Bagni di Lucca is a collection of 25 villages in the Lima Valley in Northern Tuscany. It has been called Bagni di Lucca since 1862. The commercial centre, and home of the comune, is La Villa, which sits beside the Lima River.
Pretty Ponte A Serraglio is one kilometre down river. The first casino built in Europe is here.
The railway station is at Fornoli, one kilometre further down river towards Lucca.
As well as these 3 hamlets there are many others dotted throughout the hillsides, including Benabbio, Lugliano, Casabasciana, Granaiola, about 25 in total.
Bagni di Lucca has been known for its thermal springs since Etruscan and Roman times. In fact, the name means “Baths of Lucca”. In 1101 the Countess Matilda had the nearby Ponte della Maddelena built so that she could more easily reach the health giving waters.
Since Lucca unified the area in 1308 and transormed it into a spa oasis it has been visited by people all over to ‘take the waters’. Its heyday was the early 1800s, when Napoleon’s sister Elisa Baciocchi, who was princess of Lucca at the time, built the road to the village as she liked to spend her summers there.
A casino was built and Bagni di Lucca became popular with foreigners. Writers and artists flocked to the area because of its beauty and climate. Byron and Shelley and the Barrett Brownings were among those who liked to visit.
The area is a great place to visit for some authentic Italian life, where in some cases, things haven’t changed much over the years. It is still possible to see a shepherd with his flock and vegetable gardens lovingly tended, especially in the mountain villages. Take the time to visit the outlying villages…you won’t be disappointed.
When you are in Bagni di Lucca look for an excellent book by 2 local men, Marcello Cherubini and Massimo Betti. It is full of detailed information about where to go, how to get there and what to see, along with some history of the area. You should be able to buy it at the information centre in La Villa and some of the shops and bars.