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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Le Notizie ‘Fake’

Purtroppo abbiamo oramai tutti sentito del termine ‘Fake News’ – le notizie false. Più terribili sono i ‘fake people’, cioè le persone false – false perché tradiscono le più alte qualità necessarie per una vita sociale di armonia, di colloquio e di scambio d’idee – insomma di pace e bene. Queste persone non conoscono lealtà, non capiscono generosità e sono assolutamente ignoranti della parola’ onestà’.

Negli ultimi anni siamo stati assaliti da un’altra ‘fakeness’: ’fake letters’, cioè lettere false. Qui non si parlano d’imbrogli: per esempio, come fare più soldi, come avere una carnagione più bella, come pagare meno per il gas. Quegli imbrogli si possono subito (o quasi subito) identificare se uno possiede un minimo di scaltrezza. No. Queste ‘fake letters’ propongono di venire da associazioni conosciute bene da noi nella Lucchesia. Sono associazioni di alto valore culturale, sociale e morale.

Purtroppo, però, l’identità di certe di queste associazioni è stata rubata – come anche sappiamo che le nostre identità possono essere rubate, particolarmente da sistemi elettronici – di recente, alcuni miei amici su ‘facebook’ hanno avuto le loro pagine ‘hacked’, violate, e hanno dovuto fare appello a questo pericolo.

Dal 2012 anche noi abbiamo ricevuto ‘fake letters’ che si sofisticano di essere state mandate da associazioni o fondazioni. Diamo tre esempi.

Si suppone che questa sia mandata dall’associazione culturale ‘Il Mammalucco’, presieduta da un rispettato giornalista, che ha dato cosi tanta gioia e organizzato belle festività nel nostro comune.

Questa si suppone sia mandata dalla Fondazione Montaigne, che ha contribuito così enormemente alla cultura e la consapevolezza storica del nostro comune sotto la sua direzione impeccabile.

Questa si suppone sia mandata dall’associazione culturale ‘Il Muro Magico ’, una splendida organizzazione fondata a Roma e che quest’anno conduce un concorso letterario in compagnia con i comuni di Bagni di Lucca e La Spezia.

L’arrivo di queste lettere ci è apparso strano poiché conduciamo le nostre comunicazioni con tutte tre le associazioni tramite telefono o email. In ogni caso abbiamo subito chiesto i dirigenti delle associazioni se ci hanno inviato una lettera. ‘Certamente no. Comunichiamo con Lei con email e mandiamo avvisi come allegati,’ ci hanno confermato.

Qual è il contenuto di queste lettere ‘fake’? Poveri versi insultanti con le solite parole e frasi che si possono benissimo leggere googlando (per esempio) ’frasi insultanti’.

Ora ci domandiamo che meglio ha da fare quella persona che ora ha commesso due reati: ingiuria contro di noi e, più gravemente, furto d’identità del nome di onorevoli associazioni, una trasgressione punibile con reclusione sotto la legge 494 bis.

In ogni caso, comunque, i presidenti delle varie associazioni alle quali abbiamo notificato queste ‘lettere fake’ sono stati molto gentili verso di noi, scusandosi e ovviamente facendo denuncia tramite la polizia postale poiché, più che altro sono le loro associazioni che sono state offese.

Si dice che un bel gioco dura poco. Questo non è un bel gioco ed è già durato troppo a lungo: per noi e per le nostre rispettate associazioni.

Da qualche tempo pensiamo veramente che colui che ci manda queste missive sia malato di mente. Di recente ci sono stati degli sviluppi che hanno pressoché puntato il dito al presunto. Il fatto è che psicologicamente tali individui malati serbano l’ambizione di essere finalmente scoperti. Tra poco si potrà individuare chi è. Ci sarà forse qualche notizia ma speriamo proprio che, invece di reclusione, sanzione e pagamento di danni alle associazioni (e a noi) che ha insultato, sia invece certificato malato di mente e messo sotto corretta medicazione o inserito in una struttura apposita.

Avete voi, cari lettori, mai avuto tal esperienza di furto d’identità, o di persona o di una vostra associazione in questa maniera?  Talvolta il furto d’identità può diventare più grave del furto di articoli materiali poiché cerca di violare proprio l’anima e l’intimità di una persona e anche di una comunità, insultando non solo loro ma anche il benessere e il condotto di una dignitosa vita sociale e civile.

