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

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 . ‘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:

For music events in Lucca and environs:

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:

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: . (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

Strangely, Bagni di Lucca’s own events web site at 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 And, of course, you can read all about it in my post at

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

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

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 )

There is, of course, Debra’s web site at 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 conducted by the stupendous Sardelli. And Puccini by the lake-side? Quite unmissable. See

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 ) then you could consult this list of Italian festivals from Sicily to Siena and beyond at 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!









Ford Anglia Sighted at Diecimo

Diecimo’s mercantino ‘Ti Riuso’ is a veritable treasure trove if you like to delve into second-hand stores. There’s everything to be found there from sports equipment to books to kitchenware to heaps of furniture and even a wooden spiral staircase. I visited it yesterday and found a young couple attempting to load four garden chairs into their hatch-back. They were still trying to work it out when I left.

Here are snaps of some of the items on sale. Don’t miss out on the tents outside which are a prime source for exercise bikes, among other items!

For me the most exciting find was a Ford Anglia with its distinctive raked-back rear window, 1960’s vintage.

Did I buy anything? Yes, an excellent and recent illustrated guidebook on Umbria priced at less than one Euro.

The Ti Riuso mercantino will also take items for sale if they are suitable. The seller must present his or her ‘documenti’ including fiscal number and the items are duly noted in a database and a receipt issued. The seller can set the price for the item and the mercantino takes a commission. It’s worth investigating if your Italian attic is getting a bit full or if you want to return to enjoy post-Brexit Britain.

Which reminds me: thinking about politics is bad for one’s health and talking about it to people with opposite view to one’s own is even worse.

Let the United Kingdom – or what will be left of it at the end of the process – pursue its lemming-type course. By that time I’ll still have a passport with EC printed on it – Italian, of course, courtesy of my wife’s lineage. However, you can still apply for one if you have no such luck. See for more details.

Do I still hanker after Diecimo’s Ford Anglia? At least that car was built in a country which could support itself with its own manufacturing base. I really do wonder what will happen after the UK leaves the world’s largest free market……

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.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

‘Who knows where the time goes?’ asked folk-rock singer Sandy Denny in her beautiful song dating from 1967 and which accompanied her throughout her short life.

Where does it go indeed? It’s now ten years since my friend and builder, Fabio Lucchesi, died on a cold but sunny January 7th in 2007. If there was a perfect gentleman in these parts it was him. Sandra and I shall never forget those last days Fabio spent in Barga hospital where, on oxygen, he said to us. ‘I’m fine breathing real Himalayan air.’ The very last time we saw him he was in such pain that he could not utter a single word to us. These moments will stay with us but, more than ever will we remember the happy times he passed with us getting our new central heating system installed and working and helping us out on a thousand and one other jobs on the house we’d bought in Longoio in 2005.

Fabio originated in these parts but emigrated to America where he brought up his family in a farmstead in West Virginia. Deciding to return to Italy with his relative Paolino (better known as ‘Uncle Paul’) he accepted the fact that his wife did not decide to follow him. Fabio had already suffered the heart-rending loss of his teenage daughter Giovanna, of Leukaemia in 1993. In 2006 his son came to visit him in the Controneria and Fabio was glad that I took his, initially somewhat withdrawn, son on my scooter for various outings, as a result of which he opened out.

Fabio had many, many friends and was known for never having a bad word to say about anyone – something which many people would do well to remember today in these ever more difficult times, Fabio’s home was open to all and I recollect some highly convivial evenings at dinner with him.

Fabio was never afraid of getting his hands dirty in any job given to him but surely he deserved better in his life for he was a highly intelligent and well-read person.

Fabio found a close friendship with an American woman, similarly of Italian origin, but confessed to me he wondered whether there would be anything serious in their relationship. I think he had premonitions that he would soon go to another world.

When Fabio’s final Calvary approached we were devastated but relieved to know that it was short and that his suffering had come to an end.

