Benabbio is a hilltop village above Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany. I found this photo (c.1920) in a book in the house we rented there this summer. The house was just below the church tower.
Our house was called La Piccola Torre (The Little Tower) and had 39 steps up to a roof terrace where we looked out over the neighbouring rooftops and watched for approaching weather.
In the evenings swallows came swooping and dancing over our heads, and as the sun went down bats took over the night shift and lizards patrolled the walls.
Early in the morning, I went out before breakfast to explore the village while it was still quiet. Already there were sounds of people hard at work in their terraced gardens, before the sun had got too high.
Woodpiles were a big deal. There were lots in our village and in all the surrounding villages. Wherever we went we would see people carefully stacking and rearranging their woodpiles. Maybe it’s a status symbol. We had a pile outside our door and another under the kitchen table just in case, but it was a perfect insect hotel for the ubiquitous mosquitoes and midges. Better to pile your wood outdoors.
This is La Lucciola, an open air nightclub just around the corner from our house. Each night there was a different event: a singing competition; a children’s talent contest; a karaoke night; a gay disco; a Brazilian dance night. They usually began around 9 and went on until 2 in the morning. Not quietly.
Last year they celebrated their 50th anniversary – 50 anni della Lucciola.
Our last night lullaby was Electro, Dubstep & Techno, but it couldn’t compete with the church tower bells. They tolled on the hour and on the half-hour, striking the full toll 24 hours a day, a constant reminder of time passing, no escape except to live for the moment down at the village disco.
One day we walked out of the village along the Boveglio road as far as this tiny wayside chapel.
We left the road and continued along a forest track hoping to find our way back to the village.
Et In Acacia Ego
There were lots of tracks and many ways to get lost.
But after a few wrong turns we eventually found ourselves on
the path to the ruins of the Castle of Lupari and the Church of St Michael.
We arrived to find we’d just missed the party.
A couple of nights earlier the church bells rang a crazy cacophony, drowning out the gay disco night, and a brass band led a candlelit procession up through the village streets to a Grigliata di Castello.
We found our way back down to the village by following the light bulbs hanging from the trees
and the trail of strategically placed chestnuts.
We could see our house from here.
And we could see our house from here.
The view from Benabbio.
The road to Benabbio.