Bagni di Lucca swings back to the Sixties

Kaftans, beads and flower power blossomed in the streets of Bagni di Lucca Villa this Sunday and brought back to many nostalgic ex-hippies memories of the thrill and high hopes of that decade.

It has been said that if you remember the sixties then you never lived it. Anyway I did manage to remember one thing – that both Sandra and I are now in our sixties!!!

It’s startling to think that in the photo below the lady driving the red Bianchina car is, in fact, a very staid old fellow who owns the precious little machine. (The Bianchina was produced from 1957 to 1970 by AutoBianchi – a company formed by Fiat and Pirelli – and produced almost three hundred thousand cars during this time). I wonder how he got convinced to take part in the delightful festivities. The lively parade reminded me of a scene in the seminal Antonioni film, “Blow Up” when the party-goers take to the streets of London. (Incidentally I taught for years in a college which had across the road the same park used by that great director to film the mysterious discovery which leads to Hemmings’ picture blow-up).

I also remember the sixties were wonderful times so full of hope in a bright new future – they were so sure that the right formula of “all you need is love” would work wonders and transform the universe. Although so much of that promise has not been fulfilled we must hold on to believe in hope in the absence of believing anything else.

In the following verse, written around 1999, I tried to capture this looking-back feeling:

ADVENT

Angel voices sing over a harp’s wave-

they echo from a fan-vaulted chapel

while marsh winds howl outside the nave

and rain rots autumn’s last fallen apple.

Could those caftan summers by the river

be so far away? Interstellar sounds

across the meadows as our souls quiver

to an ecstatic dance and love abounds.

Fresh burgeoning passion, too quickly scorned

in this darkling season of the earth –

youthful times that are often mourned –

but was there truly faith in our re-birth?

Even in delight’s garden there are fears

and strange herms cast shadows beyond the years.

Some of that joyous atmosphere permeated Villa’s streets and was sorely needed in view of the querulous weather which could never make up its mind about anything. But the locals had made up their minds about one thing – to have a good time in spite of everything.

Earlier on the Sunday I’d sung in the Ghivizzano choir for thirteen children receiving their first communion on the day of the feast of Pentecost – thirteen is a lucky number here. Then I’d gone over to Ponte a Serraglio to man the Borgo degli Artisti gallery as Colombina day had come round again. For more information on the Colombina event see Debra’s blog at http://bellabagnidilucca.com/tag/colombina/.

I would just like to add that there is an important association between the little dove and the feast of Pentecost this Sunday when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles gathered together in a small room after the death and resurrection of Christ. They then began to speak in all the languages known around the mediterranean so that everyone who heard them could understand what they were saying – I wish a similar technique could be used today when learning languages! The other two symbols for Pentecost are fire and wind. Well, it was certainly a very windy day (stall-holders had to weigh down their canopies with stones and water-filled bottles to avoid them being turned in micro-lites) and, as for fire, some of us are still lighting one at home in May!

This is the dove I’d painted last year for the Festa:

05202013 033

Sundays in Italy are quite different from the old Dickensian atmosphere of that day in the London of my youth when places offering entertainment or pleasure were closed and a dull greyness permeated the empty streets. Of course, a lot has changed since then and Sunday in London now just seems a day like any other – except that there is even more traffic!

But in Italy Sundays have always been highly social days – whether one goes to church or not, people visit their relatives or spend time at the seaside or the mountains and join in festas like the wistful one that brought me back light years in Bagni di Lucca Villa.

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