It’s not every day that a castle is inaugurated. The last time the fortress, standing above Villa Basilica in the valley that opens out after one has travelled through Benabbio and crossed the Trebbio pass, was inaugurated was at the end of the twelfth century!
Standing proud above the noble little town of Villa Basilica (I’ve already described Villa Basilica in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/noble-villa-basilica/) the fortress was in danger of disappearing altogether, eaten up by the forest surrounding it. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed!
The castle was an important military outpost of the state of Lucca in its wars against Pistoia and Pescia – indeed, Villa Basilica is the last Luccan comune on that side of the mountains. Since 2006 the fortress has been part of a major restoration project funded by EU funds (It does help, sometimes to be part of the EU…) and also with a contribution from the Fondazione di Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca.
All the stops were pulled out yesterday at midday to ensure that this new inauguration would be a never-to-be-forgotten event. The best Sbandieratori (flag twirlers) that Lucca could muster, companies of arcieri (long-bow men), drummers, a fine local band, birds of prey (including a superb example of a desert falcon I’d last seen performing in Mongolia), ladies and lords in mediaeval costume, a jubilant populace and the insightful young mayor, Giordano Ballini, turned out and made it a wonderful and rather emotional event – as the rebirth of any castle after years of darkest neglect should rightly be!
To see high-quality sbandieratura in front of the wonderful Romanesque front of Villa Basilica’s noble Pieve to the sound of throbbing drums is something no other place in the world could possible emulate. Although I’ve seen these displays so many times now I still can’t get enough of them and they retain the same passionate impact on me
Here are some video snippets from the afternoon:
To top it all we were offered (free, of course) a wonderful banquet within the castle courtyard of mediaeval soup, farro, castagnaccia, pasta fritta, wines, porchetta, lardo, salami, cheeses, cantucci, sweet meals, enough, it seems, to feed the multitudes for more than a week. As usual at these events I needed no cell-phone to meet up again with old friends and ex-students. It was all delightfully social.
The real prize, however, was the castle’s setting – staggeringly beautiful with a vast outlook over the valley called “delle cartiere” after the old –established paper mills dating back to the time of the castle’s construction (presumably built to protect them?).
How to get to this amazingly idyllic spot? Go to Villa Basilica, carry on up the Pizzorne road. Look out for the sign to the Campo sportivo on your right. Then find a gravel road on your right, Risk it if you dare with your vehicle or take the pleasant 15 minute walk instead.
Villa Basilica’s newly restored castle is also bound to have lots more events planned for it – concerts, recitations, shows.
It just shows that when Italy gets its act together like this there is nothing to beat a country that has so much historical and natural wealth within its confines.
May Villa Basilica’s fortress join the likes of those of Sillico and Verrucole and Benabbio and many more ancient strongholds waiting to be rediscovered in the dense temperate rainforests that surround our o-so ravishing and spectacular region!
Last but not least, a thousand thanks to architect Nicola Gallo for having brought the project from start to conclusion in less than ten years – no mean feat!
And, of course, the castle has now also been blessed by the local parish priest. I’m sure no further marauding hoardes of Florentines or even Pistoians mercenaries would ever dare to attempt to enter this magnificent stronghold in anger any more now!