is almost a surfeit of photographic documentation). Fortunately, the local branch of the historical institute have scanned and digitised all those photographs which they have managed to locate or have been sent to them. Explore your own attic and photo albums!

Throw no photographs away, however tattered, torn or faded away. They can all be repaired. This argument certainly goes for films as well. After all, an original uncut copy of Lang’s masterpiece, ‘Metropolis’ was discovered as recently as 2010 in Argentina!

The week will be packed with events. Here, again, is the programme in case you missed it.


Three years ago on this very date, March 7th, I started blogging. During that time I have covered this event since its inception. For reference purposes I list below every one of the posts I published regarding an event which this year is bigger and better than ever before and gives true pride to Bagni di Lucca and its glorious women.




To conclude, here is just a little selection of the art works on display this week at Bagni di Lucca Ponte’s casinò. As you can see you’d be missing a major show if you don’t visit it.

Meet Bagni di Lucca’s Finest Male

Maureen Halson, the internationally regarded figurine sculptress whose beautifully studied creations are works of art on the highest level, decided this year to make a truly big statement, not just about her art but about women.

Gone are the days of gender-separated toyshops. Why shouldn’t boys play with dolls and girls play with Action man? ‘My little pony’ has become ‘My big stallion’ and Maureen, through her sheer professionalism, has created something Bagni has not seen for a long time, perhaps ever! It’s a statement not just about her art but about the politics of gender.

Here is a picture of what I’ve personally christened as ‘Zesty Ziggy’. He’s a shire horse with (I think) a large mix of Clydesdale blood in him, as he stood in Maureen’s studio:

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Hearkening back to mediaeval times when such horses were used not just for transporting knights in armour together with their bassinets, shields and lances but also for hauling tree trunks (they are still used for forestry work today) shire horses were later used, like HGVs today, to transport heavy essential loads. I’m old enough to remember such essential loads being carried from Mortlake brewery by a pair of these wonderful beasts. The beer never tasted quite the same again after the brewery decided to change over to motorised transport in the 1980’s.


Regrettably, the only shire (or dray horse) to be seen in London today is that lovely statue to Jacob, who worked for the Courage Brewery near Tower Bridge (in fact, the whole area is known to this day as Horsleydown, = ‘Horse-lie-down’, a place where horses could rest and have a hay-break). We would often make a slight detour on our motorbike to circle round this horse that faithfully brought liquid joy to the mouths of thousands of parched Londoners for so many years.



I believe that if you visit the Wadsworth Brewery in Devizes Wilts you’ll still be able to catch the wonderful shire horses delivering their wares.


(Wadsworth’s magificent beasts)

Anyway, let’s get back to Zesty Ziggy, which Maureen modelled using papier-maché over a chicken wire frame (very much like the float displays at Viareggio’s carnival).

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(The artist Maureen Halson, who originally hails from Birkenhead, with her White Shire Stallion)

We had to transport the magnificently virile beast down from high-above Granaiola to Bagni di Lucca Ponte’s Casinò in time for tomorrow’s opening of the week of celebrations, ‘Omaggio alla Donna’, for International Women’s day which is on March 8th.

Coordinating a goodly team consisting of Silvano, truck-driver and master-builder, myself and some locals we managed to lure Zesty to the truck, tucked him in rather unceremoniously on his back, fastened his various safety belts round about together with some sundry cushions and took him down the winding mountain road to the banks of the Lima River.

Now, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it. That wasn’t a problem, however, with Ziggy.

Zesty headed instead for the grand ballroom of the casinò where he now stands proud and erect (in more ways than one) before the orchestra stand.

If you are a woman (or even a man) don’t forget to attend the grand opening tomorrow, Sunday,  at 5 pm at the Casinò.

In case you don’t have the week’s programme here it is:

See you there and have your picture taken with the biggest and most beautiful creature in Bagni di Lucca!

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(On left Morena Guarnaschelli, indefatigable Festival organiser for the fourth time, with artist Maureen Halson on the right – and Stallion in the centre – at Bagni di Lucca’s Sala dei Gigli at the Casinò)

Holy Isle – Isola Santa, Garfagnana

Deep in the valley of the Turrite Secca which proceeds westward from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, north of us, is the delightful village of Isola Santa (Holy Isle) overlooking an artificial lake.

Of course, the village was built before the creation of the lake and its position on a hill shows that it may have been a defensive site protecting the road through the Apuan Mountains at the valley’s narrowest point. Maybe there would have been a bridge across the river, now submerged by the lake waters.

There’s also a road called via della torre which indicates the probable presence of a former watchtower.

Documents from the 18th century show that there was a small community living off the scanty agriculture product of this difficult part of the world.

