Well, folks, we’ve survived yet another week and starting a brand new weekend! And … today is the first day of FALL! 🍂 It’s been a week, alright, and I’m half tempted to bury my laptop and phone in the backyard for a few days, just to have some peace, but we all know that won’t happen. But for this morning, we will step back from all the angst … in fact, let’s just leave the country for a bit and head somewhere different. How does Italy 🇮🇹 sound to you?
Hop aboard the Filo-mobile, for we are heading to Montecatini Terme in the province of Pistoia, Tuscany, in central Italy. The town is best known for its spa, but that is not where we are going today … for we have but a short time, and who wants to waste it sitting in smelly ol’ water twiddling their thumbs? Instead, we are going to ride the funicular railway to the medieval village of Montecatini Alto. The funicular was inaugurated on June 4 1898. Celebrities, including famed opera star Giuseppe Verdi, attended the grand opening. The celebrated attraction ran safely up until September 2, 1944, when retreating soldiers set off explosives that damaged parts of the tracks. Service didn’t resume until 1949.
The funicular closed again in the 1970s. It reopened again in 1982 and has been continually charming passengers ever since. Take a ride in one of the classic red cars, and you can sit upon rustic wooden benches or stand on the balcony to take in amazing views of Tuscany’s countryside.Wave! Just a short ten-minute trip … look at that view! Breathtaking, isn’t it?And here we are … the village of Montecatini Alto! Let’s take a stroll down the streets of this ancient village, shall we? At one time there were gates all along these walls, with a “porta” or door corresponding to each one of roads that entered into the castle. Today many of these roads bear the name of the door or gate. Some of the 25 towers have remained, built into more modern structures such as the main square, S. Maria a Ripa’s convent or the bell tower of the church and the fortress.See that clock tower in the back? That’s the De’ Lemmi Tower, one of the more interesting towers with a 19th century clock in the style of “Roman Clock” with only 6 numbers on the face. Here you will see displayed 12, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10.And lets pop into this café for a cup of coffee before we head to our next destination, shall we? Now wasn’t that a peaceful place to be … I already feel better.Well, there are still several things I want to see here in Italy before we head back, so let’s go to Cappanori, for there is a tree I want to show you. Yes, Joe, I said a tree. Yes, I know you have trees in your backyard, but not like this tree!
According to one local legend, witches once gathered at the 600-year-old oak. They danced wildly atop its gnarled branches, transforming the plant into a stage for their chants and ceremonies. Supposedly, their rituals stunted the tree’s growth and warped its shape, causing it to reach outward rather than upward.The old oak inspired another story, too, this one more familiar to children around the world. Carlo Collodi once sat beneath its behemoth branches while penning several chapters of The Adventures of Pinocchio. It inspired the scenes where the famous puppet meets the Cat and the Fox and where he is later rescued by the Blue Fairy after being hung. As such, one of the tree’s other names is Quercia di Pinocchio (Pinocchio’s Oak). Now, it just so happens that within this area there are other sites related to the story of Pinocchio. And since, for some strange reason I seem to have a fixation with Pinocchio these days, let’s go visit them!Welcome to Collodi, home of Pinocchio Park! Although Disney’s version from 1940 featured the same basic premise as the original, Collodi’s Pinocchio was a dark fantasy tale that presented an entirely different world than the story that was embraced by families and children throughout the 20th century.
In 1951, the concept of creating a monument to Pinocchio was presented, and 84 artists from around Italy submitted works for approval. Although only a few were chosen, the Pinocchio Park was born. In 1956, the park opened its doors, featuring a wide range of artistic expressions of the classic story. As the park evolved, artists added a number of mediums, working with mosaics, statuary and even fountains.
The most popular work in the park is the fountain of the Terrible Dogfish, a creature envisioned by Collodi and portrayed as a whale in the Disney film.And last, but not least, I want to show you one more thing before we begin our journey home. Here in Collodi, stands the tallest wooden Pinocchio in the world! He stands 63-feet-tall, and this statue is very special. Constructed in 2008, it is dedicated to the UN convention on the rights of a child, an international human rights treaty that protects, among other things, the cultural rights of children. The occasion was marked with a written call for the European Constitution to include the principles from UN Declaration of Children’s Rights, particularly its concerns about education and culture.Well, folks, it is time to say ‘good-bye’, or more appropriately addio, to Italy, for it is Saturday morning and I know you all have plans. But we will be back! I love Italy, don’t you? I hope you all had fun today … I certainly did! And to keep you occupied on the journey home, here’s a bit of fun …
Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!