My Flower is at Borgo a Mozzano

Borgo a Mozzano is well-known for its azalea festival which I have described in various posts:

It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when no azalea festival was announced for this April. I needn’t have worried for this May week-end Borgo has put on a truly dazzling day of flowers which in some respects is even better than the azalea displays.

There are contributions from every borgo or village in the comune of Borgo, streets events and art displays. Car-parking is, as usual easy in the Penny Market supermarket park and the catering includes everything from lampredotto to zucchero filato.

With these climatically somewhat unpredictable days there was a sharp tempestuous shower in the afternoon but, at least the flowers on show appreciated it! Judge for yourselves.

The old town turned itself into a flower garden, thanks to arrangements arranged by local florists, associations and schools. I especially liked the Vespa display with 1969 original trappings including flower-title 45 rpm records and a dansette gramophone.

Even door handles were decorated.

There were many handicraft stalls.

Even restaurants offered flower-themed menus. I think anyone who has stayed in Italy will have tasted how delicious courgette flowers and even dandelions are when fried in batter.

Simonetta Cassai hosted an exhibition of paintings which highlighted what progress her students had made in the art course held there.

I loved these boxed 3-D pictures which a local teacher also uses for elementary school activities.

The Municipal Library held a photographic exhibition.

Activities starting from Borgo included a trek up to Monte Bargiglio which I have described at

The Monte Agliale Astronomical Observatory will also be open during the evenings of the festival, welcoming visitors to discover the wonders of the sky if the clouds we’ve been recently having permit,

There are also treks along the Gothic Line which I have described at:

For more information on the festival look at the web site at

It’s an event that you cannot afford to miss if you are in the Lucchesia and entry is free too!

Crucifixion in Borgo a Mozzano

Borgo a Mozzano last night was the scenario for the enactment of Jesus Christ’s last human moments on Earth. Through the narrow alleys of this atmospheric town the various biblical episodes were played out in what was termed  ‘Sequela di Pasqua’.

First there was the Messiah’s joyful entry in Jerusalem and the meeting with his disciples in Borgo’s main square:

There was the last Supper where Jesus broke bread and drank wine and said to his disciples ‘do this in memory of me’. He also warned that one of them would betray him:

The harrowing scene in the garden of Gethsemane followed where Jesus pleads to God that his bitter cup may be taken away from him. If not, however, ‘let your will be done’.

Judas points out the Roman soldiers who they must capture by kissing Jesus who is then captured and led away.

The trial follows and Caiaphas and his Pharisees demand Christ’s crucifixion.

But Pontius Pilate can’t find anything wrong with Jesus. He washes his hands of the whole matter.

There is then Christ’s carrying of the cross with all the stations enacted. See if you can recognize some of them in the following photos. They are:

  1. Pilate condemns Jesus to die
  2. Jesus accepts his cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time
  4. Jesus meets his mother, Mary
  5. Simon helps carry the cross
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls for the second time
  8. Jesus meets the three women of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls for the third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of his clothes
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb

Finally, there is the crucifixion behind the apse of Borgo’s main church of San Jacopo.

This vivid enactment didn’t finish here for we were invited into the church of San Rocco magnificently decorated with an amplified altar and where there was a fine choral concert which also included Mozart’s ave verum. As traditional, the proceedings were wound out with a rinfresco in the parish hall.

It’s been some time since the Sequela has been carried out in Borgo a Mozzano but thanks to the spirited collaboration of its citizens and associations this year a convincingly moving enactment was performed. It was even more poignant due to the fact that on the same day there had been massacres of Christians in two Coptic churches in Egypt. Plus ca change…

Love of Literature in Mediaevalle

UFor lovers of literature and poetry there are two unmissable events today in our part of the world. The first is at 5 pm at Shelley House, Bagni di Lucca. It’s the presentation of Enrico Botta’s book, Mal-aria D’Africa, which has been produced by Luca and Rebecca’s publishing house Cinque Marzo.

(Enrico Botta)

Who is Enrico Botta? He’s a Viareggio director and known to the public for his musical ‘Snow White’ and ‘Aenigma’ with Antonio Casanova. Mal-aria D’Africa is Enrico’s first novel and the title clearly alludes to the disease, literally meaning ‘bad air’, a contagion which once proliferated over marshland areas like the Italian Maremma. The novel is about a young entertainer who travels to Africa and, in particular to the beautiful lands of Kenya. Here he becomes seriously ill. Meanwhile an actor thousands of miles away in Milan puts on a replica of the entertainer’s last show. The two events are thus bound together in a strange parallel universe: Italy and Africa.

