View from our bedroom window during the winter rains



he year 2012, for us, has been full of variety and reasonable health apart from an attack of labyrinthitis to Francis, a situation which, although continuing, has much improved. Sandra is recovering from a torn posterior cruciate ligament which rendered her incapable of perambulating.


Teaching English continued satisfactorily, at Bagni di Lucca (where Francis taught adult evening classes) and the Da Vinci School at Lucca (third year, secondary – lettorato inglese). Furthermore, Francis extended his contract to teach business English to staff at a factory which has proved most productive and enjoyable.


In March Francis delivered a lecture on l’influenza palladiana nelle ville inglesi del settecento for the University of the Third Age, Bagni di Lucca branch. He also contributed to the conoscenza e amore conference for the Pisa branch of the Cooperative society and, together with Sandra, readings at the Festa Della Madonna Addolorata at Gombereto in the newly restored chapel is a joy to behold.


We attended conferences nel segno di San Francesco, heard Craig Warwick on the3 existence of angels at the Teatro Della Verzura, Borgo a Mozzano, learnt about Napoleon at San Micheletto and attended sessions on various characters who visited Bagni di Lucca in the nineteenth century, at the English church at Bagni di Lucca. We also enjoyed visiting several local properties which are normally closed, including the Marquis of Burlamacchi’s palace and Byron’s holiday retreat.



Exhibitions visited included Americans in Florence at the Palazzo Strozzi, Acqua for Life, paintings by local artists organized by the Borgo degli artisti, to which we belong, the mail art exhibition, Kety Bastiani’s enchanting exhibition, the Battista di Gerio exhibition at Villa Guinigi which opened our eyes to a great local pre-renaissance painter, and many others.



We attended the reopening of the restored English cemetery at Bagni di Lucca and the long-awaited inauguration of the local museum at San Cassiano which, among other precious items, houses Iacopo Della Quercia’s early masterpiece, Saint Martin on horseback.



We have continued our series of beautiful walks in the idyllic landscape of the Apuan Alps and the Apennines, which are really our extended back garden. One of the most spectacular was in the company of friends up to the pastures of the Refugio Del Freo. With them, we also walked through the Lucca hills visiting the early da Vinci angel at San Gennaro.



In April, with our Fiat 500, we spent some beautiful days visiting the Veneto. Browning’s beloved Asolo, several Palladian villas and Giorgione’s home town of Castelfranco Veneto were included in our trip.

In July we took our Cinquina for a tour of spectacular Corsica to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. We stayed in unspoilt fishing villages, visited impregnable fortresses, walked among savage scenery, swam from uncrowded beaches and paid homage to Napoleon’s birthplace. One of the most poignant trips was to Lucca’s former lunatic asylum at Maggiano, made famous through Tobino’s (who was the director there) writings.



Our neighbour’s daughter married locally at the Pieve di Controni on a beautifully sunny spring day. Sadly, we must report the sudden deaths of two persons dear to us and well-known and loved in the area: our neighbour’s, wife died of a heart attack aged 63, and Prof. Stych’s helper aged 53, of cancer. Both will be very much missed. May they rest in Peace.



We attended many memorably shows. Among these, the following stand out: the musica viva choir from New York at the extraordinary church of Santa Maria Corteorlandini, Lucca, A. Scarlatti’s opera, Gli equivoci nel Sembiante, at the Teatro dei Differenti in Barga, La Traviata at Torre Del Lago Puccini, a wonderful choral event at Gallicano, the diamond Jubilee concert in honour of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II with music from Elgar to Alford given by the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra, The Col legno festival at the convento dell’Angelo, headquarters of the Montegral Academy, the series of organ concerts in our Lima valley, a Tosca at the Teatro Accademico of Bagni di Lucca, the 12th chamber music festival of Lucca, Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the oratorio degli Angeli Custodi, the commemoration of the great local renaissance composer Nicola Dorati at his birth village of Granaiola, the other- worldly Christmas eve Mass at Montegral…and many others. No wonder Lucca is set to become UNESCO’s second City of music in Italy. Incidentally, Francis has been appointed English co-ordinator for the magazine LuccaMusica which will now be accessible to non-Italian readers.



