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!

Elysium on Earth

In these lovely spring-time, true-blue, wall-to-wall sunshine days there’s no better place to go than to visit the stupendous display of ‘giunchiglie’ or wild daffodils that grace some of our appenines.

There are two mountains which at this time are filled with vast spreads of these delightful, heavily scented flowers which are also interspersed with several other wild floras. One is Monte Croce which I have described in my post at:

The other is the Prato Fiorito (literally the flowering meadow) which is the whale-backed mountain overlooking Bagni di Lucca.

Yesterday I could not resist immersing myself in wild daffodils. Taking the road from Bagni di Lucca to Montefegatesi I branched off at the sign to Albereta and reached, via a somewhat bumpy road with hidden culverts, the starting point of my walk to the flowering meadows of Prato Fiorito, which is marked by a crucifix.

I following a fine little footpath.

Soon I reached the intoxicating expanses of the jonquils which, more correctly, should be called by their Latin name ‘Narcissus Poeticus’.  It was a joy to be there and the air was so sweet and the views so clear.

Wordsworth’s famous lines were quite apt  for the flowers were

Continuous as the stars that shine

and twinkle on the Milky Way,


Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

tossing their heads in sprightly dance.


Again, since these flowers are correctly called in English, ‘poet’s narcissus’, (or sometimes ‘pheasant’s-eye daffodil’) I could take these lines from Keats’ last sonnet which came to mind as my brain and all my feelings became ever more inebriated by the powerful scent of the narcissi spread around me, and embracing my whole being in a variation of the Elysian fields for I seemed, indeed

awake for ever in a sweet unrest, 

and felt, too, that I wanted to

live ever—or else swoon to death.






Palm-Spring Sunday

Spring gets more suddenly with us every year we’re here. It’s now truly sprung. as the hackneyed phrase goes. In our garden the commonly called gaggiolo or Florentine lily or English iris is putting on quite a show and all the other flowers are now in competition with each. Even the vegetables are beginning to start a sweet show. Our Japanese maple is finally putting out its leaves. The muscari are thriving and the wysteria  will now start putting on its fireworks display. Even the pomegranate is showing signs of life. The azalea is continuing to thrive.

Spring is in the air

germinating in our hearts:

happiness blossoms


Which reminds me that today is also Palm Sunday marking Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a Donkey.




I was standing by the east gate

when I first saw him pass.

Could this man create so much hate

and yet unite all class?


Through the thick crowds I caught his face

and for one fleet instance

it seemed as if he could replace

death itself with his glance.


People had cut down palm boughs,

waving them before him

with hosannas and solemn vows

in one rapt festive whim.


Sat astride the colt of an ass,


he rode through the acclaiming mass

like a king returning.


How would this local triumph end?

No blood had yet been spilled.

Would it forevermore transcend

the man, the god they killed?


All we knew was that we seemed free –

our happy feast had come.

Yet wine and bread would never be

the same again for some.


And as the palm leaves’ cross-shaped folds

are given in this nave

will he say that our future holds

no terror in the grave?









Camellias, Kumihimo and a Concert

Camellias originate in eastern and southern Asia and were introduced into Europe during the eighteenth century. The tea plant is a member of the camellia family and, indeed, the expansion of the tea trade enabled many new varieties to be brought into Europe. Hybridization did the rest.

Every March at Sant’Andrea di Compito, by the slopes of the Monte Pisano, south of Lucca there is a camellia festival where one can fully appreciate the variety of flower forms and colours of this perfume-less plant. A shuttle bus takes you to the camellias – the only way to get there as the narrow roads would soon be clogged up with cars. The camellarium is spectacular at this time, the mill-stream walk is delightful.

The exhibitions are most informative, there are many stalls selling local products and there are also musical events.

The camellia festival of Sant’Andrea is something we always try to attend. You can read my account of our visit there in 2013 at

and in 2015 at when Sandra’s mum, then 93 years old, accompanied us.

And in 2016 at

Why choose this area for camellias? The fact is that the climate is ideal for them. It was the English ex-pats of the nineteenth century, escaping from the torrid summer of the Tuscan plains, who discovered this and introduced the camellia to these hills. Indeed, dotted around the Compitese are many aristocratic villas complete with their luscious camellias

and there is even a society dedicated to old varieties of camellias in Lucca province.

Could I add anything new about the visit to the camellias this year? Not much except that as things of beauty these flowering shrubs remain a joy for ever.

The day started off very sunny but storm cloud started to gather in the late afternoon. However, the rain held off until the last stretch of my homeward journey.

The setting of the camellia festa is so very beautiful. Sant’Andrea is nestled in a valley of the Pisan hills and the town is quiet charming. Near the entrance is an exhibition centre with some prize camellias.

