View from our bedroom window during the winter rains



he year 2013, for us, has been full of variety and reasonable health. Here are some of the things that have happened.



As usual, we attended several of these including “Renaissance Springtime” and the magnificent Russian modernist one at Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, the azalea show at Borgo a Mozzano, exhibitions on Dali, Dariush, Ferragamo, Granacci at Antella, Bertil Vallien in  Lucca, Battista di Gerio at Villa Guinigi, and the musée Jaquemart-André and Villa Bardini joint exhibition.



A special event at the Cimitero degli Inglesi marked the restoration of several tombs with a string quartet recital. We attended the celebrations of Lucca’s patron saint San Paolino for the first time. Bagni di Lucca’s arts festival was a creative time which we hope will continue next summer too. The conference on “possible and impossible worlds" at Bagni’s library was yet another event exploring our commune’s international historical associations.



A great walk around Leonardo’s country in Vinci started us off. Further walks included Michelangelo’s path below the Monte Altissimo, and to the rifugio Del Freo, quite apart from the countless walks possible from our front door.



We began our New Year in Malta which we’d never visited before.  The Knights of Saint John former headquarters was truly impressive and we even attended a JC Bach opera at the oldest working theatre in Europe at La Valletta. Other trips included Modigliani’s house in Livorno, the area round the Belluno dolomites, and the Genoa aquarium. Easter was passed near Lake Garda where we also visited D’Annunzio’s Vittoriale. Summer was spent exploring beaches and Etruscan tombs around Tarquinia following DH Lawrence’s footsteps,



Sadly, Francis’s younger brother, Martin, died at the end of July while on holiday ay Lake Garda. He was sipping an aperitif and suddenly had a massive heart attack. Martin was a bon viveur and we are sure that he would not have wanted to go any other way. Our condolences go to his family. Our neighbour’s mum, one of our oldest acquaintances, but ill for some time, also died. Two of our rabbits disappeared courtesy of Mr Fox’s and “smudgy” one of our cats mysteriously vanished.

Francis conducted another marriage celebration for “Hitched in Italy”. We also sang in our choir for a wedding which was dramatically interrupted by yet another of the earthquakes we’ve been experiencing this year and which has stopped us from participating in Equi Terme’s beautiful living crib, cancelled this December because of the precarious state of the place.



Beethoven’s 9th, magnificently performed at San Romano Lucca, was clearly a highlight together with the city’s first performance of Bruckner’s 8th symphony but many others were highly enjoyable including Geminiani’s Foresta Incantata ballet, Beethoven’s C major Mass, the Apuan Alps choir, our own choir (Saint Peter and Paul of Ghivizzano) which gave a brilliant concert at St Francis convent at Borgo a Mozzano at the start of this year recorded live for Sky TV, Vivaldi and Handel at Santa Maria Corteorlandini,   a Verdi recital at Gallicano, Leonard Cohen at Lucca’s summer festival. Last but not least, great tango at Forte Alfonso, Palazzo Pfanner and Fornoli,



Operas attended included the whole of the Mozart-da Ponte trilogy at Montecarlo (on separate nights!), La Caduta di Gierusalemme at Barga’s Teatro dei differenti, Carmen, Cavalleria Rusticana and Il Tabarro at Torre Del Lago, Forza Del Destino in Pisa and Falstaff at Lucca.



These included the Festa Della Colombina at Bagni di Lucca, the Festa dell ‘olio in Valdottavo, the pumpkin festival in Val Pedogna, and a great Beatles cover band night at Montefegatesi




We’ve been to several mediaeval Festas including the ones at Coreglia Antelminelli and Nozzano Castello. Francis was on the judging committee for the Annual Bagni di Lucca poetry competition. We dressed up for Lucca comix and Games. Sandra participated for the extempore arts competition at Bagni di Lucca. The restoration of the San Francesco complex in Lucca was marked by a really VIP inauguration with the biggest load of “finger food” we’ve seen in our lives. The Mass in memory of Puccini’s death, including a performance of his own requiem, was most moving. Francis delivered a lecture on "Verdi e l’Inghilterra" for the Università della terz’età in addition to giving a poetry reading at ETL Pisa. The second year of Francis’ business English course for Materis proved popular with three new classes. The orto produced not very many tomatoes but several other vegetables. Our kitchen has been completely revamped – it needed it! Among our social activities we fortuitously met up with old school friends, which was most pleasant. In short, we are being kept busy - a good way to avoid feeling that we are getting older!

(Us at the Lucca Games and Comix)


(PS for further information do consult our blog at http://longoio.wordpress.com)




.Wishing you a happy New Year! From Francis and Sandra