A Bohemian Collective at San Rocco in Benabbio, Bagni di Lucca

Jason, Al Maranca and Jake

This area is really interesting culturally.  There are people starting to gather here with their marvellous gifts, proffering events that are supporting contemporary musicians and singers and acrobatic performances and visual artists and writers who are all possibly great.  Bagni di Lucca is attracting not just artists but also sponsors and patrons and lovers of the arts.

Guy Dowsett and Jake Cartwright began the Bucket of Sound collective

Jake, our eldest son and married to Jaqueline, is part of several collectives of young musicians and performers. One of the groups was formed recently here in Benabbio, a village above Bagni di Lucca in a spectacular old villa, San Rocco.  The collective is sponsored by Jason Beacon and it has been gathering musicians from the south of Italy; opera singers from Australia; guitarists from England and Australia; Jake is here too, himself a composer, musician and music producer, and of course many more talents are arriving daily.  In one of the attic rooms of the villa, Jake and Jason have begun to build a private recording studio.  A big sparse room of uneven walls and varying lengths and heights, and, untouched by the busy mayhem below, the studio has become a sanctuary to these delightful souls who are industriously creating music and albums to accompany the events that take place in the vast drawing room below.  This collective in these beautiful surroundings in this rambling house full of eclectic and eccentric visitors, has a bohemian quality that one rarely finds and is truly lucky to have.

San Rocco
Kasia and Jason
Kasia and Jason of San Rocco

Last weekend we attended one of these cultural events, hosted by Jason and his lovely partner, Kasia, and Aengus (the resident artist).  For 10 euros we had pasta and wine and one of the loveliest evenings of music we had had for a long time.   Al Maranca was the feature of the night, accompanied for several of the songs by Jason with song and guitar and Jake on clarinet.  A musician from down near Naples, Maranca’s music is influenced by the south and sounds really middle eastern, we even picked up hints of Pakistani music.  He was really a one man band, flipping from instrument to instrument as he wanted them, setting up beats on his recorder and getting instant sound playback as he wove a magical layout of tones and amplification.  The evening finished with wild exuberant dancing, Jake and Al jamming together, in a wonderful tease of lilting melody and drumming beat.  The floors were trembling.

Al Maranca

The next day we were back again to partake in more festivities.  San Rocco had put on an exhibition of photos and old film footage from the local people showing the history of the area.  It was such a hit with people coming from far and wide, nostalgic as they remembered.  Jaqueline had set up a store of local books in one of the rooms and Aengus had an exhibition of his paintings and drawings.  Aengus is an accomplished realist artist and lots of his talent is found in the seccos, (paintings on dry plaster walls rather than painting on fresh plaster walls – frescos), throughout the villa, giving elegant fantasy to, especially, the bedrooms.  On this day, we discovered Jason to be a writer and were really delighted to be able to buy his book, just published, ‘The President, The Terrorist & The Torturer’ – sounds ghoulish, but we are told it is metaphysical and allegorical.  So we look forward to some time in the evenings up in our little mountain house in Pieve, with peace and tranquility to peruse this other artistic element from one more of the creative people of Bagni di Lucca.

Aengus Dewar's secco, painting on the wall


  1. Diane Pieri says:

    All kinds of wonderful things happening in the Bagni di Lucca area which continues to be enriched by the creative people who are discovering it.
    We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit of old photos and seeing the wonderful things that are happening in Benabbio, especially the rebirth of the beautiful San Rocco.
    It was wonderful seeing you and Michael this year. We look forward to pranzo together next year!

    1. Hi Diane, It was lovely to see you guys this year. Your figs from your trees were utterly delectable and we loved all your wonderful stories of the area. Your childhood stories are only a couple of years ago, it seems, and yet the leap from this ancient village into modernity has been huge. The other day we visited the house where your father was born, gorgeous. We look forward to pranzo together next summer!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s