Do Nothing or Do Everything in Italy….

Today it’s the start of another week-end where one is spoilt for choice – ‘l’imbarazzo della scelta’ as the Italian phrase goes.

One event I’m certainly heading for is this week-end’s ‘Mediaeval Lucca festival’ which takes place mainly in front of the beautifully refurbished san Francesco complex in the western part of the city. The festival was only started last year and is proving a great success. For more details see http://www.comune.lucca.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/17102

It’s a pity that here there isn’t a web site like the one they have in my city of birth London. It’s called ‘Time Out’ and is at https://www.timeout.com/london . ‘Time Out’ has been running since 1968 when Tony Elliott used his birthday money to produce a one-sheet pamphlet. In those days there was a considerable split between the other London events magazine ‘What’s on in London’ which was largely aimed at the conventional tourist and ‘Time Out’ which , in addition had extra information for locals and was definitely counter-culture in stance with lists, for example, of demos to attend and gay bars. Now, in our multifaceted London scene the conventional is definitely out, especially since in 2012 Time Out became free and, in addition, spawned equivalent editions in America and Asia. To crown it all Elliott this year received a CBE for his services to publishing: something which, in that ‘grey-men culture’ still prevalent in the sixties, would have seemed inconceivable.

Although no magazine, whether on line or on paper, could possibly include every event going on in a particular region, Lucca province with a population of less than a thirtieth that of London could well do with a ‘Time Out’ equivalent with a catchy title. May I suggest for the Italian edition ‘Lucchesare’ and for the English ‘Lucca-look’ (sorry!).

Having said that, if you still complain that you keep on missing out on our area’s exciting events, which in summer proliferate to a heady degree, then I suggest you look at the following sites, several of which have English editions. You can, of course, also do what I do, which is to take a photo of every ‘affisso’ or poster hanging on the bar doors.

 

For things happening in Lucca and environs see:

http://www.dovealucca.it/eventi-a-lucca.php

For music events in Lucca and environs:

http://www.luccamusica.it/language/it/

There’s an English version of this. (I know that because I edit it!)

For a wider coverage events in Lucca province there are the following sites covering various festivals, sagre and events see:

http://www.pontineltempo.it/

It’s always good and covers events in Bagni di Lucca too: for example the crossbow competition here this Sunday and the totally unmissable baldoria at Sala this evening. If you don’t know what a baldoria is check out my post at: https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/its-cerretos-mayhem-time-again/ . (PS having mentioned that one I feel that for all of us who have been affected by the news of the terrible fire at Grenfell tower in London with a death toll of 79 – including a lovely young Italian couple – and mounting, attending a Baldoria  may not be such a good idea right now).

The Serchio delle Muse is yet another Garfagnana-wide festival that chooses unusual locations to hold its events. The concert we attended on the Pania Della Croce’s slopes at a height of above 5000 feet was particularly memorable. See my post for this and other amazing music venues at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/heavenly-music-in-a-heavenly-place/

Strangely, Bagni di Lucca’s own events web site at http://www.prolocobagnidilucca.it/ doesn’t seem to be operational today. I wonder why? So how would you know, if you’ve just arrived, that this evening there’s a marvellous village festival celebrating St John the Baptist at Pieve Monti di Villa. There’s information about it in Viareggio’s (!) web site at http://www.versiliainfo.com/IT/contenuto.asp?ARTID=5855. And, of course, you can read all about it in my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/saint-john-the-baptist-blesses-pieve-di-monti-di-villa/

Probably one of the most comprehensive list of events, beautifully laid out in terms of music, theatre, exhibitions etc, is to be found in the marvellous Lucca area magazine ‘Grapevine’ whose web-site is at

http://www.luccagrapevine.com/

It’s well worth investing either in the paper or the on-line edition for then it would be truly difficult to miss out on our local scene!, Furthermore, you’ll be able to enrich your knowledge of our wonderfully unique part of the world with the magazine’s interesting and informative articles.

Where will we go this Saturday?

