Turn, Turn, Turn

I’ve described Gombereto’s special devotion to the Madonna several times before in my blog. The world turns and turns and the certainty of the seasons following each other is mirrored by the sequence of religious events which accompany them. For me the festa Della Madonna Addolorata di Gombereto reflects the end of the summer and the arrival of the autumnal solstice.

There was something particularly special about this year’s devotional procession.

First, the weather brightened up and not a drop of rain fell, unlike some previous occasions I know. The procession was thus able to wend its way around the village with absolute sanctuary.

Second, the Ukrainian Orthodox bishop from Milan was also at the Mass and after the procession placed his engolpion (a chain of office with a medallion in the centre worn by orthodox bishops) around the Virgin’s neck which we all felt was a most moving act and symbolised a kind of reconciliation in the great Christian schism between east and west which took place in 1054.

Don Franco stated that when so many Christians are suffering under war and terrorism, particularly in the Middle East, that it is a scandal that so many divisions should still exist between Christians.

This reminds me that in Assisi the international meeting for peace is taking place at this very moment where many other faiths are all present and praying together from Japanese Shintoism to Tibetan Buddhism to Indian Hinduism to Muslims desperate to re-establish the tenets of peace on which their faith was originally founded.

Gombereto’s special day was highlighted by a concert given by the excellent band from Marlia.

This was followed by a scrumptious tuck-in of biroldo and ham sandwiches with a mouth-watering array of cakes and plenty of soft and less soft drinks.

It’s so important for these village festivals to continue. Sadly, every year there seem to be less and less people participating in them despite the mammoth efforts of people like Claudio Geminiani and his devoted helpmates which include world-class organist Enrico Barsanti accompanying the choir and Candida who beautifully decorated the chapel with flowers.

Again I would refer you to my posts on previous processions for the ‘Madonna Addolorata’ (the Saddened Madonna) at:



https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/an-international-languasong that sge/


A song that sums it all up:


Three-in-One in our Valley

Three traditional rituals are shortly to take place this month in our valley to suit all tastes of religious persuasion

On Thursday 15th from about 8 pm there will be dancing and singing at Baba Cesare’s Ashram near Guzzano. (See my post on him at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/08/27/baba/ ). Baba invites all devotees and all those who are on their life journey’s search to attend. Baba, as many will know, is a devotee of Lord Shiva (Trans: ‘the auspicious one’) and will shortly leave for his ashram in Hampi, India.



Starting on Friday 16th but climaxing on Sunday is the ‘Festa Della Madonna Addolorata’ at Gombereto. Sunday’s programme will include Holy Mass at 4.30 pm followed by a procession around the village. The excellent philharmonic band from Marlia will perform a concert and abundant refreshments will be served. I’ve often described this deeply-felt celebration in previous posts. See, for example:






On Saturday 17th from 3 pm to 8 pm at Ennio Manfredi’s ‘Campo Natura Stella del Mattino’ (to reach follow the track up from where you can get good drinking water from the Refubbri stream on the way from Bagni di Lucca to Guzzano) there will be a Celtic celebration in praise of the full moon conducted by ordained priests and priestesses and following ancient rites of protection from evil and negative spirits.


Activities include walks to fountain sources, games, refreshments and aperitifs, community and drum circles (do bring a musical instrument like a flute or drum if you have one) all set in a convivial and friendly setting in the depths of the wonderful woods surrounding us.


Hoping to see those of you who are in the area participating in at least one of these beautiful events.

PS If you are a practising atheist, tough luck – there are no specific events for you – although you could always follow this person’s religion…



Hello Campers

Just below Gombereto the new market gardening and camper area is steadily developing.

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The site, which previously consisted of abandoned fields, is being most attractively landscaped. Old walls have been reconstructed and the results are smart.

The vines have been pruned and nicely restored to new life.

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This weekend new olive trees were planted and old trees were pruned.

