A Wet Big Top

Eight years ago, January third was spent on the ski slopes of la Doganaccia above Cutigliano. It was a resplendent day and both of us enjoyed the fresh, crisp snow enormously. This year we might have to give it a miss – at least as the ski-ing is concerned – due to various minor injuries sustained. There’s no point in aggravating things. At the most we might do a little sun-bathing – snow reflection really gives one a tan!

Cutigliano is, anyway, a great place to pick up ski-ing again as there’s everything from baby slopes to more difficult terrain. I came across the resort by accident in the summer of 1997 when, in an attempt to escape the torrid heart of the plains around Florence I drove up to and across the passo Della Croce arcana. (See posts at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/cute-cutigliano/ and https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/the-pass-of-the-mysterious-cross/). Then I enjoyed the multicoloured summer alp pastures, so to view everything under snow was a revelation.

This New Year has not started in such a brilliant way here, meteorologically speaking. Yesterday evening it was truly raining cats and dogs with added fog to boot and and it was slightly dodgy driving back from Lucca where we had been to the circus.

Circuses raise opposing emotions and if I say that this one included animals then there will be protestors. In my former abode in Woolwich, London the local borough has banned any circus displaying animal acts from its confines. Normally the circuses there would have pitched their big tops on the Common. The majority of acts at Lucca’s showing of the Circo Donna Orfei (one of the offshoots of the Circo Orfei managed by that Grande Dame of Italian circus, Moira Orfei, who has also starred in films, largely of the sword and sandal variety like “The Loves of Hercules” and “Ursus in the valley of the Lions”) were of an acrobatic nature.

The most memorable act was one of an extraordinary illusionist – the best we have seen to-date and, presumably, Italy’s answer to David Copperfield. Although we were very near the ring-side we were totally flabbergasted when two women suddenly appeared from a transparent chest. And one of them wasn’t exactly slender.

Of the animal acts the dogs were amusing and the horses I’m sure had a good time chasing each other round the ring. Then there was an extraordinary display of “exotic animal” including a Bactrian camel, African Zebu cattle, a Scottish highland cow and, most astonishing of all, a giant hippopotamus who menacingly opened its mouth only a few feet away from where we were sitting.

Happily none of this animalia was asked to perform tricks – what does one ask a hippo to perform anyway? Perhaps that famous dance of the hours from Walt Disney’s classic Fantasia?

We thought that, generally, the Circo Donna Orfei was animal-friendly and, more important, animal-protester friendly, so if you haven’t got anything better to do on a dismally wet evening in this part of the world, and have kids to entertain, the Lucca circus will be there for you until January 6th.

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