The Queen of the Apuans, the Pania Della Croce (1858 m.), was revealed in its full majesty from the Barga hospital gardens. Under the bluest sky laced with cirro-stratus I decided the time was right for a little spin. Verni was my first stop – a charming borgo immersed among chestnut forests..
I then headed on towards Trassilico which has always impressed me by its lofty position at 720 metres, and its rocca (fort).
Just outside Trassilico and dating back to the 16th century is a delightful fountain with wash-house.On its wall are some inscriptions. One of them (in translation) reads: “There’s no fire that burns more than a tongue that talks too much” which could, more idiomatically, be rendered as “dangerous talk costs lives” – it was inscribed by Spanish mercenaries quartered there in the 1500’s during a campaign between Lucca and the Estense army. (Was it a hint to loquacious washerwomen to keep their mouths shut I wonder?)The water tasted delicious.
Three great people were born in Trassilico: Antonio Vallisneri (1661-1720), a pioneering doctor, geologist and biologist (seminal papers on insect behaviour), was made a member of the Royal Society of London in 1703 in recognition of his achievements. Leopoldo Nobili (1785-1835) was a physicist who invented the galvanometer, a fundamental instrument in the history of electromagnetism, and developed one of the first modern batteries (Michael Faraday was knowledgable of Nobili’s experiments when he went to Woolwich to get the only large magnet he could find). Giovanni Pierelli (1630-1707) was a man of letters, poet and diplomat who worked at the court of the Emperor Leopold of Germany (his biography is worth reading for its insights into 17th century career-making). It seems incredible that such a remote village should have produced these significant contributors to the arts and sciences. I am glad that the borgo recognizes this by putting up plaques on the facades of the houses where they were born.
Trassilico consists mainly of one long narrow street and it has a grocery, three churches two little squares and is quite a windy place, although the palms we spotted in front of Vallisneri’s house gave it a vaguely tropical feel!
The Rocca commands a very extensive panorama stretching from the Apuans to the Apennines and along the Serchio valley. There were still several patches of snow on the mountains (in mid-May a little unusual for these parts) If you look carefully you’ll spot the Monte Forato with its natural arch (crossed back in 2006) I had a short rest in the rocca’s sun-drenched meadow before heading to the local trattoria where I treated myself to a welcome plate of home-made tortelli.