Another Side of Florence

Florence isn’t all renaissance palaces, griffre shops and beautiful paintings of course. There is another side to the city; it’s often near railway tracks or under flyovers. The fact is that an increasing number of people living in Italy are relying on markets and second-hand stalls to buy their food and clothes .They just can’t afford the prices charged in many places.

At the same time there are some great bargains to be had in these locations and there are some colourful characters to meet.

These photos were taken at such a lesser known Florentine sight outside the historic centre and near a railway track flyover. It seems a far cry from the guide-book city but it’s still Florence….

Nearby is an excellent period hi-fi shop even selling a Garrard SPII record deck (anyone remember those). Further away there’s another of these shops. The owner said that trade was good these day for such equipment.

I’m so glad things are being recycled this way in Italy. Such market-stall owners and shopkeepers should get more government incentives for doing such ecologically sound actions.

Of course, there’s nothing to beat central Florence at Christmas time:


Mr Brown Closes Shop

It’s always sad when a shop closes down in Bagni di Lucca, especially if that shop has been there for half a century.

Signor Marroni (Mr Brown in English…) has ever been a courteous shopkeeper always keen to satisfy his client’s requests and give advice on house repair matters. I’ve used his hardware shop for such items as paints, nuts and bolts, nails and various D. I.Y tools.


Finally, Mr Marroni has decided to close shop for the last time and the ‘liquidazione’ signs on it clearly mean ‘closing down.’


There will be other hardware shops and stores within reasonably easy striking distance but none of them will be able to replace the personal service and the politeness so characteristic of these increasingly rare shops, so many of which have closed down in the last few years. (I still remember the one in Ponte, for example).

We wish Mr Marroni a long and happy retirement although we realise that closing his shop will clearly take so much away not just from Bagni di Lucca’s life but also from his own abiding interest.


A Dynamic Evening at Pian di Coreglia and Ghivizzano

The question to ask about one’s car is not so much when it will break down: this is surely bound to happen at any inopportune moment according to Murphy’s Law but where it will break down.

Although our little road from Bagni di Lucca to Longoio is not of the same calibre as some dirt track in the upper Mongolian steppes it’s still a little scary when the car suddenly conks out on a stretch of narrow unsafety-barriered road verging onto a ravine in pitch darkness just before a bridge and a couple of bends, with pelting rain and mountain fog to add.

It’s even more worrying when a new battery has just been installed in the car and suddenly refuses to provide energy. The problem revealed itself when the red generator ‘spia’ or warning light was switched on. The battery wasn’t charging and with lights and wipers on the engine died rather quickly.

Fortunately we are members of ACI, the Italian automobile service who have a very good rescue service (if one is patient enough to sometimes wait more than an hour.)

Fortunately, this time the rescue van arrived in a little under an hour’s time. With a special booster the battery was recharged and our little Cinquina sprang into enough life to get us home. Grazie ACI!

The following day, however, we had to sort out why the dynamo wasn’t working. We took the car down to our trusty mechanic, formerly near Conad in Bagni di Lucca but now in a smart new warehouse at Pian di Coreglia. I’ve mentioned our mechanic at my post at and have now updated his address in that post.


The dynamo brushes were well and truly worn out and the whole unit had to be dismantled and new parts found which, fortunately they were, cannibalised from other parts. It would be a two hours work, however, and what were we going to do in the meanwhile?

Get a haircut perhaps? Our mechanic suggested a female and male hairdresser at nearby Ghivizzano which was just a fifteen minute walk away. Their facebook page is at

The hairdresser certainly took our mind away from the delicate surgery being inflicted on our Cinquina’s dynamo and my wife especially was well pleased with the results. The advice given was excellent and the price which included shampooing was very reasonable. We exited from the venue as transformed people and hoped our car would emerge, in its own manner, in the same way.

Success! The reconstructed dynamo worked and was now able to charge the battery. In fact, last night it took us to the circus (more of that later). So don’t moan if you’re stuck at a mechanic’s garage for two hours in a remote location: there could always be hairdressers nearby!

