Friday, September 8, 2017

Montecarlo Wine Festival

September brings a softer light even though the days are still hot, that intense heat has gone and all eyes are turned toward the vines to choose the moment for the Vendemmia or wine harvest. The Tuscan hills abound at this time of year with feste celebrating their wine.
Montecarlo is no exception; this hilltop medieval town (not the quartier in the Principality of Monaco os loved by  Ferrari owners) perches on the top of a hill between Lucca and Pescia near Le Mura Villa Tuscany, has a month long festival to celebrate this elixir of Life.

The wine around Lucca may not have the long history of their Chianti neighbours but their reputation is growing year by year with vineyards winning international awards for their wines. Some produce organic wine and there is a choice of red, white and bubbles, which is rare for this area. The prosecco type wine is dry and sophisticated, it has even been awarded a prize in France. It is produced by  Buonamico, one of my favourite vineyards. I also love their reds and white wine.  I see  Buonamico has been noticed by celebrity Michelin starred Chef Gordon Ramsey, who has found a pearl of a white wine to serve at his Mayfair "Maze" restaurant in  London:  The  Montecarlo doc from the Buonamico estate.  It seems this foodie Celeb, famous for his bad temper on Masterchef has found our little paradise and enjoyed the fruits of our hills.

Montecarlo makes a stunning setting and the long trestle tables with their benches give  a wonderful view of the twinkling distant lights of Montecatini Alto and the full moon  to create the perfect setting to celebrate this year's grape and to sip one's chosen wine and enjoy a plate of crostini and my absolute favourite pasta fritta (I can never work out how fried dough can taste so good).  You can, of course,  also a enjoy a full meal, including the famous Tortelli Lucchesi.

However, don't sit down and relax before taking a stroll around. This little town has everything: a castle, the sweetest bijou theatre and views to take your breath away plus lots more ,but that is for another post!

The wine festival is every year from the end of August to the middle of September. Look at the website for the comune di Montecarlo for details.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lucca, A Bicycle For Every Trade.

Anyone need A Wedding Photograph.

Lucca is a city of bikes, I think this is a purely practical decision on the part of its citizens as cars are banned except for residents from the old town. It seems bikes have been a trendy way of getting around for a long time and we have lost some of the best models. Previous generations adapted bikes  for every profession. During one of the large markets in the Borgo Giannotti, here was a line up of historic bikes.

Milk Bicycle

Knife Sharpener

A priest on a Bike and Sweet Delights

Anyone Need A Lamp ?

A Fresh Cup Of Coffee or Bicycle Repair 


Friday, May 26, 2017

Spring and Summer Tuscan Storms create art

In Tuscany, we have thunderstorms during the warm months. These downpours keep our part of northern Tuscany green and cool down the air during the hottest months. The other benefit is the wonderful skies they produce. I always tell my guests Le Mura to enjoy the show. The other day Enzo went out with his pocket camera and captured some wonderful images just after an early evening downpour. 

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            I know I post quite a few pictures of our view but I never tire of its beauty.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Saint Festivals Lucca- Santa Zita

Spring is a wonderful time to visit Tuscany with all the spring blossom and then the wildflowers painting their first canvases on the hillsides.

Lucca has several Saints protecting the city. One of the most loved by the Lucchesi (the name for Lucca citizens) is Santa Zita. She is celebrated on 27th April, when the Piazzas around the magnificent Church of San Frediano where she rests and is venerated are planted with magnificent blooms and the famous amphitheatre is filled with colour as stalls sell plants for the locals to decorated their terraces and make Lucca a city of flowers for the summer months. The flower that symbolizes Santa Zita most is the daffodil and it is traditional to gift a bunch to commemorate this modest saint.

What is the story, that led this simple local peasant girl to sainthood? Like all the stories of Saints, versions vary slightly but the core of the story is always the same.  Zita was born into a peasant family just outside Lucca; she was a good pious child, always trying to please God. As a young girl of 12, the Fratinelli Family took her into service. Zita wasn’t distracted by the bright lights of the city and tried her best to serve her master and mistress, however, she was aware of the poverty. In order to help the poor, Santa Zita ate less and gave her excess rations to the needy but this wasn’t enough, she, therefore, stole excess bread and legumes from the kitchen. Her employers were unaware and indeed she was very much loved by her master and mistress for being a loyal servant. Perhaps a jealous servant tipped off her master that Zita was stealing, but when he saw the servant girl holding her bulging apron in front of her he asked her what she was carrying, the shy pious girl replies flowers and leaves and indeed as she opened her apron flowers fell out. This is the reason the Saint is celebrated by botanical offerings. Santa Zita has become the patron saint for housewives and domestic staff.