Regrettably I won’t be able to attend this presentation since a friend and member of that heavenly vocal group Stereotipi who have done so much, through their school and performances, to raise musical standards in our part of the world, Lia Salotti, is, at the same time, arranging a presentation of a book of poems written by her mother Ivana Domenici.

The appointment with poetry is also this Saturday at 5.00 pm in the hall of the former Convent of the Oblate in Borgo a Mozzano. Present will be the poet Ivana Domenici who teaches history at Borgo a Mozzano’s school Borgo a Mozzano.

The book is published by Ama Ducci and enriched with illustrations by Mirco Martinelli. It brings together some forty poems that retrace the author’s life: feelings and emotions and moments. The event will be presented by Gabriele Matraia and Maria Teresa Malerbi, while actors Valentina Gianni and Federico Barsanti will read selections from the book. There’s also going to be a musical accompaniment with Martino Biondi, guitar, Lia Salotti, violin, and Serena Salotti, voice.

I’m so glad that literature, especially, is alive and kicking in the Lucchesia – which reminds me that my  own humble effort will soon see the light of the world after the success of my volume ‘Septet’, publshed last year (See )





How People Work in the Lucchesia

A fine photographic exhibition curated by Luca Lorenzetti opened last Sunday at Borgo a Mozzano’s library in the elegant Palazzo Santini.


The exhibition focuses on manual occupations and at first sight the photos could be mistaken for belonging to another age. This perception is heightened by the fact that most of the photographs are in black-and-white.


However, the pictures are of the present times and it is wonderful to see how many traditional crafts are still being carried out in our area.

It’s the hands of people, whether they are harvesting barley, threading baskets, pounding pasta or arranging flowers, that grabs one’s attention.

The exhibition, which is titled “Vi presento il Mestiere Lucchese” (“I’m showing you how people in the Lucchesia work”), is accompanied by a book which describes six crafts in the area. These are the following:

Corbellaio Basket-maker
Fabbro Blacksmith
Mammaluccaio (figurinaio) Plaster figurine maker
Mietitore Harvester
Norcino Pork butcher
Pasticciere Pastry maker

In a post-industrial society Italy is beginning to realise how important it is to preserve traditional crafts and to interest younger people in them before the knowledge vanishes. Already Italy’s youth, in desperation at the lack of jobs and the amount of land going uncultivated, have re-considered agriculture as a worth-while occupation. Moreover, smothered by imitative mass-produced products from other parts of the world, this country has refound what it’s best at: making some of the finest and most beautiful objects found anywhere in the world and, of course, producing some of the tastiest food and wine one is likely to ever come across.

This very worth-while exhibition is another in the sequence of interesting photographic shows at Borgo’s library. It’s open until 5th March at the following times:

Mon-Thur 14.30 -18.30; Fri 9,30 -12,30, 14,30 -18,30; Sat 9.30 -12,30.

It Takes a Mass to Tango

Ever since the Missa Luba was first heard and recorded in the 1958 there has been a succession of world music masses. Among these the Missa Criolla (performed by Andrea Salvoni’s choir in Barga cathedral last year – see my post on it at ) stands out. I was, therefore, particularly keen to hear the Misa Tango, composed by contemporary Argentinian composer Martin Palmeri, at the convent church of San Francesco, Borgo a Mozzano last night.


(Martin Palmeri)

The item formed part of the Christmas concert organized by the Stereotipi vocal group. I was lucky enough to participate as a member of the choir in one of these concerts in December 2012 when we sang (among other pieces) a Mass by Michael Haydn, Joseph’s brother.

This was the programme:


The children’s choir (beautifully expressed in Italian as ‘voci bianche’ – white voices) sang a selection of Christmas songs with a grace far beyond that of the standard songs that children of that age are expected to perform in Italy (i.e. largely fatuous ‘pop’). It just shows how teachers Serena Salotti and Felicity Lucchesi have been able to get those of a young age to sing to a standard expected in such places as the typical English cathedral choir school.


