Dreaming of a White March

Normally snow usually lies for at least a few days every winter in Longoio. This year, exceptionally, there was none. I felt I needed a snow-fix and rared to get some of the white stuff under my feet (I certainly didn’t get that on my recent visit to Vietnam although it has been known to snow in that country’s northern highlands) so I headed towards a place where I was guaranteed to find it: the ski slopes at Doganaccia above the little town of Cutigliano.

I took my time over the journey on the glorious day it was yesterday. The views over the Controneria were particularly enchanting.

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Beyond the village of Cocciglia the valley narrows considerably, indeed it becomes a constricted gorge. At the entrance to this gorge (called “i stretti di Cocciglia”) is a nondescript looking building which is, in fact, an oratory built in 1532 (as is shown on its headstone) and dedicated to saint Rocco (Roche) the patron saint of plague prevention. Perhaps there might have been a particularly serious outbreak of the plague in 1532 or perhaps the oratory was built to shelter pilgrims on the way across the bridge on what once was a much frequented road from Modena to Lucca. Who knows? In any case it is a particularly delightful place to stop and visit if you are on a scooter. (If driving, forget it, there’s absolutely no parking space around for some way).

Inside the oratory is an elaborate fresco of a crucifixion painted by a certain Jacopo da Pistoia in 1563.

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The pedestrian bridge (called “il Ponte Nero”) leads to a delightful walk along the Lima which I have done on a previous occasion (and met an ancient lady who has lived all her life in an isolated hut in the woods). The path also leads to an excellent bathing place which I have tried out on several occasions during the hot summers. Not yesterday however!

It’s worth looking into the gorge at this stage of the Lima River’s course. There are fantastic rock formations and the water is a tropical blue reflecting the intense azure of the sky.

I passed the impossible village of Lucchio on my right – impossible because how could a village be sited at such a crazy angle without falling down? Evidently people come from as far afield as Japan to see this amazing place.

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We now leave the province of Lucca and enter into that of its arch-enemy Pistoia.

Popiglio, which I described as grim in a previous blog at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/proud-popiglio/ looked instead very sunny and its beautiful Pieve was quite gorgeous. If any asks how such a richly ornate church could be built in a remote mountain village then the answer is that one of the Popiglio families, the Vannini, obtained very remunerative posts in the papal government during the sixteenth centuries and wanted to give something back to the place where they were born and brought up.

It would be tedious to enumerate the treasures of the Pieve which also extends to a whole museum of sacred art. The pulpit, however, stands out with its stone carvings including one of a mermaid (?). In respect of this see the article in Barga News at http://www.barganews.com/2013/06/20/international-interest-in-the-bare-breasted-twin-tailed-mermaid/. The saint George is immediately charming.

I’ve talked about Cutigliano in a previous post at

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/cute-cutigliano/

For me it remains a delightful borgo, especially so now when there are few bipeds around. I headed immediately for the cable car and was in snowfields in the space of less than quarter of an hour.

The slopes were practically deserted, the sunshine was exceptional – one of the ski instructors said it was the best day they’d had so far – and I was glad crunching the snow under my boots. No ski-ing for me yesterday, however, although I’m sure it would have been superb with the whole place practically to oneself.

Before descending below the snow-line I treated myself to a plate of fusilli arrabbiati and a beer at the self-service restaurant at the Doganaccia – which went down very well!

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Now my return journey began..

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5 thoughts on “Dreaming of a White March

  1. We’ve not been ski-ing around Cutigliano/Abetone. If we were going to go it would almost certainly be Cutigliano, around which we have looked before. Do I take it that food and other refreshments are offered near the slopes? We’ve called in to Cutigliano on the way to San Marcello which is also worth a look around. San Marcello also has a shop selling the best thick hot chocolate we’ve tasted in Italy, cakes and biscuits to die for.

  2. Truly great chocolate and cakes we too have indulged albeit shared as would have been too much it is the best not had any better anywhere else! Cuttigliano is a true gem at any time of the year all year round with its different fseasons and fairs great fun. The skiing is also ok there is nothing too strenous very enjoyable for all ages and fairly safe unlike the slopes at the Abetone they are too steep for us and far too crowded really scary! I do like the feel of Cuttigliano there is always something new and interesting whether it is an exhibition at the miniature Palazzo Vecchio replica or an event. The inhabitants there and the shopkeepers are also very friendly indeed.

  3. I’ll tell you what really attracted me to Cutigliano….I’ve had the considerable pleasure of spending some time on business in Geneva and the areas around it. Swiss ski resorts are really something else, and Cutigliano has, on a smaller scale, a very definite ‘alpine’ feel about it. Also, I have it on very good authority from a prominent Florentine I met at a Festa last year that Cutigliano is the place to ski – so it must be good!

  4. Pingback: Ravioli and Suspense in Val di Lima | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

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