There’s an interesting discussion on mediaeval pilgrims at Brandeglio Parish church. It’s described at

http://www.fondazionemontaigne.it/

There’s a choice between the baldoria and the Pieve di Monti di Villa festa. I think I’ll go to the baldoria because it’s the only occasion when the amazing Pieve di Sala is open. (See my post on this monumental church at

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/a-castle-and-a-pieve/ )

There is, of course, Debra’s web site at https://bellabagnidilucca.com/ which will give you hints on how to spend this week-end afternoon if you can tear yourself away from the lunch table.

It’s possible to spend hours googling locations in the area to find out what’s happening. The problem is that each comune in Lucca province has its own tourist information site which doesn’t mesh in with any other comune.

Having said this, if you’ve lived in this part of the world for a few years you’ll have ingrained in your brain cells the calendar of events which succeed each other every year, The starting point is the liturgical calendar which can always point to the great ceremonies happening at each major stage in the church year: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Domini, St John the Baptist and, of course, each town’s patron saint’s day where everyone gets the day off, public institutions and the post office are closed, and the day is devoted to that wonderful mixture of the sacred and the profane which characterises the best Italian pageants.

And I haven’t even started to mention what’s happening in Barga. No excuse for missing Monteverdi’s vespers in its cathedral on August 27th (see https://www.operabarga.it/) conducted by the stupendous Sardelli. And Puccini by the lake-side? Quite unmissable. See http://www.puccinifestival.it/.

Of course, if you have a fast car (there’s a model which actually takes off and flies now, useful for avoiding all those bendy Apennine roads  – see http://www.traveller.com.au/paris-air-show-2017-photos-flying-cars-and-other-cool-highlights-gww8kc ) then you could consult this list of Italian festivals from Sicily to Siena and beyond at https://www.tripsavvy.com/festivals-holidays-and-special-events-in-italy-1547324 which will give you some indication of where to be and when.

Of course, you could give the whole festa thing a miss and spend your time by the sea or in the mountains as your inclination directs.

My next post may well be on places to recover after a spate of Italian summer festivities: spas principally!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Liberty and Tolerance

Did I manage to go to all the five events I mentioned as worthy of attending in my last post? Well, not all. Four, in fact, and I still managed to snatch a pisolino in the Saharan heat that is gripping Italy!

The first event was the publication of the original version of Benedetto Croce’s speech delivered in Bari’s Teatro Piccinni  in January 1944

There were significant contributions by Michele Olivari professor of modern history at Pisa University and Giampietro Grosselle, legal forensic graphologist at Livorno’s Court of Justice. I discussed the issue of contemporary word processing with Grosselle afterwards suggesting how much more difficult it is now to be able to interpret the writer’s character and mood from a printed sheet. Yet there is still a lot to learn in a word-processed document; for example in its layout, choice of font and it’s possible to uncover crossings-out and insertions easily by using the appropriate options. So all is not lost.

(Prof.  Marcello Cherubini of the Fondazione Montaigne introducing proceedings)

Why should Croce’s notes be of any interest except to specialists? It’s because Croce’s broadcast laid the foundation of the Italian republic and its constitution as we know it today.  OK that’s fine but why should Bagni di Lucca be involved? It’s because in September 1943 the Cassibile armistice was signed which (unfortunately theoretically) ceased hostilities between the allies and the Italian government. The allies had invaded Sicily and the Italian government arrested Mussolini for misconduct of a disastrous war. The northward thrust of the allies was not quick enough for the Third Reich to prevent sending panzer divisions into Italy and capturing Rome. The royal family escaped to Bari and for the next two years Italy was involved in one of the cruellest civil wars Europe has ever seen, with a puppet Nazi-fascist government in the north and a provisional government in the south. Even Rome’s eventual deliverance in 1944 did not stop the bloodshed and the war for Italy did not finish until April 25th 1945 – a date which has become a national holiday – the ‘giornata Della Liberazione’. (For more information on the context see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/amazing-find-in-greenlees-archive-at-bagni-di-lucca/ )

(Exhibition in the library associated with Greenlees and Croce)

Ian Greenlees, (see my post on him at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/an-aesthete-in-bagni-di-lucca/ ) was director of Bari radio between 1943 and 1944: critical years in which the King of Italy declared the armistice and in which Croce made his seminal speech.