A Baker Passes On

Sad news. Shortly after the death of a well-known and much-loved person at San Cassiano another noted figure has left us. He’s Albano Fini who died in his sleep. Albano ran the delicious bakery and pizzeria at the forno described by Debra Kolkka in her post at

Albano’s bread was certainly the best in town and he and his bakery will be much missed. Although Albano did say that he was thinking of giving up the business, having been there for over twenty years, higher forces regrettably made the decision for him.

In a smallish community like ours it’s all the more sad when someone leaves us and when they’re just fifty-one it’s even worse.

There’s an obituary at




Books Galore?

Now what would you rather do? Curl up next to the fire with a real book whose pages can be turned by hand and which has the feel and perfume of real paper. Or switch on an e-book reader and start clicking the pages only to find that the blessed machine’s battery is flat?

You decide.

Where can one buy real books in Bagni di Lucca? For guide books, local history and author and maps Petri was the place and it is to be hoped that, again, his successors will carry on Renato’s great encouragement of our area through the books he stocked about it.

In Fornoli the bookshop continues to supply the latest guides of the area and will, in addition to its substantial Italian language stock of books, obtain any English language book one wishes.

For a long time Jackie’s book exchange supplied ample reading matter but, alas, that place has been no more for some time now

The little library in BDL’s public gardens is an excellent place to find (and exchange please!) books in various languages. (See my post on it at

Now, it seems that another bookshop will open in BDL, right on the corner of the road leading to Montefegatesi (and Longoio into the bargain). The bookshop will also include an art gallery.

These are signs I saw in the shop window the other day.

It’s clear that Bagni di Lucca erst-while resident Percy Bysshe Shelley’s works will be among the volumes for sale.

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The previous shop of a boutique character described in Debra Kolkka’s blog has moved to Fornoli.

As a part-time book-worm I look forwards to the opening of the new bookshop cum art gallery and wish it the best of luck in an increasingly competitive market.

A New Gossip Corner at Bagni di Lucca Villa

More hopeful signs for Bagni di Lucca Villa: another closed down bar re-opens! It’s the one next to the police station and ICI payment centre. So it’s handily placed if you need a stiff drink after an encounter with bureaucracy.

Bus tickets can also be bought at the bar as before.

I was there at its re-opening last Sunday and greatly relished the fruit sticks after having just returned from singing at a wedding with our choir.

The interior décor has been spruced up and the bar, which will be known as “Le Comari”, is now fully in business.

What I particularly like about the bar is the extensive outdoor space where you can sip your morning cappuccino and meet your friends.

“Le Comari” doesn’t just mean godmother or next-door-neighbour in Italian. It also refers to gossipy women. So, men, beware!

Closed for Ever or Re-opening in Bagni Di Lucca?

What’s open and what’s closed in Bagni di Lucca? So many retail outlets have closed in the area since I first moved here ten years ago that I have become used to the sight of shops’ closed shutters and sale signs.

However, not all one sees is doom and gloom.

We’ve welcomed the re-opening of the Circolo dei Forestieri restaurant this year and the Borghesi has re-opened too and is fast becoming the meeting place for a morning coffee (and lunchtime meal) it traditionally used to be.

So is this place open or closed? Unfortunately Daddo’s shoe shop doesn’t seem to ever open again. There’s an ominous sign which translates as “closed for bereavement”, the usual end of trading sale signs and the interior displays a depressing sight of dusty stock.

I was always pleased with Daddo although on one occasion I suffered a slight embarrassment when I bought a pair of shoes there, admittedly at rock-bottom price, for a wedding I was to attend by Lake Garda. We decided to stop to visit the beauties of Mantua and, entering the gardens of that magnificent confectionery of a summer pleasure-dome, the Palazzo del Te, the whole lower area of my left shoe peeled off leaving me with just the sides. Should I take the other shoe off as well and walk around barefoot? That was an option but only for a short while. Fortunately, we did find a shoe place nearby, were able to continue our scooter journey and attend the wedding.

Is the following place closed now? It was a bar I particularly liked as it has a nice open air space in which to savour one’s morning cappuccino. It also sold bus tickets.

Fortunately, this bar is re-opening soon under new management and will be refurbished in the process.

To rephrase a saying “not everything that seems closed is closed for ever.”