My Flower is at Borgo a Mozzano

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

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/another-fabulous-borgo-azalea-festival/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/astounding-azaleas-are-arriving/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/blooming-azaleas/

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/legging-it-in-leghorn/

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

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/the-eye-of-lucca/

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:

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/catching-the-train-at-borgo-a-mozzano/

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

http://www.giardinoazalea.it

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:

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/if-there-is-a-heaven-it-is-here/

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.

 

PALMS

  

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,

prophecy-fulfilling,

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

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/thankyou-camellia/

and in 2015 at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/la-traviatas-favourite-flower/ when Sandra’s mum, then 93 years old, accompanied us.

And in 2016 at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/the-ravishing-camellias-of-compitese/

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:

 

 

A Perfect Shelleyan Day

Yesterday was a perfect ‘Shelleyan’ day.

In the morning, the day looking very fine, I decided to climb to the top of the Prato Fiorito, the whale-backed mountain that looms over San Cassiano and, indeed, our whole area. It’s possible to struggle up through ‘Le Ravi’ (ravines) on the southern side but I decided on the standard route from Albereta to the north of the mountain.

To the left I passed the highest village in our comune, Montefegatesi, entered into a chestnut forest with some giant, ancient specimens (whose fruit once supported the entire population) before reaching the cross marking the start of the path to Prato Fiorito’s summit (4255 ft high).

What greeted me must be one of Tuscany’s most ecstatic sights. Thousands of little narcissi were thrusting themselves through the spring-green turf to present their graceful faces to the world.

Shelley, who loved the Prato Fiorito (flowering meadow) and climbed it when he stayed here in Bagni di Lucca in 1818, writes in his passionate poem Epipsychidion:

The odours deep
Of flowers, which, like lips murmuring in their sleep
Of the sweet kisses which had lulled them there,
Breathed but of her to the enamoured air;
And from the breezes whether low or loud,
And from the rain of every passing cloud,
And from the singing of the summer-birds,
And from all sounds, all silence.

…………

And all the place is peopled with sweet airs;
The light clear element which the hill wears
Is heavy with the scent of lemon-flowers,
Which floats like mist laden with unseen showers,
And falls upon the eyelids like faint sleep;
And from the moss violets and jonquils peep
And dart their arrowy odour through the brain
Till you might faint with that delicious pain.

It is a hill ‘twixt Heaven, Air, Earth and Sea,
Cradled and hung in clear tranquillity;

The narcissi truly made my heart leap. They are brave elfin flowers and their presence all around filled me with an intense warmth and joy. They seemed to breathe true love and their perfume was quite intoxicating!

I always look forwards to seeing the jonquils, which are correctly known as the poet’s narcissus (Narcissus Poeticus) and are to be identified with the narcissus of classical times. In the Netherlands and Southern France the flower is cultivated to extract its oil which is used in 11% of all high fashion perfumes (‘Fatale’ and ‘Samsara’ included). Its fragrance is a sort of mixture between jasmine and hyacinth.

These sweet flowers truly seem to fall in love with each other. Who doesn’t know the myth of Narcissus who, gazing at his own reflection in a pool of water, fell in love with it, tried to capture it and was punished by the Gods by drowning and being turned into a Narcissus. Here’s that evocative painting by Caravaggio illustrating the story:

330px-Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_edited

At the same time, however, although they possess medical qualities, these flowers are poisonous and should not be eaten. They should also not be picked and kept in a room. Their perfume is so strong that one could very well swoon to unconsciousness or at least get a bad headache!

This entire beauty is set in an extraordinarily vivid setting surrounded by the Apennines and, across the Serchio valley, the Apuans. Who could wish for more?

Yesterday the clouds were particularly dramatic and eventually took over the whole sky. Rain started falling just as I reached the foot of the mountain.

Those lines from Shelley’s ‘The Cloud’ came to mind:

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

From the seas and the streams;………

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,

And the nursling of the Sky;

I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;

I change, but I cannot die.

***

That was the morning of my Shelleyan day.

In the late afternoon I participated in a reading of Shelley’s poem ‘The Sunset’ at ‘Shelley House’, Bagni di Lucca’s beautiful new bookshop run by Luca and Rebecca. The event was very well attended and the mayor also made an appearance, putting me right about the flowers i.e. that they are called not jonquils but are instead, Narcissus Poeticus, the original daffodil, in fact. (Anybody who knows the mayor will be astonished by his botanical and natural historical knowledge).

The event called ‘recondita armonia’ was organised to open the exhibition of paintings by Michelangelo Cupisti. It was, in fact, a return of Cupisti since his work has already been exhibited before at the Sala Rosa of the Circolo dei Forestieri. (See my post on that at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/two-new-must-see-exhibitions-in-bagni-di-lucca-villa/ ).

Yesterday was ,in all senses, a ‘Perfect (Shelleyian) Day.’

***

PS: I seem to come back a lot to the subject of the Prato Fiorito. Here are some other posts I’ve written on the subject, if you’re interested:

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/the-elysian-fields-of-prato-fiorito/

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/bewitching-flowering-meadow/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/a-crowned-mountain/

 

 

 

 

 

Lucca’s Botanical Gardens

Lucca’s botanical gardens were founded in 1820 by Maria Luisa di Borbone who succeeded Napoleon’s sister after the congress of Vienna in 1815 which decided the future of Europe after Bonaparte’s final defeat at the battle of Waterloo. The gardens are tucked away in the south-east part of the city and are bounded on one side by its walls and on the other by the ex-convent of San Micheletto now used as a concert and exhibition centre.

Within the gardens’ small confines are to be found many flowers, plants and trees of some considerable value.

I don’t quite know if this was our first visit to the gardens in April 2006. It might have been. There is something magical about coming across a lovely place for the first time. We might learn more through subsequent visits but nothing can quite recapture the frisson of discovery.

Anyway this is what we saw on that visit ten years ago to the day.

Cacti:

Trees including Sequoia and Ginkgo Biloba:

Some of these trees are no longer there or have been sadly decapitated as a result of the violent hurrticane of February of last year.

The pond was enhanced by lilies and yellow flags:

The flowers included rhododendrons and azaleas:

There’s also a botanical library and museum but we still have not been able to gain access to it.

There’s more on the gardens in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/flowery-lucca/ including the legend of Lucida Mansi and her pact with the devil.

There’s also a web site for the gardens at http://www.lemuradilucca.it/orto-botanico

 

International Earth Day

It’s International Earth Day today.  (Actually every day should be Earth Day since at  present there’s no alternative to putting our paws on this wonderful planet. So we should care for it all the time.)

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Yesterday our servant invited two of us: me, Napoleon, and Cheekie (Carlotta was still sleeping it off in the master bedroom) to join him in the celebration of Earth Day in his orto (allotment).

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He spent most of the time planting onions of which there are two main varieties, the Tropea from Calabria which gives off a pretty strong sniff and the Lucchese variety which is rather sweeter.

I thought the scarecrow looked pathetic so I decided to take over its job in scaring off the crows myself by sitting down in its shade.

Later Cheekie (well-named little hussy but she’s only two years old) wanted to sit near me.

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We started to play together, got into a little fight in which I, of course, came out on top!

After a little rest we came back home up the little track to our servant’s house.

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There were some pretty flowers on the way including borage:

But the best ones are at our house!

It was nice to have a rest after all that activity and wait to be fed and watered.

PS Are you collecting the Fruvees at Penny Market? (They are all about growing and eating lots of fruit and veg).

If so have you any swops? We’re still missing numbers 5,19, 26,27,28,36, 37, 46, and 55. Thanks!