Week 2: Barga
For the second week of our Italian adventure Julie's parents joined us. This section of the holiday was to fulfil a quest that had begun two years previously: finding the Bosi relatives of Julie and her mum Sandy. Sandy is half Italian on her father's side, and has been researching her family history for a number of years. The 2006 trip to Barga was Sandy's second attempt to find a connection with living relatives, and although failing in this we were able to find several Bosi graves that had been recently tended. Leaving notes of contact details on a couple of the tended graves resulted in contact being made with long lost cousins, and it was as a result of this contact that this week's holiday was planned.
Our hotel, as on previous occasions, is La Pergola A small family ran hotel in Barga, Tuscany.
Day 7, 19 June: Bomerano to Barga (and a first meeting)
Edwardo drove us from Bomerano to the railway station in Naples where we boarded a train to Pisa. From Pisa railway station we took the smaller train to Pisa airport where Julie's parents, Sandy and Graham, met us. We then drove to Barga, and my birthday present from last year (a Tom Tom GPS) got its first use outside of the UK. We arrived at hotel La Pergola late afternoon and checked ourselves in.
As with any hotel we found nothing unusual about there being people milling around in reception. However, as it very quickly became apparent, someone was here to meet us!
Antonio, Julie (Nth times removed niece) and Graham
Very few photos were taken of this first meeting - it had been a long and tiring day for all of us - but many more opportunities for pictures occurred throughout the week.
In the evening we went for a meal at our favourite restaurant in Barga: L'Osteria, ran by Riccardo Negri, for the best pesto on earth!
Day 8, 20 June: Walk to St. Pellegrino
Our first full day in Tuscany was free of any planned meetings with Bosis. We therefore did a walk to St. Pellegrino, after which we visited Castiglione Garfagnana. The walk was a nice easy 6 miles along the ridge to the north of Barga.
Off we go!
A little rough in places.
But generally on a good high track.
With great views of the mountains.
To finally arrive at the 1000 years old hospital for pilgrims: St Pellegrino.
And some refreshments.
One thing we did see on our walk, something that Julie and I had seen in Amalfi the previous week, was a sheepdog without a shepherd: dogs that are trained to look after and guide sheep without human control. The dog was not aggressive, other than barking and looking intimidating, and after it was happy that we posed no threat, simply went about the business of keeping the flock together and moving them slowly around the hillside.
Just as we had observed several times in Amalfi, the dog was white and was accepted by the sheep. The dog would move around the flock, keeping it together, and guide it around the hills!
Our drive back to Barga took us past Castiglione, a beautiful and ancient walled village.
There are in fact two walls from different periods: an inner older fortification surrounded by a wall built much later.
Day 9, 21 June: an ice cream and a few more Bosis
Midsummer's day, and in the afternoon we were to be visited by the person who found Sandy's letter on the gravestone 2-years ago. That gave us the morning to stroll around Barga, and partake of some of the best ice cream in the world!
The view from the cathedral of Barga.
Great Ice Cream!
View of Barga from the north.
Sandy and Francesca (and Daniella) discuss their family tree.
Graham and Mario (Francesca's husband) didn't allow lack of a common language to impede communication!
Bosi mothers and Bosi daughters
We were invited to come to Francesca's home in Coreglia (2-miles to the east of Barga), and to join them for an evening meal. And further information indicated that Sandy's grandfather lived in the village of Pedona di Barga, approximately one mile from Barga.
In the square at Coreglia: Graham, Julie, Davina, Mario, Francesca, Daniella, and Sandra
In Coreglia there is a museum dedicated to the figurine carvers (figurinari) that emigrated from the Barga area in order to escape the poverty endemic in the late 1800's. It was probably as such a sculptor that Sandy's grandfather left Italy and came to the UK.
Anyway, the afternoon became an evening and family ties were re-established!
As we left Francesca and her family in Coreglia we were told that tomorrow's lunch would be something special. Little did we know quite how special!
Day 10, 22 June: Many more Bosis!
We were to attend a lunch in Coreglia, organised by Francesca, where there was to be a family reunion. In the morning, as part of our drive from Barga to Coreglia, we visited the village of Pedona.
The church of Pedona.
Pedona was small and quite. And although we were told that this was definitely the home village of Sandy's grandfather, we still do not know which house he lived at, or indeed if it still exists.
At the appointed time we arrived at the restaurant in Coreglia. And Sandy immediately accosted this chap in the belief that he had to be a relative - he was sitting outside the restaurant, how could he not be a relative? He is probably blissfully unaware to this day that he was, for a few moments, a long-lost cousin of Sandy's!
As if from nowhere we are surrounded by a group of smiling faces!
Eventually Sandy gets a chance to hug a real long-lost cousin, Gianfranco - and it was all really very emotional.
There then ensued an almost endless eat-fest!
There were lots of smiling faces
So many new members of Sandy's family to meet, Emiliana and Stefano.
There was still one very big surprise for Sandy, Julie and the rest of us.
Late in the extended lunch Octavia was assisted into the restaurant, and at 94 was the nearest living link to Sandy and Julie.
It was all very emotional, and quite overwhelming.
Day 11, 23 June: Another lunch, this time at the home of Antonio and Emelia
We arrived at the home of Antonio. Luckily for us he was waiting at the side of the road to flag us down, or we would have driven right past it!
Great food and drink, all locally produced.
Sandy and Emelia, with her wonderful cakes.
Day 12, 24 June: On foot and bloated
After more than two days of non-stop eating and drinking, Julie and I had to get our boots on and walk off the calories!
Julie arriving at the ridge top
Julie admiring the view from the ridge
I, however, was simply glad to snooze off the calories
In the evening we were joined by Valerio and Tiziana who gave use more information and photos of the Bosi family
Day 13, 25 June: We take Julie's mum and dad on a walk they're unlikely to forget!
We remind Julie's mum that walking's not for wimps!
Sandy has a thing about BIG machines, or is it the drivers of big machines??
On route we pass an old watermill.
Finally we reach the coll and have to decide whether to take the Via Ferrata or the bypass.
We persuade Sandy that the bypass option should be taken.
Finally we reach the arch, our target for the day
And Sandy was overcome with the emotion of it all
It was a lot longer and harder than Julie or I had remembered. I think these two deserve a drink!
And a drink they indeed had - we couldn't stop Sandy!
It was a long day for us all.
Day 14, 26 June: Time to leave Barga
Julie and I were to take the train to Venice and then drive to the Dolomites. Sandy and Graham drove us to the railway station in Florence, and then they drove to Pisa to spend a couple of days. But first it was necessary to say goodbye to the folk of La Pergola
A big THANKYOU to Monica, Mauro, Patricia, Lilly and Anna for a very friendly welcome.