(Portrait of Ian Greenlees in Bagni di Lucca’s Library)

Benedetto Croce was one of Italy’s greatest twentieth century philosophers and one who did not disdain to enter into politics. I suppose the nearest equivalent in the UK would be Bertrand Russell and in many respects their ideas had similarities. Like Russell Croce quit Christianity for a spiritual and moral philosophy of life. A pacifist, Croce quickly turned against Mussolini after political activist Matteotti’s murder by fascists in 1922. He invented a term which he applied to the Italian government and would be equally well-applied to the present UK government: ‘onagrocrazia’ or ‘government by asses’.

Amazingly, despite many threats and the ransacking of his library, Croce survived fascism and was appointed a minister without portfolio in Badoglio’s post-armistice government. Strangely, Croce voted for the retention of the monarchy in the constitutional referendum of 1946 which turned Italy into a republic, and regarded the peace treaty, which removed a large part of Venezia Giulia including Trieste (which only became part of Italy again in 1954), as humiliating.

Croce, who was the only survivor when, as a sixteen-year-old, his family was wiped out in an earthquake, remains to this day a somewhat complex and ambiguous figure. That’s why his friendship with Ian Greenlees and the documents exchanged between them, which were only re-discovered last year in Bagni di Lucca’s library Greenlees archive, are so telling.

In the ‘sketch’ there are some significant crossings out and word changes. For example, the Allied government must be ‘loyal’ rather than ‘generous’ to Italy. In another part fascism does not just ‘destroy’, it ‘corrupts and destroys’.

Croce was, above all a liberal philosopher, politician and historian who was greatly influenced by the Italian illuminist philosopher Giambattista Vico, so significantly revalued in recent times.

Above all Croce prized liberty and tolerance. It is, therefore, with some considerable preoccupation that I hear on the news today that a tit-for-tat attack by a white van driver has left one person dead and seriously injured ten others.

I think of the civil war in Italy, which came so close to Bagni di Lucca with its ever-present fortification remains  (there was also a visit on Sunday to the gothic line dividing axis and allied forces and whose anti-tank wall passes just south of local Penny supermarket. You can see my visit to this wall at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/catching-the-train-at-borgo-a-mozzano/ ).

I also think of the UK as a divided country too: divided by that ghastly brexit nonsense whose negotiations are to start today. I also think of the division in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea where the average wage of the better–off is over five times greater than that of the less well-off and where the difference between the average life expectancy of the two wage-groups is twelve years. Indeed, I remember as an unbelieving six-year old being driven through the shabbier parts of Kensington by my parents and my mother mockingly reading aloud a street name sign with the inscription ‘The Royal Borough of Kensington’. (Chelsea was added in 1965).

I just hope liberal tolerance will win through. After all, Italy was in a political psychosis in 1945 and has managed to keep itself together despite continued political instability and discontinuity, so much so that Italians are now declaring to me: ‘we thought we had to put up with an impossible government ‘all’Italiana’ but we think your country’s government has beaten ours in being even more ‘all’Italiana’!

I wonder what broadcast Benedetto Croce might have made on RAI TV and radio today…

(Every important occasion in Italy, like this book presentation,  ends with a nice ‘rinfresco’)

 

 

 

 

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

https://www.facebook.com/trevisan.gloria

 

‘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.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mayor for Bagni di Lucca

As a result of the local council elections yesterday there is a new mayor for Bagni di Lucca. His name is Paolo Michelini and he beat the former Mayor Massimo Betti by 80 votes. Third was Claudio Geminiani and last by a long way was Quinto Bernardini.

More details at

http://www.luccaindiretta.it/politica/item/95822-candidati-e-liste-bagni-di-lucca.html

Twelve councillors were also elected and these can be regardless of the mayor’s party in power. The twelve councillors are

Maria Barsellotti, Carlo Giambastiani, Francesca Lenzarini, Monica Melani, Sebastiano Pacini, Marco Pelagalli, Silvano Iacopo Salotti, Antonio Bianchi (Uniti per cambiare), Massimo Betti, Giulia Mariani (Progetto Rinascimento), Laura Lucchesi, Claudio Gemignani (Un futuro per Bagni di Lucca).

