The mayor of an Italian comune (borough) is not just a ceremonial figure, decked with a gold chain in the UK and with a tri-colour sash in Italy. An Italian Sindaco (mayor) will certainly be present at significant formalities but he or she is also the council leader with a precise political agenda and voted into office by local elections (which we, as residents of Bagni di Lucca, are entitled to participate in). In this respect, the sindaco is similar to such figures as New York’s mayor Di Blasio and London’s Boris.
Since we’ve been residents we’ve had three mayors so far: Antonio Contrucci, Giancarlo Donati and now Massimo Betti. Betti is in good health (or at least I trust so since he also owns and runs the main pharmacy in town) but the two ex-mayors have had on-going health problems and, sadly, one of them died, aged 66, a couple of days ago after undergoing an unsuccessful heart operation in Milan.
Giancarlo Donati was mayor of Bagni of Lucca between 2007 and 2012 and headed a centre-right coalition which included “Forza Italia”. It was speculated that Giancarlo would run again in 2012 but he told me he’d been mayor long enough…
I remember Giancarlo as a very approachable person with always a friendly word for my wife and I and ever willing to answer our town’s queries. Of his still visible contributions to the comune I would single out the brave, but ultimately failed attempt to reinstitute the casinò at Ponte a Serraglio to its former glory as a gambling centre, the useful pedestrian bridge across the river Lima from the villa Fiori and the elegant fountain in the Contessa Casalini public gardens at Villa.
Donati was also well-known as an entrepreneur running, with his brother, the industrial laundry one can spot outside the railway station in Fornoli, and which services major hotels in Lucca and Versilia, offering much-needed local employment.
The surviving ex-mayor’s health, unfortunately, is fast deteriorating and Antonio depends on a portable oxygen system for his mobility.
Let us hope, therefore, that the mayoral tri-colour sash will not hang like the ancient mariner’s albatross around the neck of the current Sindaco di Bagni di Lucca. Meanwhile, condolences go to Giancarlo’s family, friends and colleagues who attended his funeral yesterday at Fornoli. Regrettably, I was unable to be there but I am sure the church would have been packed and that the obsequies would have been very dignified.