Fabio’s funeral at the Pieve di Controni was held in a packed church with several of the people he’d helped getting their house in order flying in from countries such as the USA and Britain specially for it. At the funeral I read something I’d written for Fabio. It was one of the first occasions when members of the congregation would be able to personally contribute some homage. This has now become customary on most funerary services in our area today.




7 Gennaio 2007


Se ritrovi la luce nel fosco della notte

Ricorda le tracce mie nella tua casa


Se nell’’inverno non soffri più freddo

Ricorda la mia mano sul piccone


Se ammiri l’arco che amplia la stanza

Ricorda chi ha tolto le pietre


Se adocchi la tua legna messa a modo

Ricorda come ti aiutai a disporla


Se pensi alle cenate conviviali d’estate

Ricorda le nostre belle serate


Se rimpiangi di perdonare

Ricorda quelle mie ultime parole a te.


Mi ritrovo più alto dei monti dell’Imalaia

– il mio ossigeno è Dio Lui stesso.


I lavori miei vivranno di là da me:

Nel tuo focolare, nel tuo cuore, ti sarò sempre vicino.



January 7, 2007

If you find yourself in night’s dusky light
remember my traces in your home.

If you don’t suffer winter’s cold
remember my hand on the pickaxe.

If you admire the arch enlarging your living-room
remember who took away the stones.

If you pile up your firewood correctly
remember how I helped you place it.

If you think about convivial summer dinners
remember our beautiful evenings.

If you fail to forgive
remember those last words to you.

I find myself higher than the Himalayan mountains
– my oxygen is God Himself.

My works will live apart from me:
in your home, in your heart, I’ll always be near.


The following year two friends, Brian and Mary, arranged for a bench in memory of Fabio to be placed near Gombereto.

This prompted the following from me – little did I know that the next year Brian would be gone from us too.




Let none dare sit upon this wooden bench

who in their hearts show any bitterness

but only those who in their souls can clench

the good that pardons all who will transgress.


As the man whose name lives for evermore

among these hills, among these living woods;

whose honest work spells out one word “amor”,

whose simple life embraced all brotherhoods.


And as you gaze upon the dying sun,

and as the twilight falls upon the flock

may you feel that you and the world are one

and that you are as steadfast as a rock.


For such is he that was and still will be:

just sit yourself down here and you will see.





Su questa panca di legno non sieda nessuno

che nel suo cuore conserva qualche rancore,

ma solo chi, nell’anima sua, nutre bontà

ed il perdono per quanti commettono errore.


Come l’uomo il cui nome sempre sarà

ricordo vivo fra queste colline e verdi boschi

e al cui lavoro fu eco la parola” amore”,

la cui vita semplice ha abbracciato ogni fratellanza.


E quando guardi fisso là  dov’è il tramonto,

ed il crepuscolo cala sopra le greggi

che tu possa sentire l’unione tua col mondo

e che come roccia saldo il  tuo cuore regga.


Così è colui che era ed ancor sarà:

qui siedi, solo, e vedrai, per sempre.



Who really knows where the time goes, I wonder…….







Thinking of you, dear Fabio. Ten years have gone since you left us for a better place. Why it is that the best people are always the first to go?



One Car’s Christmas Present

Our little Fiat 500, (‘Sergeant Pepper Year’ vintage) also gets a Christmas present this year: a paint face-lift thanks to our friend Gabriele at Casauto.

I’ve already posted something about Casauto at

and the history of the Fiat 500 (Cinquina) at

and loads of posts of where we’ve been with it. (Just use the search button at the top of this post entering the word ‘Cinquina’.)

Let me assure you that this time the touching-up job was just to avoid getting rust spots on the carrozzeria (bodywork) of our little car in the often very damp climate of Val di Lima.

I wish we could also have the same effective ‘As Good As New Bodywork’ on ourselves’ too. How can we get that ’67 look again I wonder? For some people, like Scrooge, another Christmas is just another year older and barely an hour richer!

Anyway I suppose we could gaze at photos on how we looked in that fabulous year:

Which reminds me: have you visited the You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 exhibition at the V and A if you are in London? It ends on 26 February 2017 and I’ve still got to write about this marvellous show which made us feel both young and old at the same time. How many prejudices did we have to fight against in those days! And yet, though so much has now been accepted and written into our daily lives, that horrible word bigotry has still a habit of sprouting new heads like a hydra….as witness a certain event in the UK this year – to say nothing of the worst carnage this new millenium is seeing near the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

How difficult it is to believe in the smallest fragment of positive philosophy today!


No Means No!

‘No means No’ and no, I’m not talking about politics and bloody referenda, one of which will hit Italy today with equally divisive results as happened to the infamous one in the UK last June.


It’s No to violence against women and the fact that November 25th has (since 1999) been declared a day to remember all those women who have been subjected to violence, whether physical or psychological, by men or, in the last resort, killed by their male partner who perversely preferred them to be dead rather than be separated. Sometimes the male repents when he sees the lifeless corpse of the woman he once thought he ‘loved’ in a pool of blood matting her still growing hair on the kitchen floor , and does himself in as well. (Good for him but a little late don’t you think?). And if there are children? All too often they are witnesses to the event. What memories will they grow up with? What definition of conjugal love will they receive as an example?

No. We are not talking about crass characterizations of concepts of ‘honour’ and ’shame’ in developing countries. Instead we are speaking about a country where women get doused in petrol in their cars and then set alight and die as human torches (this happened near Lucca recently), where acid is thrown into their face disfiguring them for ever in the hope that the jilted man hopes his ex will never get another man, where twenty stab wounds in her back are still not enough, where mental or even physical imprisonment takes place and where, on the worst level, a woman is made to feel absolutely worthless, a nothingness, a valueless object: something which can be thrown away without any thought. Indeed, sometimes women are driven to their own self-murder. They have reached the nullity stage, through male machinations, where they save him the effort of throwing her off the balcony of their tenth floor apartment. It’s even the country where the speaker of the House of Representatives receives hate male mail and gets sexist remarks launched at her during parliamentary sessions.

Just a few figures: in this country in 2015 128 women were murdered by their husbands. That’s not as bad as 2013 when 170 women were killed by their jealous exes. This year, regrettably, the figures have risen again. By November 24th 116 women had been disposed of by men.

Methods of feminicide include the following:

  1. Stamping on a woman and then burning her alive.
  2. Killing her with 26 hunting knife wounds.
  3. Shooting her at zero range.
  4. Hammering her to death
  5. Killing her with 87 cuts with a kitchen knife.
  6. Suffocating her in bed with a pillow
  7. Killing her with a deadly Martini cocktail (Mickey Finn?).
  8. Killing by repeated punches to her stomach (some have miscarried if they have not been killed).

At this stage I just can’t go on. It just makes me sick. 90% of the victims were killed by their male husband/partner/lover, 9% by a close relative. And just 1% by unknown persons.

These horrifying statistics, which don’t compare with some primitive head-hunting tribe in a remote jungle (they would treat their women better I’m sure), or the latest ‘horror’ film from Hollywood, come from today’s Italy. The most disturbing thing is that the figures are increasing in the so-called more educated and ‘morally advanced’ north part of the country and decreasing in the so-called less developed and more traditional south of Italy.

The brilliance of Guendalina Tambellini and Michela Innocenti in their own scripted and produced ‘No vuol dire No.’ is that they were able to bring the reality of these ghastly statistics to the fore in the excellently refurbished auditorium ‘Vincenzo da Massa Carrara’ at Porcari just to the east of Lucca, before a very mixed audience.

Earlier they had delivered their brilliant play to schools. For bullying, and now ‘sextism’, especially with the abuse of ‘social’ media’, is regrettably on the increase here too.

Using a mixture of reading factual information and personifications of some of those victims the duo were able to fully deliver the message that this massacre must stop.

The UK is not much better. 150 women were killed in that country in 2014. So please don’t think it’s just Mediterranean machismo!

After the stunning play there was a short debate with the audience. One lady said ‘OK let’s report these pathological misogynists to the police but how much is done with these reports many of which vanish into a black hole’.

