Swimming above the river

I got a real sense of Summer the other day walking through the gates at the back of Hotel Regina, into their lovely gardens to inspect the pool.  Poised above the river the large pool is enticing and most definitely a more bearable temperature than the icy water below. This is the best place to come enjoy a coffee and soak up the sun.  I was the only one there even at 11am so it felt like my own private pool!

As I lay there sunning myself on the deck, hovering above the river, I reflected on what the recent elections for a new Mayor here in Bagni di Lucca will mean – what changes we will start seeing. There is an unusual sense of change in the air, what with Circolo dei Forrestieri closed and up for grabs and the forthcoming new Bistro here at the Regina. I have also heard that Bar Roma is up for new management as of the end of this month. The dynamics of Bagni are in flux so it will be interesting to see how they settle. Still there are havens, like the gardens and pool at Regina, that are a constant so that’s a relief!

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In a Quad mood

One of my favourite walks around here is Prato Fiorito. Whatever the time of year it offers spectacular views with no too much exertion – a cracking blend as far as I am concerned.

Being a keen walker I never felt tempted towards jumping on a motorbike or quad to check out the scenery, however a few years ago I went quad biking in Queenstown, New Zealand and loved it so much, I keep wanting to have another go. True, at the time, it was so terrifying I had a stiff jaw from clenching my teeth for so long, but what a blast!

As a consequence I am always casting about new landscapes imagining what it would be like to traverse them at improbable angles on a quad bike – that is of course when quading is at its most fun, when you go careening up a vertical slope, over boulders and ravines!

I have always thought Prato Fiorito would be an ideal place to test out my skills – or lack of them!! So imagine my delight when I found out that Lucca Quad do indeed offer guided excursions up there. Actually they offer excursions all over the Garfagnana, this is the perfect playground for quad enthusiasts of any level and I am sure the Italian guide would be far more considerate than my Kiwi guide who told us not to ask questions, never look directly down, only far ahead and never to brake when you feel it is all getting too much but rather, to give it some more ‘welly’ – no wonder I had lock jaw!!

 

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The new Bagni Bistro

I have some very exciting news – in a couple of weeks’ time – exact date yet to be confirmed – we will see a new ‘eatery’ opening up in the very heart of Bagni.

I have often looked at this spot and thought how nice it would be if it were made into a terrace from which we could enjoy fine wine, good food or simply a perfect coffee. The location, for those of you who know Bagni, will be immediately recognisable. The Cafe Bistro Regina is going to be an extension to the Hotel Regina and will sit next to the theatre in the shade of those beautiful chestnut trees. Picture perfect!

A quick sub-story here, on the topic of flowering trees. I was about to write an entire blog dedicated to the heady smell of the acacia flowers in bloom, when Debra Kolkka pipped me to the post with her great blog on the very same topic – it must be our Antipodean noses that relish this time of the year!

Anyway, back to the Bistro, you can expect delicious snacks at any time of the day, pre-theatre dinners and, during the warm season, live music too.

I will keep you informed of exact opening dates, keep your eyes peeled too!

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Fun and games on the Lima

The river Lima is one of my favourite places from Spring through to the end of Summer. It is lively, sparklingly clean and bone numbingly cold – especially at this time of the year.  When the snow melt mingles with the abundant rain, the river becomes the perfect playground for eager kayakers – mind you the actual rafting season starts in October, but I like to wait for warmer weather to really enjoy hurtling down the river.

After much hoping about from one leg to the next getting into our wet suits, we amble down to the river and into our rafts – H20 are the guys who kit you out, train you up and ultimately haul you out like some soggy kitten at the end of the ride!

I have played around on rivers all my life. The Shotover river in Queenstown, New Zealand being one of my favourites until I discovered rafting on the Lima – you don’t feel you are quite so likely to die either which is pleasant – there is more a sense of really enjoying the river and being part of its turbulent journey, rather than screaming towards rocks and then turning at the very last minute to avoid crashing…

Anyway, Corona and Regina hotels have both teamed up with H20 and are offering special deals to their guests – discounts, warm fluffy towels and a vat of wine for afterwards – ping me over if you are interested and I will fill you in with the little details – just come down and enjoy it with us! Hurry because the season ends once the river shrinks – around mid-June…

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Youth theatre returns to Bagni di Lucca

 

Bagni di Lucca may be small, it is certainly perfectly formed when it comes to the arts.

Every year, in May youth-focused theatre groups comes to town. As of 2 May through to 13th both the Regina and the Corona hotels will be stuffed to the gunnels with young actors – you will no doubt see them spilling out onto the square in front of the theatre, crowding the bars and restaurants and generally livening up the place in preparation for the Summer crowds!

This is the 14th year for the ‘Teatro della Scuola’ where young actors from all over the country come together, act, swap tips, train further and generally have a great time doing what they love best. Anyone wishing to catch a play can do so and there are 5 a day so no shortage of choice. It is to be hoped that Regina’s planned Cafe Bistro will be open in time!

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Solving the drought

Incendi: due elicotteri regionali e un mezzo nazionale in azione ad Arni

We just managed to get Easter over and done with and now the drought-inducing weather has broken – back to back, wall to wall rain. Funny how throughout most of March we would all greet each other with ‘wow wonderful weather… I know we need rain,  but this is great’.

Yes we all knew we needed the rain, I had been tapping my water barrels for weeks now, down to some soupy brown stuff at the bottom and my laurels have gone crispy – now they are plain soggy!

This was a record for the ‘flying buckets’ – helicopters were draining water from tanks to put out bush fires all over the place – Prato Fiorito, behind Crasciana – now they can safely retire, we are busy watching the river as it swells!

Still once this is over (there is an endless week or water to face first) everything will be lush and green and perfect for hiking, rafting and porcini picking – although on that front there always seems to be an excuse or another why the ‘porcini season’ is poor – too much wind, too much rain, not enough rain, too little wind and so on. The rafting should be spectacular so looking forward to that and the acacias blossoming with their magical sweet smell wafting through the hills…. bring back the sun!!

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Up to Prato Fiorito

As everyone stares, mesmerised, at the stunning blossoms and tree tulips that have exploded all over the place, I have pulled on my walking boots and headed for Prato Fiorito – a lopsided translation would be ‘flowering meadows’.

It is much more than that however, a 20 minute drive up the back of Bagni di Lucca, it is a real tonic to the senses. You emerge puffing and bent over (well I did, some are more elegant!) to look out over soaring views. Actually it doesn’t matter what time of the year you take this walk, just ensure it is a clear day – although for added effect you could go up in a storm, depends what sort of experience you are after!

At any rate now is when it lives up to its name as the soft creamy grass that covers the summit is studded with little purple crocuses. Someone once told me that in full bloom the top of Prato Fiorito became a violet hue – but I can’t say I have witnessed that as yet – in fact, the day after we were up there I woke in the middle of the night to a strange orange hue and saw the top of Prato Fiorito was ablaze – it went on all night and in the morning the top was black – heart breaking!

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