The fine Stereotipi choir – now expanded to a good dozen voices – followed with Faure’s exquisite ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’. As with the previous item, the balance between voice and piano, superbly played by Massimo Salotti (friend but no relation), was well-judged.

It may seem a strange mixture of sacred and profane to set a Latin Mass to tango rhythms but then tango is itself a form that has been raised to the highest level by such composers as Ginastera and Piazzolla. (See my post on the latter at After all, didn’t sublime musicians, like Bach and Mozart, raise dance music, such as gavottes, minuets and sarabandes, to the highest levels in their compositions?

The tango’s often acerbic harmonies and its infectious syncopations were fully captured by the ensemble accompanied by Massimo who truly understood the heart of the genre on the keyboard.

Apart from driving rhythms, often startling cluster chords and glissandi, full importance was given to Palmeri’s settings of the more reflective sections of the Mass, especially the ‘Benedictus and the ‘Dona Nobis pacem.’

It was most appropriate that this Argentinian Mass was performed in St Francis convent for, after all, isn’t the present pope also Argentinian and called Francis?

The Stereotipi had previously performed the Misa Tango in Livorno in the full arrangement for choir, soloists, and orchestra which should include that flexible South American tango instrument, the bandoneon. However, it was agreed that, just with a small choir doubling as soloists and a piano accompaniment, the essential impact of this extraordinarily infectious work was well-realised.

Again, for a free concert at Christmas time offered by the munificence of dedicated musicians, the church should have had a rather larger audience. However, those present fully appreciated the immense effort that had gone into the interpretation of yet another masterpiece of world music.

In a church attractively decorated with poinsettias, courtesy of Olesia Fiori ad Arte and with sponsorship from Borgo’s Misericordia, Valentina Brecevich did a fine job in presenting the evening and wished us all a Very Merry Christmas which, clearly I extend to all my readers!

Afterwards we met up with the dedicated musicians in the adjoining hall for a well-deserved rinfresco of prosecco and panettone – the Italian equivalent of other countries’ minced pies and mulled wine and even more delicious!


The evening was truly a joyous one and we left the historic convent with lighter hearts and happier expectations! Well done to all those involved as performers and collaborators at this memorable evening!


Local Concerts You Can’t Afford to Miss


The ‘Incontri Musicali – i luoghi del bello e della cultura’ season is on this November. It’s  organized by the “Marco Salotti” School of Music at Borgo a Mozzano, with the patronage of the Municipality of Borgo a Mozzano and the collaboration of Teatro Colombo of Valdottavo, the Barga and Castelnuovo di Garfagnana Civic Schools of Music, the Borgo a Mozzano Misericordia and the Cluster Association from Lucca. Artistic direction is by Giacomo Brunini.

The event, now in its seventh year, will take place in Valdottavo’s beautiful “Colombo” Teatro Comunale, in other beautiful halls of the Municipality of Borgo a Mozzano such as the Palazzo Santini Municipal Library and the convent of San Francesco so as to allow the public to rediscover gorgeous locations in the municipality. The six concerts in the program will range from early music to jazz to contemporary music.

The two remaining concerts are:



On Sunday, December 4 at 5 pm in the convent of San Francesco in Borgo a Mozzano there’s a recital by guitarist Nuccio D’Angelo. The program includes music by John Dowland and J.S Bach.


All concerts are free admission with offering.
Cell. 3498496612 (art direction)



On Sunday, December 11th at 5 pm in the town library of Borgo a Mozzano there’s a  concert by the ” Etymos Ensemble “organized in collaboration with the CLUSTER Association of Lucca.
All concerts are free admission with offering.
Cell. 3498496612 (art direction)

A Choro for Saint Cecilia at Borgo a Mozzano

Giacomo Brunini, the guitarist who is increasingly making a name for himself both as a soloist and as part of chamber music groups, is organising, as artistic director, a series of concerts at Borgo a Mozzano’s library every Sunday at 5 pm. They are called ‘incontri musicali: i luoghi del bello e della cultura’.


I was unable to attend the first two concerts in the season but last Sunday’s concert was an absolute delight. Entitled ‘Choro e Dintorni’ it concentrated on Brazilian popular street music centred on Rio de Janeiro in the second half of the nineteenth century.


