Michael and Shona in a hidden Tuscan valley
August 3, 2011 § 4 Comments
We have an amazing life. Here we are now, living in a little town in the mountains of Tuscany, a town that people for centuries have been coming to, to bathe in the thermal waters and enjoy a summer that is cooler than down on the plains. All around us, gracious old villas with stately pines and magnolia trees are scattered between the old palazzos that were once hotels for all the people who came here; Byron, the Shelleys, Napoleon’s sister and mother; the list of the famous is long. A much reduced population now resides in this historic place and it must struggle a little to maintain all its splendid features, as the area of Bagni di Lucca is huge. It takes in all the little surrounding hilltop villages and the locality of Fornali, Ponte a Serraglio and the Bagni di Lucca township proper, and yet it only has 6000 permanent residents. It is on the edge of the National Park and is an area of such intrinsic natural and architectural beauty that it is extraordinary how forgotten it has become.
For us, life here is a joy. We are able to create in tranquility and beauty and still be close to everything that is interesting to us; Lucca, Pisa, Florence, Pietrasanta, Pistoia, the beaches, the mountain walks, the visits to all the little hilltop villages. Nowhere seems too far away. It is a dream for us and it is a wonderful reality. So daily we wander down to the local Patisserie, have a pastry and a cappuccino for breakfast while we talk to the local people, sleepily gazing up into the surrounding hilltops bathed in sunlight. Then we take a little passegiata down the river to peer into the water and stand in the sun, all the while talk talk talking with all our ideas, all our dreams and all our plans, finally resting in the little park of Villa Fiori with its quirky towers and delightful old gardens. Its wonderful. The luxury to have the space and time to do this. Then we usually go home to our studios before going to the Borghesi for lunch….
The Borghesi for lunch. Opposite the Banca di Toscana in Bagni di Lucca, The Borghesi is also a little bar and a Pizzeria at night. We love the Borghesi. In fact, there are few people who don’t enjoy going there. The food in this little trattoria with its rabbit warren of rooms is great country cooking and in traditional Lucchese style. There is a changing lunch time menu with heaps of choice, three courses including water and coffee for 9 euros and everyday it is crammed full of people, they have to turn people away and they also do as many take aways, so it is a raging business. The latest owners, Michela and David, are very hospitable and charming, with Michela keeping a perfectionist eye on the service.
Normally we go home to our studios, but lately we have been fixing up our properties. Our little Pieve house is getting a new roof and insulation at the moment, lovely new copper guttering, the outside walls are being ‘refreshed’ and inside too, a new paint job and we will soon have a working fireplace.
We also have an old apartment we want to sell on the river in Ponte a Serraglio that we have slowly been restoring. Now, at last, the last of the floors have been stripped from the miles of carpets and glues and linoleums, and we have unveiled some very special old tiled floors that have been protected for half a century below the sheaths of fashion. Often with these old properties, the restoration is usually just undoing the ‘improvements’ of time and bringing the old place back to its original beautiful bones. It has been a lovely process of discovery.
Dreams are special. I am so glad we dare to dream. Life seems to go so fast and now there seems to be nothing worthwhile to us anymore than finding the things in life that bring us joy and happiness and growth. For us its not about being safe and secure, though we like it a lot, its more about flying in the wind and trusting the abundant fertility of life to land you somewhere in the vicinity of that marvellous idea you had. Scary, but wonderful, and we continue to say, we love our life!