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.
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. ..