 

Pink Psychedelia

There was exciting talk in 2013 of celebrating the five hundredth anniversary of the building of Lucca’s famous walls with a concert by the Pink Floyd featuring their perennial album ‘The Wall’. The project came to nothing and the nearest Lucca has got to a band performing with the background of its walls is this year’s Stones’ concert due on 23rd September.

To celebrate the conclusion of exams and the university’s end of academic year most Cambridge University colleges put on lively and often lavish entertainments during ‘May week’ which begins on the second Thursday of June. (They were originally held in May)

These ‘May Balls’ have a history dating back to the 1830s. By the nineteen sixties the occasion had become very formal and stuffy.  In the flower power year of 1967, however, something changed. The former BBC light -programme-type dance bands were being replaced by some colleges by something more reflective of the considerable social change that was influencing Britain’s youth. Selwyn College, at that time generally regarded as conservative and imbued with Anglicanism, even invited ‘The Who’ to play.

The following year my college, King’s, had an awesome line-up including Roy Harper, the Soft Machine and the Pink Floyd. This array, which few Colleges would now be able to afford, was largely due to the efforts of a music student and friend Andy Powell. Fresh from Stockhausen’s Darmstadt summer school and impatient with the traditionalist music teaching then prevailing at Cambridge, Andy, through his contacts, invited two of the country’s most avant-garde groups: South London’s Soft Machine and Cambridge’s Pink Floyd. (Incidentally, Andy went on to a brilliant career as music producer – Kate Bush etc., composer, soloist, conductor and festival organiser).

King’s college staff was rather taken aback by the fact that Pink Floyd consumed most of the food and drink supposedly laid out for all performers. A strange herbal smoke permeated the Old Master’s Lodge and psychedelic shirts, and kaftans made a striking contrast with conventional penguin suits. Similarly, long flowing hair and skirts contrasted with the more formal evening dresses.  There was a highly visible contrast between the student ‘greys’ in their tweeds and short hair, and the long-haired student ‘hippies’, in the city’s streets. Times were changing fast – too fast for some, to slow for others and the length of one’s hair and one’s clothes really counted for something.

(Guess who?)

They say that if one remembers the nineteen-sixties then one wasn’t there. Memory takes many forms. It can be almost sequentially film-like or it can resemble a collage of images. That amazing night and dawn at King’s I still remember vividly, however. Who could forget the setting, the pastoral backs (the green lawns behind the colleges bounded by the punt-populated river) and the perpendicular pageant of the chapel?

Could I unthink the girl I was madly infatuated with? Could I forget how friend John Forrester (subsequently a supreme authority on Freud and now over the rainbow) managed to get a very drunken Roy Harper on stage to perform? Above all could I forget the Pink Floyd just in front of me in a marquee pitched before Gibb’s building, as the dawn rose over a youthful paradise, playing what must have been one of the first performances of ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’. Secrets the band was certainly unleashing upon an audience who were enjoying music from a pop group that was relishing the concept album and the use of new electronic techniques

The final section of the four-part composition, ‘celestial voices’, an extended chorale of almost Bachian grandeur, permeated through the aureate sunrise with wondrous sensation. The voices were truly celestial and we felt transported onto a different planet.

I never heard the Pink Floyd live again but in 2005, during my first year with my new life in Italy, I attended the opening of the refurbished main square at Crasciana where I heard a highly convincing Pink Floyd cover band.

You can also read more about that occasion at

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/walls-but-no-wall/

It was, therefore, a real nostalgia trip when on a recent trip to London I visited the lugubriously named ‘Their mortal remains’ Pink Floyd exhibition which opened last month at the V and A.

People joke that after the age 45 every new person one meets reminds you of someone you know. More tragic is when a piece of vinyl one remembers buying and listening to for the first time so recently is now safely locked in a museum display case!

The V and A is making a speciality of retrospective pop music exhibitions. Examples include the one dedicated to David Bowie and the one titled ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’ which we visited earlier this year.

The exhibitions appear to have a three-fold purpose:

  1. To support the otherwise free museum by charging for special exhibitions, For the Pink Floyd we purchase a timed ticket on-line.
  2. To introduce a retrospective introduction to the history of pop music to new generations.
  3. To induce a sense of sweet melancholy in those of us who have lived through an age of wondrous development of pop, an epoch which truly defined our generation, our aspirations our loves and our hopes.

