An old resident of Bagni di Lucca told me there once were seven petrol stations in town and began to list where they were situated – and perilous situations they were too: in front of hardware shops, behind hotels, next to the market…..
When Health and Safety began to rear its head in this part of the world (though never so inclusively as in places like the UK) it was realised that the petrol stations could raise a threat if, for example, an earthquake struck or even a thunderstorm (as occurred with magnificent violence this early morning).
The petrol pumps were removed but one set remained in front of the café to the right of the main part of Bagni Villa. The station served not only cars well but also the bar owners as many customers would take this opportunity of having a coffee or buying some cigarettes as their vehicle was being filled.
At the same time, the Bagni di Lucca section of the Red Cross which, largely staffed by volunteers, provides emergency services and first aid to the area, needed rather more decent garage space in which to store their valuable vehicles.
Yesterday the two needs: one, for a safely situated petrol (gas) station and two, better accommodation for the fleet of Red Cross vehicles came together in the inauguration of a new station together with garage space below – an inauguration which also supplied two new service cars for the magnificent Red Cross..
The petrol station may be Esso rather the former Shell but I was told it’s all the same company now anyway. Antonio, the old station man, retains his job in the new station and complete facilities for cleaning your car are now available so you can even vacuum those dirty carpets. I don’t feel, however, that the automatic coffee machine in the till area is an improvement on having a real bar next to you, as before.
The opening was celebrated with all the charming pomp provincial Italy is capable of mustering. The usual suspects were there: the mayor, the carabinieri, the representative of the project, the new president of the pro-loco, the parish priest….
First the speeches, then the blessing of the petrol station and all those who fill their tanks in her, then the cutting of the ribbon, followed by the Italian national anthem and finally the best bit: a truly scrumptious spread in which I spotted more than forty different varieties of pizzettas, vol-au-vents, bignole, puff pastries, soufflés and so forth all washed down with ample quantities of prosecco, strawberry liqueur or just plain grapefruit juice.
I feel that this combined petrol-ambulance station is one of the best public works to have come out of Bagni di Lucca for some time. The idea, long thought about and long overdue was a good one and I for one, who only last week was a client for the ambulance service (see https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/hungry-hornets/), can only applaud its realisation.