Christmas Window-Shopping

I realised yesterday why so many Italian villages are hill villages – it’s warmer up here because the sunbeams last longer. Temperatures at Longoio, which is 1878 feet above sea level, rose above twenty degrees and I was actually sunbathing!

A sharp shock awaited me when I descended into Bagni (at a height of 492 feet above sea level) at 3 PM to see something of the Christmas festivities. It was rather cold since the sun had already set behind the hills. Despite this, there were still quite a few people around although the pro-loco chairperson complained of a “lack of movement”. The Alpini (see also Debra Kolkka’s post at had their refreshment stall with focaccie, necci and vin brulé and so did the Red Cross.

On the Circolo dei Forestieri staircase was a photographic exhibition on the famous local industry, now a shadow of what it once was, the figurinai or plaster-of-Paris statuette makers. Puccini, basking in the glory of the triumph of his La Boheme in Paris was visibly moved when he met a boy figurinaio outside Notre-Dame.

Inside the circolo the crib exhibition was rather more limited than those in previous years (which had included examples from as far afield as Caltagirone in Sicily). There was an interesting use by a local restorer of discarded furniture which had been repaired and “framed” to reflect its stylistic period.

This imposing piece of furniture was once used to store  Bagni di Lucca’s demographic data.

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The town’s high street shops are making an effort to attract people to at least look at their windows. As a shop keeper once remarked to me “we are the unsung heroes of Bagni di Lucca”.

Yesterday, however, I got the feeling that Christmas is becoming an increasingly hard time for families to enjoy. The economic crisis has now lasted over five years and shows few signs of ending.

Although a recent article in a British newspaper states that Italy has four advantages to its acclaim when dealing with the crisis – one, the lowest credit card debt in Europe; two, a surprising family wealth of property; three, a traditional saver culture; four, a strong feeling for the family which acts as a restaurant, hotel and interest-free loan issuer for its members – all these are being gradually eroded as savings are being eaten into, as family property is being increasingly taxed and increasingly difficult to sell, as credit cards are being used more and more to reach “the end of the month”, and as the greater mobility required to find jobs, especially abroad, is weakening traditional family ties.

Anyway I’ll be down to Bagni di Lucca, for today it is yet another religious Festa – that of the Immacolata when the nearest thing to UK carol-singing takes place in its streets.



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