This is another fascinating and
characteristic part of Tuscany. The mountains near Lucca.
There is no denying that Garfagnana is different and captivating!
This land of Tuscany is a real environmental miracle, an "unicum"
that springs from a happy coincidence of factors: it looks
like a harsh mountain landscape, but it leaves room for broad
valleys. It is beautiful in every season and if in winter
it is at its most spectacular, with the snow-covered peaks
forming a breath-taking sight, in summer it suddenly bursts
into bloom. Here we find blue gentians, white jonquils, creamy
asphodels and scarlet peonies: every corner is like a naïve
art work, a splash of colour enlivening the pastel green of
The zone of La Garfagnana is known for its
mushrooms (including the rare prugnoli primaverili) as well
as roasts. Barga is known for its black and white truffles.
There is the tireless and
immutable work of nature which, throughout the centuries ,
has left tangible traces everywhere, such as the fascinating
and only canyon in Tuscany: the
Orrido of Botri.
A deep calcareous gully created
by Mother Nature’s indefatigable work throughout
the millennia, where the waters of Rio Pelago run
The Orrido of Botri can be visited with
nature guides or, if our mountain knowledge allows us,
by ourselves equipped with everything you need for a very
demanding excursion, with obliged crossings through
the ice-cold (even during the summer) waters of the torrent
and challenging passages on the rock.
The Valle del Serchio also produces a farinata
which is half polenta and half minestrone.
A trekking tour through the Garfagnana and
Apuan Alps of Tuscany is an hiking paradise ! An ideal choice
for an healthy and invigorating holiday in tuscany !
enlarge the garfagnana area map
Driving north from Lucca along the S12,
you get an idea what to expect - the road snakes along the
side of the river because there isn't really anywhere else
for it to go. Every few miles, the current side of the river
will become a sheer cliff face and the road will take refuge
across the water, often via a small stone bridge which clearly
wasn't designed for modern traffic.
In this long valley of the
lucchesia another natural beauty attract visitors and
all those who love nature in its multifacetedness: the Grotte del Vento (wind
Tunnels, burrows, underground lakes, that lose themselves
and criss cross in the depths of the earth.
To get deeper into Garfagnana you take a
left on the S445. All of the earlier characteristics of
the road are now doubled, as the peaks of the Apuan
Alps rise almost 2000m/6500 feet into cloud.
Undaunted by the
gradients, the slopes either side are dotted with villas,
in locations which appear to be beyond the reach of any
normal vehicle. In fact, a diversion along a side road will
reveal a series of tight hairpin bends allowing the road
to wind precariously up to heights which will, when you
look back down, make you dizzy.
Situated in the north of the region Tuscany,
la Garfagnana is a valley very close to some of the most historical
centres such as Lucca, Pisa and Florence.
This valley originates
from the Serchio river and the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano, which
give to the valley a sort of different pictures and colours
thanks to the mixing of people, traditions and landscapes.
The capital of this northern slope of the
Apuan Alps away from the coast is Castelnuovo
di Garfagnana which sits at an important crossroads for
travellers cross between the Appennine and Apuan mountain
Garfagnana still belongs
to the time of fairy-tales, because certain villages are
still as they were a hundred, even two hundred years ago.
The Apuan Alps are the most characteristic element in the
territory, being in sharp contrast with the nearby Tuscan-Emilian
Apennines. So we find little shelters for shepherds on the
high pastures and a nevertiring succession of churches,
hermitages, castles and fortresses. All seems to blend with
the environment in a perfectly natural way. It is an exciting
experience to pursue the myth of the mountain along this
slope of the Apuan Alps.