The construction of the present road, which leads to the Cipollaio tunnel opening out onto the Versilia, reduced Isola Santa’s isolation. In 1949 the dam was built and a lake created which now surrounds Isola Santa. Unfortunately, the first years of the lake caused irreparable damage to Isola Santa’s foundations through erosion. People left the village and soon it was deserted.

Eventually, by the seventies the village had been re-stabilised but by this time it was too late – everyone had left by 1975. In fact, what happened was that when the lake was emptied that year for maintenance purposes the locals occupied the lake bed as a protest until they were guaranteed new houses elsewhere.

Since 2000 there has been considerable effort to give life back to the village in terms of restoring houses for holiday purposes and for holding arts events. Of the remaining buildings the church of San Jacopo and the old Ospedale (pilgrims’ hostel) are particularly noteworthy.

These efforts have paid off. Many of the houses are let to those who want to pursue a nature holiday with plenty of mountain walking and a simple life. Furthermore, exhibitions have been held in Isola Santa including, this year, a particular successful one with the artist and editor of Barga News, Keane.(see http://www.barganews.com/love/2015/02/isola-santa/)

Surrounding Isola Santa are other small communities. These include Col di Favilla, Puntato and Capanne di Careggine. Further up the mountains are alpeggi (summer meadows) which are completely abandoned but which would make great places for those seeking a life that’s truly away from it all. Let’s hope that these abandoned places will have new life injected into them.

There’s more information about booking places to stay at Isola Santa at its web site at http://www.garfagnana.it/borgoisolasanta/index_e.html

PS These photos were taken in 2005 when we first visited this enchanted place.

Two New Must-See Exhibitions in Bagni di Lucca Villa

Even in our area there are so many events happening that clashes are bound to occur and decisions made as to what to take part in.

In the town hall foyer, now, thanks to the efforts of San Cassiano artist Kety Bastiani, turned into an art gallery, the exhibitions continued with a new one which opened on the 21st.

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No, it wasn’t the retrospective of a local sculptor as originally described in the events folder but, instead, a photographic exhibition by Alberto Della Discendenza Coppola entitled ‘La realtà diventa sogno’ (reality become a dream).

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All photograph were taken using analogue film (remember that?) and involved absolutely no tampering with digital aids like Photoshop etc. The clever use of double exposure, dark-room developing techniques produced results that went beyond reality. This was the theme of the display. As the invention of photography in the nineteenth century meant that artists were no longer strictly bound to imitate the reality around them but could, in fact, perceive the world beyond this reality, so too, photography has now reached a maturity which enables it to transcend immediate reality.

A picture is worth a thousand words so here is a small selection of what we saw yesterday.

Even an electricity pylon against a sunset can become an evocative image. Reflections in an upturned glass reveal subconscious images. A seagull against a lonely marshland becomes a symbol of solitude and longing…

Coppola’s exhibition runs until 4th September and is open, Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to 2 pm.

A second exhibition opened at 6 pm in the Sala Rosa of the Circolo dei Forestieri. Curated by Rebecca Palagi and Luca Guidi, they juxtaposed paintings by Michelangelo Cupisti with poems selected by Luca Guidi reflecting the mood of the paintings in words.

Rebecca Palagi is well-known to those who attended her stunning monologue on Eleonora Duse presented on International Women’ day earlier this year, for her equally imaginative recreation of Shelley’s last days mentioned in my post at: https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/a-sea-change/ and for her appearance at our Browning riverside walk  evening described at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/a-romantic-evening-of-poetry-along-bagni-di-luccas-river/.

Who was Cupisti? Michelangelo Cupisti was a Viareggian painter who died aged 77 in 2012. He developed to new sensibilities the tradition of nineteenth century landscapists and some of his most haunting works depict the coastline of the Versilia and the Maremma. Cupisti was also a great still-lifer and his paintings of flowers have a sort of Morandi-post-impressionist feel about them. They are all expressions of a painter whose posthumous reputation can only increase world-wide.

Mayor Betti presided at the opening of this exhibition.

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It was really unfortunate that just a handful of people attended the opening of the exhibition which is well worth investigating.

Cupisti’s exhibition runs until September 5th and is open 10am-1 pm and 3-6 pm daily.

The third event which we were unable to attended was a book launch by Sergio Talenti, he of the film projected in the camera oscura during the Bagni di Lucca Festival, followed by a concert given at San Cassiano. A friend we met later described the concert as exquisite, especially the flute playing. There again, however, she stated that attendance was disappointing.

