A nice way to spend a sultry July afternoon

It’s funny how one seems to neglect places just next to one’s own back yard. Yesterday we saw sights that are only ten minutes away from our house and yet, in all the eight years we’ve been here, we’ve never properly visited them.

Our whole area is called La Controneria, taking its name from the Pieve di Controni (already mentioned in my post on Pancio di Controni) and extending along the right-hand side of the Lima valley, south-facing, and, therefore, rather more sunny that the opposite side. This fact is reflected in the increased number of settlements as distinct from the fewer (but larger) borghi on the other side of the fast-flowing torrent.

It’s also the area where a branch of the main mediaeval route to Rome from Canterbury, the Via Francigena, transits.  All villages here, therefore, are easily reached by the same road without having to go down to the valley floor and up again, as one has to do (at least if going by car – there are mulattiere if one is on foot or rides a mule or horse) on the north-facing side.

Straggling below the craggy south face of the Prato Fiorito (so different from its gentle, grassy northern face, where the mountain’s festival recently took place) is San Cassiano which is actually formed by eight small villages called “ville”: Campiglia, Cappella, Vizzata, Cembroni, Cocolaio, Livizzano, Chiesa, and Piazza.

All these “frazioni” are united by the church of San Cassiano, a building of great historical and artistic importance with a magically unique façade, open to differing interpretations as to its symbolic significance, and which might even refer back to the cult of the pagan goddess Diana since it is built on the foundations of her temple.

08 19 2012 Sandra 284

On August 13, 2012, in the oratory in front of the parish church a small museum of sacred art was opened containing,  among others, the fine wooden sculpture of St. Martin of Tours on horseback,  dating back to the fourteenth century, by that great Luccan sculptor, who also created the tomb of Ilaria della Carretta in Lucca cathedral,  Jacopo della Quercia. It seems incredible that, as I heard from a neighbour, this marvellous work was for long used as a play hobby-horse by children attending Sunday school before its real and inestimable worth was realised by a visiting art critic. Here are some pics of the “cavaliere” taken on the day of the museum’s inauguration.

We had a delightful time yesterday afternoon, overcoming the soporificness thrown upon us by the intensely hot and muggy weather, aimlessly wandering around the streets of two of the eight parts that make up San Cassiano: Cembroni and Cappella. Of the features we noted were a communal bread oven and two picturesque lavatoi where, before washing machines became a standard household fixture, women used to gather to wash their clothes and, as importantly, catch up on local gossip and news. These pictures were taken by Alexandra Pettitt:

We also found the animals and humans in this part of the world very friendly and courteous. ..


14 thoughts on “A nice way to spend a sultry July afternoon

  1. You probably already know this (forgive me if you do), but there is a very pleasant walk up from Santina’s in San Cassiano to Cembroni. You cross over from Santina’s and go up the footpath to the right of the phone box and round the back of the cemetery which brings you on to the narrow tarmac road through Cembroni. If you then continue on the road (in the direction of Cocolaio but not actually getting there!) you reach a very nice terrace with super views across to Livizzano. A view good enough to paint, as is the view of the houses on that terrace in what amounts to the end of Cembroni. Another nice walk is to start at the far end of Livizzano and walk up to Santina’s (stopping for refreshment of course and a look around the church) and then up through Cembroni to Capella and back down to Bar Barracone for further refreshment. Some of the older residents of Cembroni will tell you about how, in the past, each family would have a role to produce something for the community, be it bread, meat, or cheese. A fascinating insight into life as it used to be in that part of the world.

  2. Just on a separate point, you mentioned the 8 villages that make up the Controneria in your post. Where do Pieve di Controni, Vetteglia and Longoio fit in? – I realise they’re not part of the Controneria, but Longoio and Vetteglia are so close to those 8 villages were they ever part of it?

    • The 8 villages just make up San Cassiano. As I wrote: ” San Cassiano ….is actually formed by eight small villages called “ville”: Campiglia, Cappella, Vizzata, Cembroni, Cocolaio, Livizzano, Chiesa, and Piazza.”

      The other three names you mention are separate villages.

      All the villages you mention make up the Controneria

  3. The village of Vetteglia was founded in the late Roman imperial era, with a farm built by the Roman Vettilius, but it was with the arrival of the Lombards that this first settlement began its development. For several centuries the main families present in Lucca, obtained jurisdiction over this small village close to “Castrum Controne”, Controneria main castle. In 983 the Suffredinghi family were replaced by the Corvares, who administered the area until the mid-eleventh century. Their feud ended when the Bishop of Lucca decided to reduce the local tithes. The city of Lucca eventually took over jurisdiction of the entire valley including Vetteglia.

    • Thank you very much for this. The history is fascinating. It’d be interesting to know whereabouts the farm was located in Vetteglia – presumably the whole of what is now Vetteglia was the farm? The words ‘archaeological’ and ‘dig’ spring to mind!

  4. Pingback: Symbols of Eternity | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and beyond)

  5. Fascinating. We have been told we are descended from the Suffredinghi family who ruled the Lima Valley eons ago. We are Canadians!
    Susan Arn

  6. We have never been to the area. One day we would love to go to see this part of the world where our ancestors lived so many years ago. We love hearing about the history of the area (including the history of the Lombard families) but also appreciate descriptions of the area from people who have been there.

  7. Pingback: Museums Surround Us | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

  8. Pingback: Two Knights Come Together at San Cassiano | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

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