The colours abound around San Frediano and the church is full of people on 27th April paying tribute to this tiny mummified figure lying in her chapel. It is part of the miracle that the body has never decomposed. As an aside, it is said that her little toe is missing as it was given as a relic to a visiting British Bishop.  

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lucca Centre Of The World

Lucca this week became the hub of the world as the chosen city for the meeting of the G7 foreign ministers. The walls of this beautiful city must have seemed like a good natural security ring to protect our auspicious guests. The city wasn’t totally united in their welcome to the G7,  as residents were forced to move their cars out of the city and show passes or documents to reach their homes as large tracts of the city were cordoned off. 

Bars and businesses closed and lamented the loss of customers but for those of us allowed into the area, we had a unique Lucca experience.The only customers at the few bars open inside the cordon where policemen after a quick pick me up during their pause. The deserted city full of police felt rather eerie and the seagulls swirled around in menacing agitation disturbed by the drones. 

The weather was perfect and on Monday evening after 2 hours discussing the big issues of the moment in the beautiful setting of Il Palazzo Ducale, the ministers were given the chance of a quick walk around the city. They could enjoy the almost deserted streets and piazzas under the most beautiful evening light.

We can only hope that the architectural beauty of our city helped them come to wise decisions. 


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Thermal Water of Bagni di Lucca.

Bagni di Lucca is the spa town of Lucca.  Its waters are best described as Salus per Aquam, Waters for Health. This slightly forgotten corner of Tuscany is steeped in history due to the amazing therapeutic powers of its waters. The rivers and streams in the area are fed by sulfuric-bicarbonate-calcium rich waters. The source of the thermal waters is 19 different springs. The temperature from the main spring Doccione can reach up to 54 C/130 F.

The water’s thermal qualities are anti-inflammatory and work as a muscle relaxant.  There are also gynecological treatments and the vapour is used for nasal problems.
The spa is certainly decadent rather than swanky and is a strange mix of a turn of a century hospital and an elegant renaissance buildings with natural caves. There are several different establishments dotted around the town. However, the grottos are unique.


There is evidence that these waters have been used for medicinal purposes since the first century BC. One can imagine the Roman legionnaires letting their post-battle campaign pains drift away in the steamy grottos. The Medieval rulers also enjoyed the curative waters including Tuscany’s Matilde di  Canossa and Frederic ll. 

The Renaissance sees this little town begin to develop as the waters become famous throughout Europe. It attracted Royalty, namely Elisa sister to Napoleon and ruler of Lucca had her summer palace here, and also writers and politicians including Montaigne.  In the 18th and 19th Century Bagni di Lucca became a true resort and culture centre. The casino was the hub of intellectual and literary discussion. The romantic English poets were also here. Byron and Shelley not only lived their own romantic stories but wrote their poetry. The Brownings acted out their real life love affair in Bagni during the long hot summers. During the Belle Époque, the popularity of Bagni continued to grow. Puccini was a frequent visitor to the spa and sections of his operas were composed in the town. This was a spa resort in full bloom.  Beautiful villas and gardens were built or altered and Bagni di  Lucca was enjoyed not only as a spa but cultural melting pot and refuge from the Summer heat of Florence.

The main spa itself is certainly rather run down. The remarkable part of the main structure is the natural caves and the fact that they have remained largely unchanged since Roman times. The Jean Varraud Terme or Spa is also a medical spa and patients can receive treatments under the health service. There is a small hotel as part of the complex, but it is certainly not a five-star number. It has a small thermal swimming pool. I find its shabbiness part of the attraction and gives a feel of the rich history of the place. The establishment is slowly being done up as money allows but I just hope the sense of antiquity isn’t lost.

If you are looking for alternative treatments or just a bit of pampering there are private establishments that have rented some of the thermal premises but for me, the magic is in the grottos. How cool is it to be cured in a Roman grotto? 

Contacts for Bagni di Lucca Terme. ( this is the main establishment)
Piazza San Martino,11
55021 Bagni di Lucca Lu
Tel: 0039 0583 8722
• Terme Bagni di Lucca
  Piazza San Martino, 11 - 55021
  Bagni di Lucca - LU
  Telefono: +39 0583 87221
  Fax: +39 0583 808224
• Terme Bagni di Lucca
  Piazza San Martino, 11 - 55021
  Bagni di Lucca - LU
  Telefono: +39 0583 87221
  Fax: +39 0583 808224
• Terme Bagni di Lucca
  Piazza San Martino, 11 - 55021
  Bagni di Lucca - LU
  Telefono: +39 0583 87221
  Fax: +39 0583 808224
• Terme Bagni di Lucca
  Piazza San Martino, 11 - 55021
  Bagni di Lucca - LU
  Telefono: +39 0583 87221
  Fax: +39 0583 808224