All these events are free, are easily reached and have been publicised. Signs abound in bars where attendance is certainly not disappointing! Here are just a few events coming up now, for example:

It seem to me also that 6 pm is not a very propitious hour for events in Italy (unless they are in the open air and clearly visible to everyone). Nevertheless, it is sad that with such an influx of tourists in the area (especially from Britain where the euro pound exchanges is much to the brit’ advantage) attendance at these events displaying verve and creativity seems so poor.

There should be absolutely no complaints about feeling bored here!

A Great Finale to a Great Arts Festival

So it’ all over for another year. Our Bagni di Lucca’s Arts festival’s third year ended in a gentle, almost melancholic way, after a day filled with unpredictable rain storms, at the cantina by the river with a party and a jazz concert given by the FM (Francesco Massagli) jazz quartet consisting of Francesco Massagli, piano, Tommaso Iacoviello, trumpet and flugelhorn, Francesco Sarrini, double bass and Duccio Bonciani, drums.

The Francesco Massagli Quartet started up in 2014 at la Fondazione Siena Jazz where Francesco studied. Last May they issued their first album. ‘Journey of hope’ and were finalists in Barga’s 2014 jazz festival.

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FM’s jazz is very cool, heats up with some Latin American rhythm, pays homage to greats like McCoy Tyner and Mile Davis and always keep us guessing at the group’s subtle interplay which gives ample time for each of the superb musicians to show off their improvisational skills

FM’s web site at https://soundcloud.com/francesco-massagli4et will give you some flavour of their unique style.

To describe it as the journey of a river from source to mouth could not be more appropriate. It’s fluid, divides, joins and rises to great waterfalls of sound – an appropriate music to one recurring theme in the festival which was water in all its permutations and associations: water as a graveyard in Darlington’s ever more poignant and evolving tableau of what the Mediterranean has become for so many fleeing the horror of events in so much of the world; water in the haunting fish of Pieroni which were now inhabiting the wall and ceiling of La cantina almost converted into a giant aquarium;  water in the amazing conference; water, depicted in poems in the camera oscura space, new for this year; water with Mr Kepler himself in the river Lima.

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The fluidity of the painters, Mirta Vignatti, Andrea Perelli, David Finkbeiner, Zhu Ye, Filippelli, and Magoni, the textures of sculptors Lorenzo Vignoni and Anna Cordiviola, the video film and installation by Paolo Fiorellini, Glauco Disacco and Sergio Talenti the photograph of Peter Dematté all seemed to merge, for all their differences, into the great theme of our planet, its resources and that precious water, liquid light, which so welcomingly came yesterday to refresh not only the landscape around us but our minds too.

There is always a feeling of nostalgia when an event on this scale which, like the element of water so much of it celebrated, brings life to Ponte a Serraglio, is over.

I can’t stand it when books have to end, cannot abide those goodbyes at railway stations, those adieus at airport check-ins, those closing parties until I realise that every ending means a new beginning, every goodbye a different hello and every door closed on this year’s wonderful arts festival, so adeptly organised by Jaqueline and Jake, opened into innovative portals onto a new year in which art in all its highest and most humane qualities will disseminate hope in the future, faith within our lives and love towards our planet.

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Last night celebrated a truly a big thank-you for all those who contributed in every possible way towards a festival which is ever going to re-create itself. I was so glad to be a part of it all.


Where have we come from?

Where are we?

Where are we going to?

In this trilogy of creation all I know is that within the speck of time that circumscribes our lives we have touched our bodies and minds, reaching out one for another across two parallel tracks in the cosmic space, coming from unknown regions, going to unwritten countries.

Where are we?

This anniversary is the anniversary of our decision to look at the same scenery for awhile, listen to the same music, feel each other’s breathing, share a life in two, live through fire and water, love one other.

Where are we going to?

Will there be other meetings beyond this breath, other journeys, other meetings, other worlds? Who will take us then for themselves?

The eternal questions

The temporal answers


Giuliana Enchants at Bagni di Lucca’s Festival Camera now ‘non più’ Oscura’

Bagni di Lucca’s Arts Festival at the poetry room at the camera oscura ended in great style last night when there was a presentation of poetry, both original and in translation, and also a beautiful children’s book (her second one) by Giuliana Giusti Chines.

I was to have met Giuliana at the Cesare Viviani literary circle at Lucca two months ago but unfortunately a family circumstance did not enable her to be present then. It was, therefore, with the greatest pleasure that we finally met together with Giuliana’s husband Paolo, one of her children and a grand-daughter at Bagni di Lucca.

The evening started with a brief interview with Giuliana. I realised that I was meeting someone who has a truly profound love and understanding of English literature from Chaucer onwards (whose Canterbury Tales she preferred to anything by Boccaccio) and, of course, our romantic poets.