There was a section on the Japanese art of braiding known as Kumihimo and using a special loom. These braids are used to fasten the button-less Kimono.

An open-air exhibition brought photographs, whimsical sculptures  and sly cartoons together.

There was also a tea ceremony in which we were allowed to participate.

At the top of the Sant’Andrea is the magnificent parish church.

I arrived in time for a concert given by an unusual ensemble consisting of two double bases, accordion and flute. The fine performance included pieces by Piazzolla, Bartok, Domenico Scarlatti and Bottesini, who was the Paganini of the double bass.

Today is the final day of the Camellia show in the Compitese. So if you are in the area and haven’t been there do so now! It would be truly sad to miss one of Lucchesia’s most colourful and evocative events.



PS If you fancy your cup of tea not only can you buy delicious camellia tea but you can have the ultimate Italian invention: camellia-tea flavoured ice-cream!












La Primavera

The earth is ready to burst with multicoloured energy. The soil below my feet is vibrating with the force of a new spring season and it’s just two days before spring (la primavera) officially begins. Here is the scene in my main field:

The daffodils and crocuses are showing off their last displays before they go to sleep again and primroses are exploding everywhere on our slopes. Our little house at Longoio is also displaying its own modest contribution to the advent of the season of rebirth and love:

Rain at Last!

Rain at last and lots of it!

Yesterday afternoon, through the evening and the night it came with a thunderous vengeance after having apparently left our part of the planet since last June. Italy is not a country of compromises, at least as far as the weather is concerned. There were huge ‘nubifragi’ (cloudbursts) bringing large part of the big cities like Rome and Naples to a splashing stop. Railway lines were cut and roads blocked by the usual landslides and soil-spills. Terrible damage has already been done to vines and other crops in the south-eastern part of Italy and the remaining ex-house owners of flattened Amatrice and the surrounding areas are squelching in mud around their ‘temporary’ tents. O if only the Sibylline Mountains that surrounded them had uttered their seismic prophecies in time so that some arcane medium could have interpreted the ancient signs.

Why is the weather becoming so extreme in Italy? Or has it always been like this? We can, of course blame planet warming and climate change but the reasons are rather more subtle: the weather forecast has become more and more of a gamble and has changed from day to day.

What will today bring for example?

One thing is certain, however, lawns will re-generate, flowers will be brighter and fresher, ducks happier and the mountains greener, once those morning misty clouds have cleared. Italian storms are violent but, perhaps, like the Italian character they don’t last for days in a dull drizzle like those of more northern climes.

What will the autumn be like I wonder? It’s only four days to that solstice. Plenty of wild mushrooms I’m sure, however and the Vendemmia doesn’t look too bad either.

If There is a Heaven it is Here

All around were a multitude of Narcissus Poeticus – that little daffodil with the intoxicating perfume from which some of the world’s most expensive perfumes are made. The flowers spread round across the northern and eastern slopes of Monte Croce and looked out onto the surrounding mountains: the Queen of the Apuans, Pania Della Croce capped by a threatening storm cloud, the Procinto with its panettone shape and the gentler mountains to the south: Piglione, Nona and Matanna. It seemed from a little distance as if the whole area had been covered with a sprinkling of scented snow!

I thought to myself – if the Elysian Fields do exist they must be here!

The previous week I’d visited the wonderful little flowers on the Prato Fiorito but this was a sight to even beat those in beauty. Had the rain stimulated those bulbs, so long hidden in the mountain’s womb, to burst open into the world, for there has been precious little full sunshine in recent days?

I rested by the cross at the summit of the 4311 foot high mountain and surveyed the immense panorama. In the middle distance were the villages of Trassilico and Vergemoli and beyond the Serchio valley the Apennines stretched their uniform ridges.

I’ve climbed this mountain at couple of times before but never before in this jonquil-flowering season. The route I took this time was different. Instead of going from Le Porchette, with the hidden natural stairs hidden in a torrent crevasse, and instead of branching up from the ancient milestone of ‘Il Termine’ I took an unmarked path starting from a lonely farmhouse above Palagnana.

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The path at first went through some last fragments of woodland before emerging into pastures on the east side of the mountain.

Here it joined up with footpath no. 108 but only for a short while, for another unmarked path, the ascent of Monte Croce, started. I’d climbed the mountain from the south but this was the first time I’d done it on its east side. The ascent is marked by this post:

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It takes around half an hour to reach the summit and the whole walk took less than three hours. It was just as well it didn’t take longer for as soon as I’d come off Monte Croce the summit was enveloped in rain…

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PS You get to Palagnana by going up the Turrite Cava valley in the direction of Fabbriche di Vallico and as described in my previous post. You’ll know that you’re in the correct valley because here are some of the sights you’ll see en route: