Easter Monday is known in Italy as pasquetta (literally “little Easter”.). It is also more traditionally known as the “giorno dell’Angelo” referring to the angel who met the three Marys: Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and Joseph, and Mary Salomé at Christ’s empty sepulchre the morning after His resurrection. More liturgically correctly defined it’s the Monday of the Octave of Easter.
Pasquetta is the traditional time for families to make a day trip to attractions near and far. Collodi, the village from which the author Carlo Lorenzini borrowed his pen name of Carlo Collodi (his mother worked at the Garzoni palace situated at the end of the village and famous for its lovely gardens – see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/swanning-it-in-collodi/) and went on to write one of the world’s most read children’s books was no exception; there was a large influx of visitors there at Pasquetta.
Long queues gathered outside Pinocchio’s theme park and every parking space, legal and illegal, seemed to be taken up. However, we did not head for the park but, instead, to the antiquarian market where valuable memorabilia belonging to the marionette with a propensity to lengthen his nose if he told lies, and who eventually, after various, semi-catastrophic, mishaps, realises himself and becomes a real boy, were on sale.
As with that other favourite character, Mickey Mouse, prices for 1920’s and 30’ items especially went sky high. Even an edition from the sixties illustrated by that amazing artist Jacovitti, noted for his salami trademark, was priced at 160 euros.
These items made a welcome contrast to the usual stuff relating to Pinocchio one gets at Collodi:
In 1983 we were lucky enough to attend a book presentation commemorating one hundred years since the publication of Pinocchio with a compilation of Pinocchio illustrated editions at the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence and were invited to a meal afterwards based on dishes found in the book. Fortunately, we weren’t treated to pear peelings (remember that episode?) but to whole pears and, as I remember, also to a very red lobster. (That’s why the restaurant by Pinocchio’s theme park is called “Il Gambero Rosso”).
I wonder how many further illustrated editions have appeared since then. Pinocchio is certainly a book that invites artists to their fancy when illustrating the multifarious adventures of this irritating but still very likeable character.
Of monuments in Collodi the only one bereft of any humans was the vast parish church.
In its right transept was a picturesque (if that is the right word) representation of the passion of Christ illustrating the various emblems associated with it.
In case you didn’t know what these are here’s a list of them. See if you can recognize them all in the photos. They also, of course, appear in the various village crosses erected by the Passionist fathers on their missions.
- The Last Supper’s Bread and Wine
- Christ’s cloak
- the glove that struck Jesus while being derided by the soldiers
- the pitcher for water used by Pilate to wash his hands
- the chalice (Holy Grail) of the Last Supper,
- the container used by Nicodemus containing myrrh to anoint the body of Jesus after his deposition,
- a drum and dice used by soldiers used to gamble for His tunic,
- the scourge
- the ladder used to bring down the body of Christ,
- the shroud with the face of Christ on it (Veronica’s shroud)
- the crown of thorns,
- Longinus’ (the centurion) spear
- the sponge soaked in vinegar,
- a basket with three nails of the crucifixion,
- hammer used to hammer in the nails into Christ’s limbs
- Pliers to drag them out when His body was brought down from the cross,
- the column where Christ was flagellated
- the cock which crowed when Peter denied Christ twice
We then headed for the extremely charming village of San Gennaro above Collodi on the Luccan hills. Despite its Neapolitan sounding name it’s very much in the Tuscan tradition and used to be the summer haunt of Lucca’s gentry during the sultry summer season. For this reason there are some very elegant palazzi and delightful gardens.
The parish church is also notable for having the only one of two Leonardo da Vinci sculptures the public can view (the other is in a private vault somewhere). More sceptical people use the phrase “attributed to” but I truly think (like author of a stimulating book on Leonardo Charles Nicholl) that the statue of the angel just to the right of the interior entrance is by the great polymath himself. Just compare it with one of the two angels painted by the apprentice Leonardo on the left side of Verrocchio’s Christ’s baptism in the Uffizi and you can make up your own mind about it.
Anyway, our main reason for coming to San Gennaro was to reply to an invitation by the owner of one of the best palazzi in the village, Palazzo Bove, to attend a concert which also formed part of an excursion by Lucca’s association for music lovers the Catalani club. If you read my monthly reports on the Lucca music scene you’ll know about all their various activities which include trips to attend concerts and operas in other Italian cities and also their key part in the restoration of Alfredo’s family home in Colognora di Pescaglia which is now enriched by a museum. (Among other memorabilia there, is a recent donation of valuable correspondence. If you don’t know who Catalani was do consult my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/catalanis-calamitous-life/ ).
Unlike other concerts the association attends this was not an operatic or classical recital. Instead, it charted Italian song and pop music greats from the fifties onwards. Modugno, Endrigo, Mina, Abba (what a great song “The Winner takes it all” is!) and my particular favourite from Tottenham, Adele, were represented. Not only that but the singers were aged 14 and 17 respectively and one of the pianists was just 12. If all this sounds a bit twee or too much for you then it certainly wasn’t. The performances were all convincing, the piano arrangements by Damiano Calloni were superb and the discriminating audience, more used to bel canto, was utterly captivated.
The programme was presented (at the last minute, pace what it said on the programme) by one of Andrea Bocelli’s collaborating artistes who sang a moving arrangement of the Rainbow song from “The wizard of Oz. Ilaria Della Bidia has a great track record at age only 34. Born and bred in Lucca province she graduated in Piano at Lucca’s own Boccherini conservatoire and studied vocal technique in Rome. Already with several recordings to her credit Ilaria can sing in nine different languages including Swahili and Arabic.
At the end of the recital the chair of the Catalani association, Francesco Pardini, presented a picture of Alfredo Catalani with the title of one of his greatest operas, Lorelei, to Count Bove as thanks for his hospitality in accommodating us in his palace at San Gennaro.
We returned home through the softest landscape imaginable: the Luccan hills made roseate by the setting sun and the Apennine peaks shining with freshly fallen snow.
Today, for most Italians it’s back to the grindstone again and for me it’s time to think about making my allotment ready for some planting. The weather, although, freshened by a penetrating tramontana (north wind), remain beautifully sunny.
PS The palazzo Bove is a great place for weddings. See its web site at