Giuliana has also written two children’s books, one of which, Due piedi e quattro zampe, tells a story from a boy’s and a dog’s point of view and subtly involves the issue of bullying which, regrettably, is as diffused in Italy as it is in the UK. We talked about children’s books like Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland which project such differing lights on the experience of growing up in the countries in which they were written…


Giuliana has spent forty years as professor of English at the scientific Liceo of her city,  lovely Lucca. Now retired, she has devoted herself to writing and I look very much forwards to her future books.

I have just started reading due piedi e quattro zampe which includes illustrations by her husband Paolo and some input from her three grandchildren.

The first part of the programme consisted in Giuliana reading her wonderful translations of my sonnets on various renaissance pictures.


These were projected onto the wall by my expert technician wife, Alessandra. Giuliana then in several instances read a comment she’d written on the painting after which I read my original English version.

Here are two examples of the paintings with my English original and gorgeous Italian translations by Giuliana: 




Dark-curled, sharp-eared, goat-hoofed, he touches her;

red drape unloosed from her small-breasted shape

laid out on flowered turf without a stir,

abandoned auburn locks upon silk nape.


His curious eyes caress a deathly face,

the wound upon her throat where blood still streams,

those golden-sandalled feet, that skein of lace,

limp hands and unseen eyes and broken dreams.


And at their side a hound sits passively:

beyond, an estuary with diving gulls

and further dogs upon the shore, and lee-

wards ships set sail to port with laden hulls.


For something’s happened which I cannot know

except she’s gone and tears begin to flow.



CEFALO E PROCRI (Piero di Cosimo)


Coi  ricci scuri, le orecchie appuntite e gli  zoccoli caprini, la tocca,

il drappo rosso è scivolato via dal piccolo seno

lei giace immobile  sul prato fiorito,

i riccioli ramati sciolti sul  collo serico.


Gli occhi curiosi di lui accarezzano il volto esangue,

la ferita sulla gola da dove ancora sgorga il sangue,

i piccoli piedi racchiusi nei sandali dorati, gli ornamenti di pizzo,

le mani abbandonate, gli occhi nascosti e i sogni spezzati.


E al loro fianco un cane da caccia siede immoto:

al di là c’è un estuario dove si tuffano i gabbiani

e lungo la riva altri cani, e navi  con i  pesanti scafi

navigano sottovento verso il porto.


Quello che è successo io non lo posso sapere

so solo che se n’è andata e mi si stringe il cuore.


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The zephyrs blow: she rises from her shell

while flowered maidens wait with cloaks unfurled.

Within her eyes a thousand heavens dwell,

between her thighs the heart of all the world.


It is a gentle sea and winds drop sprays

of leaves on little lapping wavelet crests

and buds and reeds bend to love-circling days

as slender fingers cover perfect breasts.


Her gold-spun locks enfold like breeze-tinged foam

until long hair entwines her pubic mount;

those lovely arms entice lost lovers home

to arcane planet’s mantle-hidden fount.


Meanwhile, the bay and olive grove awaits

to squeeze sweet juice that always satiates





 Zeffiro soffia, e lei dalla  conchiglia emerge

la damigella nel suo abito fiorito le porge il manto.

Nei suoi occhi abitano mille paradisi,

fra le sue cosce batte il cuore di tutto il mondo.


Il mare è calmo e i venti mandano spruzzi

di foglie a lambire piccole creste di onde

i fiori  in boccio e le canne  si  piegano al richiamo dell’amore

mentre le snelle dita coprono il perfetto seno.


I suoi riccioli dorati si espandono come schiuma mossa dal vento

e i lunghi capelli si intrecciano sul  pube

le  braccia aggraziate richiamano gli amanti  perduti

verso l’arcana fonte della vita nascosta dal mantello.


Nel frattempo, la baia e i boschetti di ulivi attendono

che venga spremuto il dolce, nutriente succo.


The second part of the evening was dedicated to Giuliana’s own work including a remarkable series of poems written in English, entitled sensible-nonsense poems and inspired by Edward Lear. I found these not only very well-crafted and humorous but also fully able to capture that quirky Englishness which permeates Lear’s poems. Giuliana is working on more of these and they will soon be published and, no doubt, find an equal market both among children and adults who wish to develop their English language skills with pleasure and fun.

The evening concluded with some of Giuliana’s Italian poems which were beautifully expressed and showed how a true poet can fully communicate before a public who remained totally  entranced by a splendid final evening at the camera oscura which I feel should now be entitled camera non più oscura!

Thank you so much Giuliana for accepting our invitation to participate in your own unique and inspiring way to our festival and for giving us so much joy and so much to think about. Come back soon!


(Paolo, me, Giuliana and Alessandra who was also the photographer)