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.