Fifth Time at the Third Age

Yesterday was the occasion of the end of year lunch of Bagni di Lucca branch of the University of the Third Age, held once again, to the delight of all present, in the elegant surroundings of the Circolo dei Forestieri. My invitation was as a result of a contribution of a talk on the Luccan composer, Francesco Geminiani last  January, the fifth year I have participated in this life-long learning institution’s programme. Many of the other suppliers to the lecture programme were also present. The president Fabio Lucchesi and Bagni’s mayor Massimo Betti gave inaugural speeches and then we got down to the real business of wining and dining. This was the menu and it included the Circolo’s traditional offering of a sorbetto to clean one’s mouth between the first and the main course.

I have already written about Unitre in a previous blog so I won’t repeat myself here except to say that Bagni di Lucca’s own poet laureate, Mario Lena, and patron of Unitre, read his Italian translation of Kipling’s IF. This remains such a good and topical poem that I must include the original here:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Mario Lena started writing poetry relatively late in life. He was trained as a scientist and taught higher mathematics in Lucca. Mario was mayor of Bagni di Lucca and organized the town’s twinning with Longarone (you can see this on the road signs entering Bagni).If you know Italian his volumes are well worth reading and include many poems touching Bagni and its environs. We first met Mario in 2005 at a presentation of  his collection, La Scala di Mohs. (Note the scientific allusion; named after German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs (1773-1839), this is a scale of hardness of solids; talc is 0 and diamond is 10 and ordering is determined by which substance can scratch another substance). A translator should really be sought for at least a selection of his verse but to give you a flavour of his writing I have translated one of his poems from La Scala di Mohs as follows: 


Quando la sera cala

e l’Appennino l’ultima luce azzurra ancor trattiene

chiudi le imposte antiche.

Nella penombra

trova una mano. Lei

ti sta vicino.

Portale tenerezza:

è questa l’ora.

Tenerezza di rocce

di crinali innevati

e di sentieri,

ragazzi innamorati


coleotteri verdi

cinquantanove cicli

persi e trovati.

In fondo,

questi doni di meraviglia

sempre presenti sono.

E quell’animo aperto

alla montagna,

e quel tenersi stretti

in precipizio,

e quel correre al sole

incontro ai prati…

son lampi di memoria.

Son forse niente;

o scrivere una storia




When evening falls

and the Apennines still keep a last blue light

close the time-worn shutters.

In the twilight

find a hand. She

is beside you.

Threshold tenderness:

this is the hour.

Tenderness of rocks

of snow-covered ridges

of paths,

young in love

little animals

green beetles

fifty-nine skies

lost and found.

In the end,

these gifts of wonder

are always present.

And that soul open

to the mountains,

and that holding tight

in the precipice,

and that running towards the sun

meeting in meadows …

are flashes of memory.

They are perhaps nothing;

or the writing of a story



The lunch was a most convivial affair and I look forwards to this admirable institution’s next season. Perhaps English Italian-speakers may wish to contribute something from their gems of learning and experience? All topics can be considered.

Anyway, here a few pictures of those present at the lunch including me with Mario Lena


1 thought on “Fifth Time at the Third Age

  1. Pingback: The Blind Leading the Blind | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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