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Garfagnana area: the mountains north of Lucca

To the north west of tuscany can be found an area of outstanding natural beauty, and faultless hospitality: Garfagnana. This area does allow access to the traditional tourist cities of Lucca, Pisa, and - at a push - Florence, but its appeal lies more in its isolation, its lack of tourism and its striking scenery. As such, it works better as a second week destination so you can recover from the strains and stresses of queueing, white-knuckle driving and getting ripped off. For those who want to see a piece of real Italy, traditional, but not stuck in the past, it cannot be beaten.

GARFAGNANA: 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 pastures.

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 through.
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 !

Click to enlarge the garfagnana area map
Click to 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 caves). 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 ranges.

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 Sumbra.

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

Barga more details
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

Castelnuovo Garfagnana 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 details

Abetone village
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 skiing season.

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).

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Ramparts gates of Lucca Le Mura

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Garfagnana area

The Garfagnana green mountains north of Lucca


Bagni di Lucca

Borgo a Mozzano


Castiglione garfagnana


Cave of the wind



Orrido di botri


wildlife refuges

Garfagnana , Apuan Alps Lucca


Hotel residence in Lucca

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Around Lucca
Camaiore Capannori Altopascio Pescaglia Pietrasanta Porcari Camaiore Massarosa Montecarlo Villa Basilica Torre del Lago Puccini
Garfagnana mountaign bagni di Lucca Barga
Lucca charming country hills


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Lucca charming hills around Lucca Versilia coast Garfagnana Camaiore Forte dei Marmi Massarosa Montecarlo Pescaglia Pietrasanta.


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Open area Map

Orecchiella Park
Visitors Center - Reception phone 00390583 619098

Castelnuovo Garfagnana
Visitors Center
for visit phone 00390583 644242

Visitors Center
for visit phone 00390584 75821 (tel. exchange) 00390584 756144 (info)

Forno di Massa
Visitors Center
for visit tel. 00390585 315300

Alpine Club
cortile degli Svizzeri, 18 00390583.582669

Castelnuovo Garfagnana

Forte dei Marmi 00390584.89808



Mountain Community offices
of the Garfagnana via vittorio Emanuele, 9 Castelnuovo Garf. 00390583.644911

of the Garfagnana via comunale delle scuole, 30 Segromigno 00390583.926533

of the Media Valle del Serchio via Umberto I Borgo a Mozzano 00390583.88346
fax 00390583.88248

zona Nord area lucchese
via Cavallerizza, 11 00390583.492151

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