We have changed choirs and are very happy with our new choir which has a much wider repertoire, mixed voices and greater networking with other musical organizations. This January the 4th, at the convent of Saint Francis at Borgo a Mozzano we performed a grand concert of Christmas music including Saint-Saens’s Christmas oratorio, a Michael Haydn Mass, Christmas carol arrangements by Gustav Holst etc. Soloists are young local talent of extremely high quality and we shall all be accompanied by a chamber orchestra.


In addition, we have become members of Bagni di Lucca’s first English-speaking choir for over fifty years and were invited to perform at the annual Bagni di Lucca Christmas concert at Corsena with resounding success. All praise is due to our Maestra for this!



This has not been neglected. Among performances we attended were Ashtoreth, a play by Stefano Benna, in which one of Francis’s students performed, at San Micheletto, the Rose tattoo by Tennessee Williams (which does have an Italian background)  and the touching Volo della farfalla at Bagni theatre, apart from our cosplay at Lucca comix and stage appearances at Bagni and Valdottavo theatres.



Sagre enjoyed included Sagra dei Cigerani, the Fish and Chip Festa at Barga and some new ones in the Piana di Lucca to which we were invited by friends. Sagre are one of the highlights of the season here and are most enjoyable ways of passing the evening after the sweltering days we’ve had in 2012. At San Cassiano Coco, our local clown organised a kids’ Olympics as part of the blood donors’ festival.



We visited the local Monastery of the Clarisse (Franciscan second order), had a most illuminating dialogue with the young mother superior and were invited to attend vespers with them, went to the quite spectacular Volterra mediaeval festival, danced court dances in the Palazzo Ducale of Lucca as part of the suggestioni napoleoniche festival, saw the magnificent display of renaissance costumes at the procession of the three kings for the Firenze Befana, joined in Lucca’s Comix and Games which was particularly vivacious, and fortunately without the rain of last year. At Equi Terme at perhaps what is the most beautiful living crib in the region, we took the parts of the Roman Praetor and his wife, on Boxing Day. This year the event had over four thousand visitors and continuous to be a great success despite Mayan prophecies and bankers’ cock-ups.


Sandra has, for the sixth time, participated in the competition of extemporaneous painting at the Baths of Lucca with a delightful picture of the villa Fiori garden towers.


Our friend, the prof. arranged a poetry festival at the little church at Longoio to which both Sandra and Francis contributed among a wide-ranging set of contributors including farthest Georgia.


In the spring we were pleasantly surprised by a visit from our cousin and her husband in Florence. We spent a delightful day walking around the lesser-known parts of the city of the lily in the course of which we discovered that we both lectured for the University of the Third Age (in the case of my cousin, teaching Italian.)


Francis won second and third prizes in two different sections of the second annual national poetry competition at Bagni di Lucca gaining a well-needed benessere stay at the thermal Baths. He has now been asked to be on the jury for future competitions.


This year, the field has continued with greater success in the orchard, thanks to the waste produce of our rabbits. However, the Saharan summer played havoc with our tomatoes, courgettes and cabbages which only the plentiful autumn rain helped to bring back to life.


The presepi exhibition, for which the Baths of Lucca are famous, displayed, this year, many fine local examples. Our family doctor, who is now part of the new local administration created a Celtic and more authentic Green Santa Claus character to counter-balance the bright-red “Coca-Cola” version in Bagni’s streets.


At the Borgo a Mozzano Beer festival we did not manage a pint since we fell in love instead with a pint-sized tortoise-shell orphan kitten called Carlotta looking for a home through a rescue association. Fortunately, she gets on well with our mammoth-sized cat Napoleon. Sadly, Grigio our free-roaming pet rabbit disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the autumn but not before he had contributed to giving Almiranta seven baby rabbits (also called kittens). We have already found homes (or saucepans) for four of these. Tira and Molla, our two goldfish, have been joined by number three; our white Muscovy ducks, Tip and Tap, continue laying us delicious eggs.




Wishing you a happy New Year! From Francis and Sandra