Here are some photos from that Pink Floyd exhibition which will run until the end of September this year.  How it made me feel young and old at the same time!

 

(PS Recognize Lucca’s piazza dell’anfiteatro? It wasn’t even labelled at the exhibition.)

 

PPS Those fanous lyrics from ‘The Wall’ seem still so apt today when radicalisation is causing such dangerous consequences to our society:

We don’t need no ‘education’ 
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone

 

That part of the album as sung by pupils of Islington Green comprehensive school (Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency) in 1979:

 

 

 

 

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’)

 

 

 

 

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.

 

They Shall NEVER Succeed!!!

I would have posted something happy about our second day in Trieste but today is truly a tragic, and horrific day for both Italy and the United Kingdom.

One of the first sights we met when driving out of Palermo airport during our visit to Sicily in 2011 was the monument to Falcone and Borsellino. Indeed, the airport is named after these two heroes who had the bravery to stand up against the mafia. Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Falcone’s death when his car was blown up by a gang of Mafiosi unhappy that Falcone had been so successful in bringing to justice their particularly disgusting form of organised crime.  What remains of the wreck of the car in which Falcone and his wife were blown up in has been travelling round Italy as a memorial to what happened and as a warning of what unopposed terrorism can do:

At the same time today we hear of something so unimaginably horrendous that the United Kingdom is, too, plunged into a day which will always be remembered.  Ariana Grande is a young singer born in the USA but, like so many other famous female singers there, of Italian descent, (like Madonna, Laura Nyro, Lady Gaga, Melanie, Shakira, Alicia Keys to name just a few.) As a teenage actor with her role of ‘Cat Valentine’ Ariana attracted a great following, largely of young people, and her transformation with her incredible voice quality and span into a fine singers has given so many children and young adults a wonderful role model to follow.

It was this future generation, many accompanied by their parents, who attended the start of Ariana’s tour in the UK. That’s what is so particularly tragic and so difficult to get one’s head round in what happened last night in Manchester and what will mark this day, 23rd May, for ever.

These bastard terrorists want to strike fear not only towards our governments’ security, but equally to our life styles. They want to prevent young people from growing up feeling secure with their friends, with their music, with all the activities and things they like.

This those murderers will never achieve. The heart-ache, the almost unsustainable pain, the inconceivable shock and, above all the blood of young innocent victims, will strengthen the resolve of all who believe in a tolerant, positive, cosmopolitan world to stand up for, nurture and never give up hope in those ideals which genuine humanity stands for.

Terrorism has no nationality or religion – it has no place on our planet! We may be affected by what terrorists do but we shall never be changed in our highest core values by them. ALL TERRORISM IS A PATHETIC ADMISSION OF FAILURE.

NON PASSERANNO MAI!!

“Uccisi perché? Per il sogno di un gruppo di esaltati che giocavano a fare la rivoluzione, si illudevano di essere spiriti elettianime belle votate a una nobile utopia senza rendersi conto che i veri “figli del popolo”, come li chiamava Pasolini, stavano dall’altra parte, erano i bersagli della loro stupida follia. “

(Trans: Why were the victims killed? To fulfil the dream of a group of self-exalters who played at being the revolution, deluding themselves in thinking they were the chosen spirits, souls elected to enter a utopia without realizing that the real “children of the people”, as Pasolini called them, were on the opposite side. These terrorists are truly the targets of their own stupid madness. ”

Mario Calabresi

All our hearts go out to the families and victims of this latest atrocity to hit our planet. Let’s, however, be positive and finish this sad post with one of Ariana’s best songs:

 

Festa della Mamma / Italy’s Mother’s Day

Today it’s ‘Festa della Mamma’ in Italy’ (and many other countries). = Mother’s Day . Mia madre, emigrante dall’Italia in Inghilterra (mio padre dell’armata Britannica che liberò l’Italia) ed io:

Mum and me.

Dad in Britain’s Eighth army liberating Italy from Nazi-fascist oppression and Mum (Red Cross nurse from Milan but stationed in Sud Tyrol) met in 1945 and the rest is history.

….

A mother with her baby begs

peace in our time.

….

and branches rustle in the wind

‘peace in our time’.

……

 

 

(From ‘Peace in our Time’ FP)