Treasure Trove of (Mainly Local) Old Photographs

Just over a week ago a chance subject in a conversation with a nearby long-standing friend revealed that her grandfather had been a photographer and that she had discovered a large box filled with hundreds of old photographs in the attic of her house.

I was particularly excited by this news since photographs are increasingly being used as past evidence and social history. A book many of us have bought showing old photographs of the Bagni di Lucca area and published by the local Historical Association branch shows how fertile this area of research can be.

My friend came down with the cardboard box and I cursorily sifted through their contents, Here indeed, was a large part of the photographs her grandfather (who had sadly died prematurely in 1929) had taken, There were also photographs taken later by other members of the family and stacks of old postcards.

The photographs could be divided into the following categories:

  1. Individual studio portraits
  2. Informal individual and family photographs.
  3. Photographs of important local public events.
  4. Miscellaneous.

I was allowed by my friend to take home some of the photographs to scan them and correct some defects (in contrast, mainly).

I started publishing a very small selection I’d made of these precious documents on Facebook and received a truly rapturous reception from many of my Italian friends in this area.

The majority of photographs deal specifically with the Bagni di Lucca area although some, from their background, originate from the USA. This one of the photographer’s studio in Ponte a Serraglio was even identified by one facebook friend as her great-great-grandfather!


The photographs date from the 1870’s to the 1970’s. Interestingly, some of the photographs have writing or pictures on the back. The writing is very much of the ‘I miss you’ type and these come from those pictures taken abroad in the USA (and one from Russia) where so any bagnaioli emigrated to.

A lot more research will have to be done on these photographs, particularly with regard to their subjects and dating. However, I have permission to publish the following under the separate categories I have given them. It would be so interesting to receive comments about them especially if you recognize any of the persons or places depicted.

  • Studio portraits (individual – couples – groups)
  • Informal individual and family photographs.
  • Photographs of important local public events.

Some of you will recognise the opening of the road (la carreggiabile) which now connects San Cassiano and adjoining villages with Bagni di Lucca and which featured in an exhibition at San Cassiano some years ago. It was built in the twenties and before that time the only way you could get to Bagni di Lucca from Longoio was by Shanks’s pony’ or a mule if you were lucky.

Others will see the Corpus Domini procession from San Gemignano to the Pieve di Controni which I also attended some years ago. I haven’t seen it happen, unfortunately, for some time now.

  • Miscellaneous

(Viareggio c 1913)



(War memorial at Pieve di Controni, Giardino Collodi and Val di Lima among subects included above)

There are plenty more to scan and preserve but I was particularly struck by these ones.

PS BTW It’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary today (a public holiday in Italy) so why not listen to the best setting of her song of exaltation: The Magnificat:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,quia fecit mihi magna,qui potens est,et sanctum nomen eius,et misericordia eius in progenies et progeniestimentibus eum.Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;deposuit potentes de sedeet exaltavit humiles;esurientes implevit boniset divites dimisit inanes.Suscepit Israel puerum suum,recordatus misericordiae suae,sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,Abraham et semini eius in saeculaGloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,et in Saecula saeculorum. Amen.

My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.


PS If you don’t know what the Immaculate Conception is do read my post on it at





Rebuilding One’s Life

The whole of San Gemignano, three weeks after the cataclysmic “atmospheric event” (as the insurance companies like to call it), actually a “twister”, remains looking like one big building site. Scaffolding surrounds most of the buildings and bright new red tiles are replacing the old broken and fallen ones. Certainly, if one is a scaffolder or a roofer there’s plenty of work here. For woodcutters too there’s no lack of activities and if you are short of firewood, it’s there for the taking.

The church of San Gemignano is receiving due care and attention which is remarkable as its repairs are for a beautiful church which is actually a redundant ecclesiastical building,

This house is still covered by a plastic sheet. The owners apparrently live in Spain. I wonder when they will turn up.

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This house is divided between two owners. Clearly they couldn’t agree to use the same roofer.

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There are still piles of debris on the road, but far less than before.

A lot of the damage to people’s roofs and windows was caused by tiles from one person’s roof falling onto the adjoining houses’ roof. Houses are usually quite close to each other in these villages but the force of the wind was such that even well-detached houses suffered too. Insurance companies are having to sort out whether damage is covered by one’s own policy or the adjoining property owners’ third party clauses.

What is certain, however, is that everyone wants to get back to some sense of normalcy as soon as possible. In the case of those having to go to work outside the village relatives and friends have been called in to keep an eye on their property while they are away, especially as the number of building workers from the outside is making the local dogs and other pets feel somewhat disturbed.

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Although there is solidarity there have been complaints that not enough has been shown. Offers of carting away the remaining debris, giving free transport but asking for volunteers to lend a hand to fill the wagons, have not received much response.

There will be big problems for people with properties with skylights as most of these have been smashed by rubble and badly damaged what lies within the house. Also those with large swimming pools will have to completely reseal them again – a problem if these properties are being let out to holidaymakers.