This brings us to Campocatino and its sheep
pens, against the mighty mass of the Roccandagia . Then
to austere, lonely Fornovolasco, overlooked by the Pania
della Croce and the Pania Secca. From here, following a
narrow gorge, we can admire the Hermitage of Colomini ,
enclosed by sheer walls: it is a place of prayer and worship,
known since the thirteenth century. As we follow the paths
that lead to the Valle dell'Acqua Bianca we can "breathe"
the marble in the air: the road leads to just below the
peak and the mountain has been excavated for thousands of
years. Marble hereabouts is still both matter and culture,
like at Arni, on the north face of Monte Altissimo, which
Michelangelo would have liked to transform into a huge sculpture
visible from afar.
In winter these mountains attract a large
number of skiers. It is certainly exciting to wander through
woods and valleys with skis on your feet, watching your
tracks grow longer over the untrodden snow. "Ski-capital"
is put to good use in traditional ways too, with ski lifts
at Passo delle Radici and Casone on the Apennines, while
in the Apuan Alps the ski lift goes from Careggine to the
The Garfagnana is
the area occupying the middle and upper stretches of the
Valle del Serchio, surrounded by the Apuans and the Appennines.
It was already inhabited way back in prehistoric times.
Much later it was subject to the rule of the bishops of
Lucca and Luni. From 1429, a large part of the territory
came under the dominion of the Estensi, who nominated the
poet Ludovico Ariosto as governor.
We can start exploring this valley by visiting
the village of Borgo a Mozzano, close to which there is
the asymmetrical Ponte della Maddalena, better known as
the Ponte del Diavolo ('Bridge of the Devil'). In the village
itself, there is the Parocchiale di San Jacopo and the Convento
di San Francesco.
On the other side of the river Serchio there
is the ancient thermal baths centre of Bagni di Lucca. Its
greatest period of prestige was in the 18th and 19th centuries
because Charles I of Bourbon opened the first casino in
Europe here, attracting many well-known figures including
Byron, Shelley, Dumas pere, Rossini, and Puccini.
As you travel towards Barga, you come to Coreglia Anteminelli,
where there are two interesting Romanesque churches, San
Martino and San Michele; but its main claim to fame is the
Museo della figurina di gesso dell'emigrazione, a museum
of plaster figures, housed in Palazzo Vanni.
Nature Creek in Garfagnana
It is the most important town in the Valle del Serchio and
today is a commercial and industrial centre. There was already
a flourishing production of valuable fabrics here in the 12th
century. The medieval town centre with its partially-intact
walls lies on a spur above the modern part of the town called
Barga Giardino. The ancient Duomo is at the topmost point
of the historic town centre in a grassy piazza, from which
you get an extensive view of the surrounding mountains. Begun
in the 9th century and dedicated to San Cristofano, it was
heavily damaged by a serious earthquake in 1920, though it
has subsequently been restored. more details
The capital of this mountain area, has origins dating back
to the 8th century. Until 1429, it was under the dominion
of the Republic of Lucca, then it was ruled almost uninterruptedly
by the Estensi until 1814. The earthquake in 1920 and then
the Second World War devastated the ancient town centre. Nowadays
Castelnuovo is an industrial centre.
Castelnuovo (277 m s.l.m.) It is the chief town and the heart
of the green Garfagnana the northern part constitutes some
valley of the river Serchio contained between the mountainous
buttresses of the alps Apuane and the Appennino. Km. is being
far from Lucca and the Versilia 40 Km. more
A good place to visit at all times of the year. The resort
has six chair lifts which are tested to the full during the
The " Farro garfagnino "
The cultivation of farro (spelt) has been an economic resource
for the Garfagnana since Roman times. Recently rediscovered,
it can now be found in restaurants throughout Italy.
Spelt can be served hot or cold in
a variety of different recipes. Besides the traditional
soup, in the Garfagnana there is also a recipe that mixes
spelt with rice; they are cooked separately then mixed
together and flavoured with salt, pepper, nutmeg, cheese,
and lemon rind. Other exquisite ingredients are the vegetables
grown in the area, in particular the erbi (grasses) that
grow spontaneously in fields and which can be eaten either
raw or cooked; they are also excellent as a basis for a
tasty frittata (omelette).