Come with me. Have no fear of the winding climb. Just enjoy the greenery of the olive groves that escort us to the top of the hill, as far as that church. Do you see it? Yes, the one with the crenellated bell tower, like a fortress, as if it needed to defend itself from all this wild beauty. Here we are. At the Romanesque church of San Martino, at Bargecchia. It’s stood here, dominating its surroundings, for the last 800 years, and it’s worth going inside to enjoy the shade as well as to admire the 14th- and 15th-century paintings. Now we have to stay quiet though. It’s the bells turn to make noise. Let’s listen to them outside, next to that distinguished-looking gentleman with the moustache sitting on the bench. They’re starting! The gentleman turns his sky towards them, as if to hear them better. He waves a hand in the air to follow their rhythm and melody. Do you recognise him? Maestro Giacomo Puccini: these are the bells that he immortalized in his “Tosca”. He loved this corner of the world so much that he called it “Supreme delight, paradise, eden, empire, “turris eburnea”, “vas spirituale”, […].
Now you’re wondering why. Let’s leave the composer to his thoughts and play a game. The beauty of short stories is that we can travel with our minds, moving across miles, skipping a few lines. It’s what happens when you read. We’re in the hills again, in front of another church, the Pieve di San Lorenzo. Why have I brought you here? Look around and you’ll understand. This hill skirts the lake and the lake skirts the sea: they are touches of a light harmony, a harmony that gifts peace to those discovering the Massarosa area and its myriad hamlets, water and land, nature and history.
The Ancient Romans were familiar with this peace. Keep following me, it’ll be worth it. Let’s walk along this broad trail, a stroll among the Roman relics, the arches of the aristocratic Venulei villa, the mosaics that depict imaginary and fantastic animals. All this splendour reminds us of when Massaciuccoli was one of the most important towns in Versilia, the hub of earth and water transportation joining Pisa, Lucca, Luni and the coastal outlets of the Arno and Magra rivers.
When Puccini stops to contemplate a bird taking flight, our only doubt is whether he is composing a new immortal aria, perhaps the finale of his unfinished “Turandot” or maybe he is simply thinking about the tench risotto that he loved so much, a dish he always considered during his days at Torre del Lago.