Pumpkins and Puppets

Week-ends here are so packed with events that one is truly spoilt for choice. Chestnut festivals are definitely October’s flavour of the month and abound all the way from Piazza al Serchio to Lucca (and beyond). Even Bagni di Lucca had its own Festa yesterday in the gardens of Villa Fiori, a grand mansion now the property of the comune and in sore need of generous hands to restore it to its former glory.

Despite the recurring drizzle the Festa, which is covered in more detail in Debra Kolkka’s blog at http://bellabagnidilucca.com/author/bagnidilucca/, was quite well-attended and there was a good spread of activities, stalls and traditional chestnut-based goodies to eat.

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I was particularly taken by a stall raising funds for a local child suffering from that terrible rare syndrome: Batten’s disease.

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The models of traditional houses were also brilliantly done.

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From the Villa Fiori we headed for the Pumpkin festival at Piegaio in the Valdottavo. We’d never been to this Festa before and found it extensive, well-organized and full of interesting things. For a start I’d never seen pumpkins grow into such weird shapes! Here are some pictures of the event which happily wasn’t rained off, although probably it would have got more visitors if the weather had been more clement.

Pumpkins have a long history of use in Italy and not just as an American import for Halloween. They make good soup and can be used for bread-making. Their skin will make containers of every shape and size and they form excellent sound-boards for musical instruments.

Children and artists also contributed to the delightful Piegaio Pumpkin festa.

We’d had an invitation to attend a puppet show in Pisa by Piero Nissim, the song-writer and performer who had contributed so well to our evening at Gombereto’s little church and described in my post at: https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/an-international-language/. So that was our next stop…

It was a little sad to see many of the beautiful plane and lime trees lining the avenue leading into Pisa from Lucca hacked down because of tree-disease. I do hope that a replanting programme will start soon.

Part of the evidence that one is a reasonably long-term resident in this part of the world is that we go to Pisa no longer to visit the leaning tower but to attend a local marionette show!

The performance took place in a children’s playground open space recently retrieved from an old factory. Nissim’s approach to puppeteering is original and he calls his concept “marsupial theatre”. It is truly a portable spectacle and Piero even carries the stage by wearing it on himself like an apron (or “marsupio” – meaning either the name for a bum-bag in Italian or a Kangaroo-type animal).

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The show itself was calculated to amuse the young audience (and us too) and included a variety of songs and fairy stories including a Red Riding Hood which had the children ear-splittingly screaming against the fearful wolf.

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Piero will also run a children’s workshop in puppeteering at the same park.

In Pisa it hadn’t rained at all but by the time we returned to Bagni di Lucca the roads had turned wet again although temperatures remain surprisingly mild for this time of the year, hovering around twenty degrees centigrade.

Another nice Sunday had passed and I hope that even when I fully retire I won’t forget the lovely feel of those week-ends coming along…

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8 thoughts on “Pumpkins and Puppets

  1. Dear Francis, I’m new in the area and to your blog and am deeply moved and inspired by your passionate style and quality of writing, even about simple things, in some things I’m similar; in my life and work and meet too few people that still have their windows and doors open. Would really like to meet You when we are both here and have time… Many thanks Sangeet

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