When you least expect it

This year summer showed up earlier than usual and unfortunately with really high temperatures. Even for the most avid sun worshipers it is difficult to come to terms with the heat. Stoic people face thirty six, thirty eight degrees Celsius with patience and a good ventilator, others rely on air conditioners.

For everyone, me too, the desire to stay outside is huge, for which reason on weekends people go to the sea or to the mountains trying to find some sort of refreshment.  I decided to drive up to the Garfagnana region in the heart of the Apuan Alps looking for something interesting to photograph and to write about. Of course, refreshing breezes of wind and bearable temperatures would have been highly appreciated.

A small hamlet called Isola Santa looked like a perfect place to visit.  I don’t really know why I ended up at Careggine after little less than two hours and endless curves. As per my satellite device it was the spot I was searching for. Unfortunately, however, there was no shadow of what looked like Isola Santa. The explanation from a passerby about where to go turned out to be rather vague.

Not sure about what to do I decided to drive back with nothing done. A little frustrated, too, because instead of the “freshness” I was sure to find up in the mountains I had to be grateful for mere, slightly “lower temperatures”.

On my way back I noticed a road sign leading to Vagli where a hydroelectric dam has been built in the nineteen-fifties. Unfortunately a nearby medieval hamlet called Fabbriche di Careggine got into the way and the inhabitants were moved elsewhere before the village was swallowed by millions of liters of water. Since its existence, the artificial lake has been  emptied only four times due to urgent maintenance works. That’s when the skeletons of the houses and the church reappear leaving a feeling of shiver, curiosity and awe.
I thought that maybe there was a faint chance to catch a glimpse of the village under the water, but no, there wasn’t. Quite honestly, besides a well-visited swimming pool there was nothing interesting if not for the “nun wellspring” with its freezing cold water.

By now I was taking into consideration to leave with nothing done. Then I saw Isola Santa written on a traffic sign and it felt like a gift from a lucky star. It would be possible to walk around the lake and take photos of the small village from different angles. It goes without saying that besides me, a thousand people have had the same idea and the chance to find a parking lot was equal to zero.

Enough was enough. It was time to drive to Forte dei Marmi and from there on the highway back home. At a certain point, about half way, I passed next to a marble cave. Out of the corner of my eyes I caught a glimpse of “Poe…” written in huge letters inside the cave. Of course I wanted to read the rest of the word to better understand the meaning, which, by the way, was poesia, the Italian word for poetry. Cars parked outside confirmed that it was possible to visit the cave.

In front of the entrance, high up, there was an old signboard still showing part of the name “Henraux”. Later I found out that the cave was known as “Le Tagliate”, and that it had been closed down in the nineteen-forties. The place, the huge size of the marble blocks, decades of total abandonment, nature taking back slowly slowly the spaces that have always belonged to her, everything was suffused by a mysterious atmosphere, far away from reality.

Other people have been captured by the strange beauty of the place, too. A group of artists belonging to the Glitch collective inspired by the “Theory of pure visibility” written by Konrad Fiedler (1841-1895), a  German art historian, used the marble walls as canvas. The exhibited works of art both for size and originality were remarkable indeed.

Further to this unexpected surprise I had the chance to watch a group of young  speleologists training. Some were true experts climbing up and down along the ropes almost like grasshoppers on blade straws. Others experienced for the very first time the meaning of pulling up the body with the only help of a rope, hands and feet.

No, I haven’t found freshness and my visit to Isola Santa will probably take place in November. But it was very special to see how a sad and abundant place returns to life with the help of young people filled with passion of passiona of art, culture and sport.

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