This was a repertoire that I was largely unfamiliar with but the trio consisting of Alessandro Berti (who did all the arrangements), electric bass, Emanuele Poietti, keyboard and harmonica, and Giorgio Rossini, classical guitar, brought élan to a truly infective music.


Among the composers played were Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Baden Powell, Jacob do Bandolim, Zequinha de Abreu, Louiz Bonfá e Celso Machado. This is the full programme:


It was a happy coincidence that the concert formed part of the Festa di Santa Cecilia at Borgo with its flavour of further Christmas markets to come. (The actual music patron Saint’s day is November 22nd).

The word ‘choro’ means something melancholic, in fact a lament. But then American blues and, indeed, Portuguese fado carry the same connotation. Life is filled with sadness but this sorrow must be accepted if one is to rise above it into something more uplifting and joyful. It’s the same nostalgia that permeates the works of such greats as Chopin and Brahms, both composers who influenced this nineteenth century Brazilian school.

What, however, made the music played totally catching was its rhythmic vitality. Derived from African sources, Choro developed its own brand of Latin American ragtime and one could easily see how such dances as bossa nova and samba developed from it.

The trio played with astonishing virtuosity (I’ve rarely heard, for example, the electric bass guitar used with such brilliance) and were even able to defeat the sudden uprising of bells from San Rocco church next door – not an easy battle to win. (Note local church authorities for next Sunday’s concert. Please desist from clanging away from 6 pm onwards!)

Here are some excerpts from last Sunday’s concert:

Don’t miss this Sunday’s programme. 5 pm is a good time to attend an event, especially as winter draws on and there are at least a couple of good places nearby where good pizzas may be had afterwards.

Here is the full remaining programme of concerts:


This unmissable season is organised by the Salotti civic music school, Borgo comune with support of Valdottavo’s Teatro Colombo, Barga and Castelnuovo music schools, Borgo Misericordia and the contemporary music cluster association of Lucca.

More information is available at




All Art is Quite Useless?

Today is a dull day, weather-wise of course. There is rarely a truly dull day here in terms of thoughts, reflections, activities and projects. But the tentacles of winter are approaching; Christmas is still a little way off and November is filled with sad times of remembrance. The days are becoming ever shorter, the nights colder and summer outdoor joys ever more distant.The harvest is reaped and autumn leaves are rapidly falling.

Why not (that is, if you are living in Bagni di Lucca area) consider that something which you have been pondering about for too long but never done before? The first paragraph of a novel that could make your soul fly into unknown mind-regions, the riff that will turn into music that for you has never been so live, the beginning of a pencil line that may turn into a painting replete with colour and inner life? As Churchill said: “Happy are the painters for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day.”

There are so many alternative to switching on the telly, draining that last drop from the gin bottle or going to sleep early with the cat.

Yesterday evening at Borgo a Mozzano library a veritable plethora of courses were offered for all ages, for all tastes and in all media.

I’m already part of the amateur dramatics group which will put on a show to remember (for the right reasons I’m sure) on December 21st this year at Bagni di Lucca’s Teatro Accademico.


(Last night, from left to right Simonetta Cassai artist, Michela Innocenti, actor and dramatist and on the right Patrizio Andreucetti, Borgo a Mozzano Mayor)

Being the son of a (sadly deceased) very artistically inclined father and a wife whose ancestor could clearly include that genius of decorative art (and painter of both the Queen’s Coronation coach and the Lord Mayor’s one too), Giovanni Battista Cipriani, (about whom I’ll give a talk next Easter) I’m thinking seriously of dabbling in painting.

My (and your) teacher could be the brilliant, highly talented Simonetta Cassai.

Her paintings show an eclectic approach to technique.

From mediaeval Gothicising with gold leaf and a touch of the Senese school


To full-blooded ‘plein air’

To her own brand of the Italian metaphysical school.

Underlying this virtuosity of techniques – learnt also because Simonetta is a dazzling restorer of ancient works of art in the area – is a clear statement of her own style and genius.

There’s no pandering to conceptual or post-conceptualism here, no flattery to fashionable cliques. Instead, there’s sincerity, individuality and a clear mastery of her ‘concetto’.  Behind her painting I find a mixture of wistfulness and playfulness, an amalgam of nostalgia and hope and, above all, a true dedication to the highest ideals of art, especially Italian art.