Areas for the campers and for camping have been delineated:

Facilities will include toilet and bathing facilities and a shop. Longer term schemes include a swimming pool.

The views from the site are quite stunning.

Which brave soul is behind this scheme? It’s our woodcutter Giuseppe’s daughter who, as a design graduate, has ample flair for this sort of thing. Giuseppe is there to help out, like every good father should.

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I’ve written in a previous post(see https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/) about this scheme – it’s a great example of entrepreneurship in an Italy still saddled by austerity and, what is worse, byzantine bureaucracy.

Up to now the only camper site in Bagni di Lucca has been the one halfway between Fornoli and Ponte a Serraglio. It was just a parking area, not very attractive and with no facilities at all.

We wish every success to the new camper park and camping site – it is definitely needed in our area and will certainly give a boost to the local tourist economy.

Gombereto’s Saddened Virgin

The last day of Gombereto’s Festa Della Madonna Addolorata was accompanied by wistful late summer afternoon sunshine. Everything went to plan and, after Don Franco celebrated Mass in the chapel at the top of the village which was enhanced by a choir accompanied by Cipriano Nesti on the keyboard, the procession began to weave its way around the village bounds.

I especially enjoy the way the Madonna appears as she is carried through woodland on this occasion:

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Returning to the chapel there was a benediction and kissing of the relic. I don’t know which relic but clearly it was a felt act of devotion by the local populace.

The Catalani band from Marlia, which had accompanied the procession, then grouped itself in the village square and played three pieces which had been the favourites of two former mayors of Bagni di Lucca, Antonio Contrucci and Giancarlo Donati. Indeed Contrucci had played them when he was a member of  the now sadly disbanded Benabbio band.The three pieces were the theme from ‘Gone with the wind’, Gabriel’s oboe and Albinoni’s adagio.

(The adagio, of course, isn’t by Albinoni at all but is, instead, an invention by musicologist Remo Giazotto. Presented to the world in 1958 as a reconstruction of fragments by the Venetian composer which survived the bombing of Dresden’s library – where the majority of Albinoni manuscripts were kept – the adagio was revealed after Giazotto’s death in 1998 to be entirely his invention. No matter: Kreisler did the same with his fake Pugnani, Dittersdorf et al. at a time when the public was less familiar with the language of these ‘old’ composers. Happily this does little to detract from the fact that they are charming piece to play and hear).

Commemoration certificates were presented by Claudio Gemignani, the indefatigable organiser of events in Gombereto, to the families of the two former mayors, both of whom sadly died last year, Contrucci in October and Donati in January and under whom Claudio served as a councillor.

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After other, jollier pieces, we were treated to refreshments. The spread, as usual, was scrumptious with an especially good selection of cakes including cupcakes.

The participants, although certainly not lacking, seemed to be less than in previous years despite the lovely day. It would be very sad if these events began to die out through lack of interest for they represent both an act of faith and also the sense of belonging to a community.

Gombereto fortunately hasn’t yet degenerated into a collection of part-time holiday cottages as has happened to some other villages. Let’s hope it never will. As long as there are people like Claudio to lead the way these traditional village events will certainly continue.

PS. To compare this year’s event with last year’s just click on:


Clouds with Silver Linings

The sirocco winds blowing in from the south-east and the dense cloud cover are keeping temperatures constantly mild here both by day and night.

Here are some views from our house yesterday morning. We’ve definately got our head above some clouds but below others:

The general greyness of the scene fitted in perfectly with the arrival of a new addition to our modest picture gallery yesterday. Showing Partigiano church in the background, (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/how-to-avoid-a-massacre/ for more on Partigliano), it’s a pastel by that fine artist David Finkbeiner who has his studio in nearby Valdottavo. For me the painting is highly evocative and is a sort of visual nocturne.

Unlike several other works by this artist it’s not at all hard-edged but tenderly haunting.

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The recent rains have given us a great opportunity to fill up our 1000-litre tank in our orto from our little reservoir:

There are several fruit and veg that have survived the summer drought. Regrettably, for others it’s too late.


I sometimes receive complaints that I describe events after they’ve happened and that people have missed out on them.

So here are three (for me) unmissable events this coming week-end.

The first is a performance of Catalani’s Mass:


Our choirmaster is singing in it. (If you didn’t know who Catalani was see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/catalanis-calamitous-life/)

The second event is ‘Il paese dei balocchi’, a week-end for fun and games for children from the age of 1 to 100. Here is the poster promising even illusionists and magicians:


The third is the festa Della Madonna Addolorata in nearby Gombereto. This event must go back at least a thousand years!

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School may have started this week in our area but this is no reason to discontinue festivities. After all, despite the monsoon-like clouds, it is still officially summer!

Gombereto Celebrates its Fourteenth Festa Mediovale

Last night’s festa Mediovale at Gombereto was an unqualified success.

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The best Sbandieratori in our area, the ones from Gallicano, put on a show which displayed their virtuosity in flag twirling to the full, from the youngest to the most experienced, with a fine drum and trumpet band with well-thought out harmonies and exciting rhythms all weaved together into an elegant choreography.

There was mediaeval combat.

Plenty of stalls

A clown for the children

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Handicraft from Montefegatesi:

An exhibition of paintings in the little church:

And a goodly crowd.

This was the fourteenth festa Mediovale di Gombereto, each one set up and run by the indefatigable Claudio Geminiani.

Some people did remark that the attendance was not as good as it had been in some previous years but the temporary car park seemed full and all those who were there were certainly enjoying themselves.

The festa ended with a spectacular fireworks display, one of the best I have ever seen at Gombereto.

We certainly look forwards to the fifteenth festa Mediovale next year. Bravissimo Claudio!

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Twirling the Flag

There was a time when the villages of Casoli, Lucchio and Gombereto combined together to produce a leaflet called “Mediaeval fairs in Val di Lima”. Each location would present their own version of a “mediaeval” event in the summer. Today the only such fair continuing is that of Gombereto.


Like many other things in Italy, these events have their fashions and, apart from religious processions and a few sagre, Gombereto’s is the only currently running mediaeval festival in the Lima valley.

This year’s event went smoothly with some lovely mediaeval music played on harp, flute and guitar by a twosome calling itself “the lady and the unicorn”.

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There were the usual handicraft stalls:

and an exhibition in the little church of paintings by local artists including Kety Bastiani who also designed this year’s festival poster:

The Sbandieratori (flag twirlers) entertained us and were of the highest quality coming from Gallicano, which has won many prizes in this peculiarly Italian art.

In case you didn’t know, Sbandieratori developed towards the end of the fourteenth century as a signalling corps with a language communicated in the various movements of their flags, rather like a sort of early semaphore. By their actions the sbandieratore would signal when an attack was imminent, when one should retreat, when one should regroup etc. The sbandieratore also had to show complete devotion to his standard preventing it for ever from falling into enemy hands. There is even a manual by Francesco Ferdinando Alfieri:  La Bandiera (the flag) dating from 1638, which remains the standard codification of flag twirling and its significance.

There are different schools of Sbandieratori. Two of the main ones are the Umbrian and the Marche ones, each of which has its particular idiosyncrasies. All the main Sbandieratori belong a national federation and there are regular competitions between them.

The Sbandieratori were revived in the modern age and now are open to all regardless of sex. Generally it’s more the boys who do the acrobatics and more the girls who beat the drums.

The Gombereto’s mediaeval evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display which lit up the whole valley.

Incidentally, entrance was free unless one wanted to eat. This is the way it should be and guarantees a very respectable attendance. Congratulations to Claudio Gemignani and his committee for organising the enjoyable event in the face of the continuing economic hardships Italy has to suffer (even under Renzi…). We look forwards to next year’s Festa Mediovale. In the meanwhile there will Gombereto’s traditional Festa della Madonna Addolorata this month:

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