My contribution was regarding the ridiculousness of cultural relativism. In the UK, especially within other originally different cultures, child-brides, infibulation, honour killings, sex-slavery, an ideology which psychologically deprives women of their equal status, covering up their face so that personal identity is all but destroyed, and so many other practices which turn women into something little better than the latest sports car (at least taking a ride on a good sports-car is pleasurable, but taking a woman for a ride is a rather different matter – men please realise the difference!!!)

Italy has now not only to face the increase of feminicide among the ‘educated’ classes but also has to cope with culturally diverse male-female relational practises which are incompatible with a country belonging to a world which celebrates male-female equality (although Italy only managed to give women the vote in 1946, their right to divorce in 1970, their right to receive an abortion in 1978, the full criminalization of honour killings (‘delitti d’amore!!!!) only in 1967,  and the decriminalization of adultery in 1969!). I could go on but another fact is that blue-collar Italian women still do not have parity of pay with men, being paid one-third less on average.

And as for the glass ceiling for women in Italy. It’s not just a glass ceiling it’s a double-glazed plate glass one….

It all boils down to a matter of culture and education. We just hope that law No. 38 of 23 April 2009, dealing with violence against women, will continue to be properly enacted.

Finally, I felt awed by the impressive theatrical presence of and performance by Guendalina and Michela. We have got two really good drama teachers who utterly practice what they preach. Hopefully, as their students in Ciak drama school at Bagni di Lucca, we will try to be truthful to their high standards.

For all the violence imposed on her
For all the humiliation she has suffered
For her body that you have taken advantage of
For her intelligence that you have stepped
For the ignorance which you have left her in
For the freedom you have denied her
For the mouth you shut, and for the wings you clipped
Stand Gentlemen in front of a Woman.
And this is not enough, bow every time she looks at your soul
Because she knows how to see it
Because she knows how to make it to sing
Stand, Gentlemen, whenever she caresses your hand
Every time she dries your tears, as if you
were one of her children,
and when she waits for you, even if she would like to run
Stand, and remain standing my friends,
When she enters the room singing of love
and when she hides her pain and her loneliness
while having the terrible need to be loved.
Do not try to reach out  to help her
when she collapses under the weight of the world
She does not need your pity.
She needs you to sit on the ground beside her
and wait for the beat of her heart eases and
her fear disappears, and the world
continues to turn quiet.
She is the first to stand and to give a hand to pull yourself up
and bring you closer to the sky,
high in the sky, where her soul lives
and where, Gentlemen,
you will never tear off her from.

(Trans Campitelli)

Picking One’s Olives

It’s that time again in our part of the world: olive-picking time. In Longoio we are near the top height for growing olives (and vines) – 1750 feet. This year for the very first time we’ve got something worth picking in our miniscule grove of twenty-odd trees. The afternoon was gorgeously autumnal and two of my cats, Cheekie and grand master Napoleon came down with me.


There was a surprising lot of berries to pick.


As my cats love climbing up trees I had a wild idea of training them to ascent up the olive trees and help the precious fruits drop. After all, more technically advanced people have a machine which, with a rubber band attached, shakes the tree so that the olives drop down into a net.

But my cats seemed uninterested in learning this skill and just lay in the dazzling sun and watched or played in chasing phantom fiends across the lush grass.

My system was a little more primitive I have to say, Most  of the olives aren’t very tall so I just picked them by hand or used a rake to reach the top-most branches.

Then it was back home for the three of us. I’ll be back tomorrow to my orto to see if I can glean more olives from my maturing trees.

If those of you living in northern climes think all this is irrelevant think again. There are now olive groves in southern England (see ) and, indeed, some London streets are lined with them (ever been down Islington’s Fife terrace?). Whether the fruit will be as succulent as that coming from the deep south of Europe is another matter of course…

Plant you own little olive tree and wait and see. The olive is a sacred tree redolent of peace and harmony and everything that can be said to be positive in our disquieting human nature.