Actually, I am now thinking of another kind of disaster. That mysteriously tragic airplane crash in a remote part of the French Alps has obviously shaken all of us.

For me, as a music lover, I am always particularly shocked when musicians are killed in such horrible events. I’m thinking of Guido Cantelli, Otis Redding, Buddy Holly, Ginette Neveu, the list could go on and on and it does. Last night it was the turn of the exquisite voice of Maria Rader, who died with her baby, to be silenced in that terrible alpine night.

I defy anyone to remain without moist eyes when listening to this exquisite Richard Strauss song Maria sang in London:

German Lyrics:

Und morgen wird die Sonne wieder scheinen
und auf dem Wege, den ich gehen werde,
wird uns, die Glücklichen sie wieder einen
inmitten dieser sonnenatmenden Erde…
und zu dem Strand, dem weiten, wogenblauen,
werden wir still und langsam niedersteigen,
stumm werden wir uns in die Augen schauen,
und auf uns sinkt des Glückes stummes Schweigen…

English Translation


And tomorrow the sun will shine again

And on the way which I shall follow

She will again unite us lucky ones

As all around us the earth breathes in the sun

Slowly, silently, we will climb down

To the wide beach and the blue waves

In silence, we will look in each other’s eyes

And the mute stillness of happiness will sink upon us

R. I. P.

After the Storm a Bit of Calm…

The work of clearing roads, replacing roof tiles, sweeping streets free of debris, and generally getting back to some sense of normality goes on. It was truly a great storm, tornado or hurricane even, with wind speeds of up to 220 kilometres per hour recorded. Of all the Tuscan provinces affected it’s been confirmed that Bagni di Lucca was the hardest hit. Capannori then followed, not forgetting the pines of Versilia.

This morning I went down with our local woodman Maurizio to work out how to put my orto shed up again. Much to my disappointment I noted that the sciacalli (jackals) had already been at work and that both my bush strimmers, one of which I’d just bought last August as “my own” birthday present had disappeared. My pump had also gone and the wind had wrecked part of the plastic sheeting used to line my reservoir.

I checked up the pictures I took of the shed on the day the storm on Wednesday at 4.30 pm and noted that the bush strimmers had already been taken. So my theory of their disappearance is that either they were taken on the day of the storm before 4.30 pm or that the shed had been broken into during my absence in London some time in February. Since the front door was down with the rest of the wreckage there was no way of knowing if the shed had actually been broken into. It is now literally broken.

Anyway I now realise that storm damage can be an opportunist open door (forgive the pun) for jackals (I’d use a far stronger word in English) AKA thieves and pilferers.

On the bright side of things the raging wind inferno, if it was the earth’s will that it had to happen could not have happened at a better time. Most of the damage was done around 6.30 am which meant that few people were out and about. Moreover, none of the trees (except the evergreens which were, of course, the worst affected, also because of their shallow roots) had sprouted their leaves as yet. Furthermore, several of the fallen trees showed signs of inner decay – they could have fallen at any time and perhaps killed someone.

As it was the victims in our area remain only one (one too many, of course) – a lad who was killed when one of the boulders, which are traditionally used to secure roof tiles (the tiles are of two types: tavole, the actual tiles, and coppi, the rounded bits which are used to bind the tavole together), fell off down on his head. The worst damage was, of course, to the cars many of which in our area have smashed windows, dented body work, not just as a result of trees falling on them but because of the whirlwind of debris which smashed against them.

I shall now have a little more knowledge of what it’s like to go through a Caribbean hurricane or a south East Asian typhoon. I shall know how frightening the noise of the wind can be, an almost biblical rushing of the winds after a great calamity. I shall also know how people can pull themselves together in a concerted effort and help each other. Indeed, I’m shortly off to be rewarded by lunch from a friend who lives in San Gemignano for having aided her in sweep up the mountains of tiles which were swept off her house on that fateful night which no-one ever remembers having happened in living memory. We had to eat the food anyway as without any electricity everything would have gone bad in the deep freeze. I don’t think I’ve eaten so much pizza at one meal in my life!

Anyway we’re alive, the sun is shining today and the gusts of wind have largely abated. And the shepherd girl who has just come past my front gate with her flock has confirmed that all her sheep are safe. These are the truly important things in life.

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(A romantic candle-lit supper by default)

A couple more things. One of Mr Plod’s blinds is now flapping perilously in the wind and will eventually drop down on the ground. I wonder if he is going to accuse me of having stolen that one too. Is it the case of the blind leading the blind?

On more positive notes, our lovely lemon tree has found a new home or at least a new pot and Cheeky, among the other cats, doesn’t bat an eyelid at any recollection of the night when the universe howled and even uplifted a neighbour’s cat from ground until it was found the following morning at the top of a tree.

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Incidentally, here’s a picture of my storm survival kit which saw us through it.

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And I would include the flowers I planted this morning as another calming measure, apart from the G & T.

What’s seeing us publish, at long last, these much delayed posts is the generator they’ve installed in our little village of Longoio. Viva l’Italia!

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