One of the reasons we came to Tuscany is to find relatives and places of significance to Chris’ family. Chris’ Dad was born somewhere near Bagni di Lucca in a small town called San Concordio. He doesn’t know the exact spelling, but we Googled several versions of it and could not find it’s location. Instead, we decided to visit Casabasciana, which is where Chris spent some months when he was 8 (back in 1973).
On our recent trips, we have preferred to tell the GPS to avoid expressways. This way we get to drive through lots of little towns and see some “off the beaten track” scenery that we wouldn’t otherwise see if driving on the boring autostrada. The down side to this is that it is slow and it’s very easy to get lost, in fact we got lost about 5 times in total! Co-Pilot (on my android phone) is not a bad app, it’s just that the roads were small and winding and it was very easy to miss crucial turns and then very hard to turn around again. The scenery on the way was stunning though and the Apuan mountains dominated the landscape.
We stopped for lunch in a small town whose name completely eludes me (must start writing things down!) and the boys feasted on the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen. We watched the man cooking it in a traditional wood oven. I enjoyed a nice scallopine with vino bianco.
Although we had left from Groppo quite early that morning, we did not arrive in Bagni di Lucca until around 3ish. It was much later than we wanted and consequently we could not spend as much time as we would have liked there. The town appears much like Pisa when you come into it, with it’s central river and bridge. We walked around a bit, enough to be sure that it warranted a second visit!
We headed on to Casabasciana, only minutes from Bagni di Lucca, but up a very steep mountain road. It was getting late, and we knew we would not have much time to explore the village. (There will be a blog post for part 2 later this year for sure!) Casabasciana is very old and built into the side of a mountain, therefore it is also VERY steep. You can’t drive cars in, so we left ours in a carpark. I love this village, it’s quite large and built in the typical labyrinth style of streets and houses going off in all directions. It is easy to get lost in it as all the piazzas look similar and it’s hard to see landmarks (like churches) with such tall buildings and steep slopes. There is a central “road” (stairway really) which orientates you, but if you get lost then it means lots of needless uphill hiking! Chris followed his nose (and his very poor memory of being 8 years old) toward the back of the village and we were actually only metres from his Nonna’s old house when we met some ladies in the street. We asked them if they remembered Chris’ Nonna and, to our great suprise, one of the ladies did! She not only remembered her, but also Chris’ Nonno, his Dad, the fact they went to America, their stay in Casabasciana and how many siblings Chris has (there are 7 of them). It was incredible! This lady (Rita) was 80 years old and she remembered all of that. Rita showed us the house Chris had stayed in and then invited us in to her house for coffee. We chatted to her for a while and discovered many interesting things about her life, she was born in the village and has never left so she knows everything and everyone. Rita told us exactly how to find the grave sites of Nonna and Nonno and we left with very accurate directions (right down to the row number and number of sites in). We eventually found it!
I know it’s only February, but I can see the season changing already. On our walks through the forest above our house (apparently called Mount Barca which South Australians may find funny!), I have noticed the most beautiful wild flowers peeking up through the undergrowth. Besides the snowbells and their larger cousins (starts with an “H”…..sorry Catherine I know you told me this morning!), there are also daisies, violets, purple things and little yellow things. Yes, I confess I’m botany-challenged! I must be a huge disappointment to my Mum who could look at any given plant then tell you it’s name (both common AND scientific) as well as the best way to grow it. My excuse is that all of the plants in this foreign country are unfamiliar to me……that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Anyway, the weather has been spectacular with beautiful sunshine and clear, cool days. I think that Spring is very close and I have it on good authority that the wild flowers are going to get MUCH more spectacular. In the meantime, here are some shots of my “evidence” of Spring. If you know what these plants are, please leave me the answers in the comments section so that we can all learn together 🙂
…and last of all….this is the result of what happens when you set your camera to “smile detect” in order to get a self-portrait and it doesn’t detect your smile!! We grinned like Cheshire cats, pulled faces and finally cracked up laughing…..