Follow the Puccini Trail from Lucca to Abetone via Bagni di Lucca passing The Ponte Del Diavolo.

Bagni di Lucca by Bill Anderson

Giacomo Puccini was a lover of nature and fast cars. He was a bit of a lad really and would often drive along the beautiful Serchio and Lima Valleys to get to Bagni di Lucca or his house in Abetone.
These wonderful green hills were the perfect habitat for the birds he loved to hunt and he could immerse himself in nature to relax and reflect. Lucchesia was Puccini’s Tuscany and where his heart lay. So much so that while in Paris when he heard the local accent of the Serchio Valley he was filled with nostalgia.   Puccini therefore stopped to buy a little plaster statue of the tower of Pisa and chat to its maker Fabbri from San Casciano. This Fabbri was later to make Puccini’s death mask that can be seen at Puccini’s Villa on the banks of Torre del Lago near the famous seaside resort of Viareggio. 

Ponte della Maddalena by Bill Anderson

One of Puccini’s favourite landmarks on his journeys was the wonderful medieval bridge, Ponte della Maddalena. This striking structure arrests the passing traveller with its five asymmetric arches; the fifth added in 1900’s to accomodate the new road. The bridge spans the Serchio River and for centuries was a vital crossing point for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, which linked Canterbury to Rome via France. The bridge is thought to date back to 1080 or 1100 and was probably commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany. Castruccio Castracani (1281-1328) a local Lucchese warlord heavily reworked the structure.  
These donkey back bridges as they are known, are always accompanied by a legend. The locals still call this bridge “Il ponte del Diavolo” because the stories goes that the master builder who was commissioned to construct the bridge realized half way through the work that he couldn’t finish it on time. He therefore made a pact with the devil. The devil would finish the bridge in a day, if he were given the first soul that crossed the brigde. Tuscans however are wily souls and the first to cross was a pig. The devil was furious and in his rage kicked the bridge making it all askew. He then disappeared into the river forever.
The bridge was closed to traffic in 1670. This however didn’t stop the fun loving Puccini to try and cross with his friend for a bet in his car. They were the poet Giuseppe Giusti, the composer Mascagni and librettist Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti. The car of course got stuck and Puccini had to be pushed.
Il Ponte del Diavolo is best viewed from the Brennero Road (SS1) because there is a car park.

Ponte delle Catene by Bill Anderson

Just after the  “figurine” factory, which is still owned by the Fabbri family, is
yet another stunning bridge, built in the 19th century by royal architect Lorenzo Nottolini. This crossing was designed as a footbridge at the behest of Duke Carlo Ludovico to act as a gateway to the highly fashionable spa town and thermal resort of Bagni di Lucca.



CasinĂ² di Bagni di Lucca by Bill Anderson




Even in later life after Giacomo Puccini had sold his villa in Abetone he didn’t abandoned Bagni di Lucca and it was during a stay at the Grand Hotel delle Terme that he composed much of the second act of his opera “La Fanciulla del West”. During another holiday to Bagni di Lucca in 1919 while staying at the Grand Hotel (now know as the "Hotel Regina”), just opposite his friend’s Dr. Betti pharmacist, with his two librettists friends, Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, the idea for Turandot was conceived.
The second leg of his journey up the valley must have been quite tortuous. At Bagni di Lucca, The Serchio meets the Lima. This beautiful romantic torrent is full of splash pools where the fun loving Giacomo might have stopped in the summer for a dip in cold mountain water. On his arrival at Abetone Giacomo Puccini would indulge in one of his favorite snacks, “tigelle” a type of small bread made with lard and rosemary cooked over charcoal or “borenghi” a large flat thin unleavened bread filled with borlotti beans mashed with Tuscan olive oil.




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