I wonder what the future holds for Bagni di Lucca. At least it won’t have to contend with the highly confused picture now thrust upon the inhabitants of the uk.

Pawsitive political attitude at Longoio

In Bagni di Lucca it’s the political season too. Four candidates are standing for mayor of the comune. A mayor in Italy gets elected for a mandate of 5 years. The post is not ceremonial and is rather like being a UK council leader.

One of the candidates is Claudio Gemignani, an old friend of mine. I was glad when he turned up with his crew outside the chiesina at Longoio the other day.

 

I am not going to bore you with what each candidate’s policies are, especially if you are not a resident here. All I’ll say is that Claudio is honest, approachable, experienced and devoted. He’s served under two previous administrations as events assessor and when he was out of office Claudio dedicated himself to his local community of Gombereto in organizing the last big mediaeval festa in Val di Lima and also in arranging other events such as those associated with the patron saint. Moreover, he’s been industrious in restoring the upper chapel in Gombereto and the church on the hill at Guzzano after extensive earthquake damage there years ago. He’s always been careful with how the comune spends its money and, in respect of this, brought a councillor friend of his who has ensured that Pescia’s mayor is now behind bars for embezzlement of tax-payers funds.

I always keep my cards close to my chest when it comes to local election time but I have time for Claudio and wish his campaign well. After all, Italy’s biggest enemy is corruption and anyone who stands strongly against it is worth our fullest consideration.

Our cats agreed too and took an active part in the canvassing proceedings. Carlotta particularly appreciated the councillor who discovered Pescia’s mayor’s embezzlement.

And two of my cats improvised a dramatic version of that mayor’s imprisonment.

Whatever the outcome (and the elections are on June 11th) we must avoid a cat-astrophe to the comune at all costs….

 

 

 

 

 

Acquatica is Back

Acquatica. Don’t miss out on the second and last day of this event. It’s superb! I was there yesterday. Learn how to use your goldfish tank to fertilize your plants. Learn how to grow hemp for the right reasons. (It’s legal now in Italy with an agricultural permit). Getting your white-water sport together. Hear the band play. Take part in discussions. At least enjoy the rain. (It hasn’t rained here for weeks, it seems).

Here is the program for Sunday.

 

Looking for …….?

Bagni di Lucca’s amateur dramatic society put on their summer show last Saturday and achieved considerable success. The play ‘AAA Cercasi’ (‘looking for’) was an amusing ‘commedia brillante’ set in the context of interviews for selecting a suitable cast for a musical. Each of the characters had to deliver a performance which demonstrated their capacity to indulge in quick repartee dialogue, recite monologues, deal with chaplinesque mime and to be able to sing and dance.

The performer on the night were:

  • Erica Stringari
  • Daniela Orsi
  • Maria Pia Pasquini
  • Maria Rita Barbagli
  • Nina D’Amice
  • Elisa Franceschini

The increasing professionality of the company (of which I was a member in their Christmas show – see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/luci-di-natale-christmas-lights-at-bagni-di-luccas-teatro-accademico/ –  but which for personal reasons I had to decline to participate in this year ) was also evident in the fact that at the last movement one of the cast member had to be absent for family reasons.

No problem. I’ve never seen the house so packed for the company; Bagni di Lucca’s own actors received a loud ovation at the end of their captivating performance which showed no sign of hesitation or awkwardness.

Well done. I think they’re now too good for me to ever re-join them!

Thanks are clearly due to the combined efforts of actors and singers Guendalina Tambellini, Michela Innocenti and Claudio Sassetti who trained the cast and put the show together.

We look forwards to the company’s next stage appearance during the Christmas season. perhaps you’d care to join them? Contact Daniela at

https://www.facebook.com/daniela.orsi.507

PS In case you were wondering what the AAA before the ‘cercasi’ means it has no meaning. It’s just a sure tactic many people use so they can have their newspaper announcement at the top of the alphabetical list!