As the children who took part in yesterday’s delightful and recited their definition of art and for the mellifluous amalgam of the flute and harp players, the finest art expresses the highest emotion into mute speech.

I trust Simonetta’s exhibition will continue for a few more days and also that people will join her art course which begins next Wednesday. More details are at

See you there?




Thinking Twice About Your ENEL Bill….

Pian Della Rocca, previously dismissed by me as being of little interest in a post at in favour of the much more picturesque old settlement of La Rocca which lies above, is worth a second look. The monumental hydro-electric generating station referred to in that post is a major contribution to Italian fascist architecture as well as being part of one of the country’s most ambitious hydro-electric schemes.

Amazingly built in 1942 when Italy was in the thick of the Second World War and when the Gothic line was being constructed nearby, Pian della Rocca’s generating station lies opposite the village’s only bar (good coffee, friendly service and sports and newspapers to read). I suspect Pian Della Rocca was built to house those working on the project.

The Francis turbines (invented in 1848 by English engineer James Francis and using centrifugal force to generate their energy) use the waters of the Turrite Cava torrent, which is a tributary of the Serchio River, to generate electric power. There is an example of one of these turbines in the grounds of the station:


If you go towards Fabbriche to Vallico you’ll see the dam holding back the waters of the Turrite Cava which form a lake. Both these and the waters descending down in a huge tube towards Gallicano are used at Pian della Rocca’s generating station.


It’s not often realised that the majority of the villages in our area only received electricity in the last fifty odd years. The channelling of torrents and natural underground waters into a complex system of tunnels and reservoirs, begun before the last war but only completed in the 1960’s, form part of a great scheme of harnessing water power in an environmentally friendly way. Indeed, the whole scheme was awarded the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) certification in 2007.


The Pian della Rocca generating station was thoroughly overhauled and restored by ENEL in 2011 at a cost of 23,000,000 euros.

Although not open to the public (I’ve made a request to visit it, however) the main building is the work of one of Italy’s greatest art nouveau architects, Ugo Giovannozzi. Not only that, but the beautifully proportioned structure, if not quite in the class of those ‘temples of power’ mentioned in architectural historian and erstwhile school-mate Gavin Stamp’s book of the same name, is certainly one of Italy’s most beautiful ‘pievi di potenza’ (parish churches of power).

Giovannozzi (Florence 1876 – Rome 1957) has been completely revalued in recent times. Of his most significant works are several of the spas at Montecatini, in particular the well-known Tettuccio establishment.

Rocca’s station’s main hall is characterised on its exterior by three statues by Angiolo Vannetti, a sculptor from Livorno. (I’m sure the central reclining lady must represent the Serchio river). Angelo Vannetti (Livorno 1881 – Florence 1962) was one of the greatest art nouveau artists in Italy. Later his work developed into a variety of art deco and his statues are to be compared favourably with the work of Aristide Maillol. He studied at Florence’s Accademia delle Belle Arti and was particularly influenced by trends in French and Belgian art.



In the 1920’s Vannetti worked extensively in the Far East, especially in Vietnam. Recently a beautiful statue of his in Tripoli called the source of life – a nude lady representing water with a gazelle symbolising the union of the two provinces of Libya, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania – was seriously damaged by (inevitably…) jihadists in 2014.



Vannetti worked closely in conjunction with art-nouveau architect Giovanni Michelazzi. Anyone who has visited the horticultural gardens near Florence’s Piazza delle Cure can’t have missed this lovely Vannetti sculpture of a pair of deer:


Michelazzi himself was for long neglected so that several of his buildings were wantonly destroyed in those vandal years of the sixties and seventies. However, he embellished Florence with some of its finest liberty style buildings. Who hasn’t admired this glorious house, casa Vichi, when passing near the church of Ognissanti on the northern lung’ Arno in that city, for example?


So make it a point of not by-passing even Rocca on your way from Garfagnana to Lucca on the Lodovico road. There are some of the most startling treasures to be found in the most unassuming location and that is for me one of the greatest pleasures of life.



And don’t complain too much about your ENEL electricity bill! Some of it must surely have been gone on not just on keeping your house lit up but also in maintaining ENEL’s beautiful engineering architecture in our area, another wonderful neo-classic example of which can be found just outside Ponte a Moriano: