Cascio and chestnuts

October and November are great months for autumn festivals in the mountains. I attended several this year and one of my favourites was the one in Cascio.

Cascio is a tiny village in the Garfagnana. It is of early medieval origin situated on the ancient road linking Modena and Lucca. These days it is a sleepy village basking in the Tuscan sun. It has some wonderful ancient building and they are well preserved.

Cascio chestnut festival

Hundreds of people descended on the village on the day of the chestnut festival. The little square was full of stalls selling all sorts of interesting things.

People gathered on the grassy field waiting for the chestnuts to be roasted and the food prepared.

Below the village there was another area for food preparation…and eating. The cooks were kept very busy making the pancakes and putting the plates together.

Above the village beside the castle sweets were served. I stopped on the way to admire the view.

Cascio chestnut festival

The old castle looks wonderful. I will go back one day to explore further.

Cascio chestnut festival

Cascio chestnut festival

As I was about to leave a group of musicians and dancers put on a fine show and I stayed to watch.


The Cascio festival is one of the best I have attended. It was a perfect sunny autumn day and everyone had a great time.Look out for it next year. I’m sure you will love it.

Cascio chestnut festival

Cascio chestnut festival

Eat well at Trattoria Bonini

Trattoria Bonini  is to be found along the old pilgrim road to Castelnuovo at Monteperpoli. The place has been in the same family for a very long time, and it became their main activity from the 1950s.

Trattoria Bonini

The interior is very charming and there are shady outdoor tables.

Trattoria Bonini

Trattoria Bonini

Bonini is well known for its good food, especially mushrooms gathered in the area. In the 1990s the family decided to upgrade the restaurant and have sought to provide quality meals using the best produce. They do an excellent workmans’ lunch, but I really like their A la Carte Menu.

I have been a couple of times, and intend to return to work my way through the menu.

My primo piatto of anchovies was delicious…served with buttered bread and sweet peppers.

Trattoria Bonini

On another visit I had the porcini mushrooms with fried polenta.

Trattoria Bonini

The trout with pistachio sauce and fried asparagus was excellent.

Trattoria Bonini

I had seen the ravioli stuffed with burrata on a previous visit, so I had to try that. The photo was taken outside under a coloured umbrella, which has reflected on the ravioli, giving it an unnatural colour. I can assure you, it was heavenly and may become a regular choice.

Trattoria Bonini

My ricotta and pear tart was light and delicate…and absolutely wonderful.

Trattoria Bonini

Trattoria Bonini has been voted the best restaurant in the area by many and I am not surprised.

Trattoria Bonini,

Via Monteperpoli 147.

Phone (39) 0583 639425

www.trattoriabonini.it

Gorgeous Ghivizzano

Not far from Bagni di Lucca is the lovely hilltop town of Ghivizzano. At the gateway to the magnificent Garfagnana, the town dates back to the 900s.

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The town is dominated by the castle on top of the hill. The arched entrance at lower end of town takes you through covered alleyways and through winding cobblestone streets up to the church and castle.

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Of course, the views are beautiful from the high position.

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We wandered slowly upwards.

We were there on the day of a festival in the courtyard in front of the castle…a perfect place to hold an archery competition in full costume.

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It is possible to climb the tower at the castle, so of course we did.

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Keep an eye out for festivals at Ghivizzano. The castle is a great venue and it really gives you an idea of life in different times.

Eremo di Calomini

 

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This beautiful white sanctuary set into the edge of a rocky cliff just past Gallicano, has been around since about 1,000AD. The church is carved into the rock and has been expanded over the centuries to include the presbytery and the sacristy. The double colonnaded facade was added in the 18th century.

The Calomini hermits took care of the sanctuary until 1868 and now it is in the care of the Lucca Capuchin Fathers. They have done a great job… take a look.

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The wooden doors are beautifully carved.

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The interior is beautiful.

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You can clearly see that the church has been carved into the rock.

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The view from the front of the hermitage is wonderful.

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To get to the Hermitage, take the road to Gallicano, then look for the signs to Vergemoli and La Grotta del Vento. The sign for the Hermitage is about 1 kilometre past the end of Gallicano. It is not always open, so it is a good idea to phone ahead. 39 0583 767003.

There is a parking area beside the sanctuary. Look for the excellent restaurant just a short walk from the parking area where they serve delicious meals, especially local trout.

www.eremocalomini.com

 

Local news…

There will be a celebration on Saturday 23rd August for the conclusion of the exhibition of textiles, Nodi della Memoria, at the Casino in Ponte a Serraglio. Fesivities begin at  17.00 with the opening of the exhibition; at 21.00 there will be a shop and at 22.30 there will be music and refreshments on the terrace.

To book, please phone Tina: 0583 805815 (9.00 – 12.00) or Gemma: 349 8499704

 

Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano

This is a great place to eat not far from Bagni di Lucca, on the way to Castelnuovo. Osteria al Ritrovo del Platano is a Slow Food restaurant at Ponte di Campio. The chef is Mauro Bertolini and he prides himself on providing delicious local food in season…special tastes of the Garfagnana. The food is both traditional and innovative.

I discovered it one wet, cold day on my way to Castelnuovo. The entrance doesn’t really give any idea of what you will find inside. The restaurant is quite large and well set out.

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The workman’s lunch is one of the best in the area, and amazing value at 10 euro.

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I ordered the pasta arrabbiata, fried trout and peperonata.

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I didn’t leave much.

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There were some very delicious looking desserts available, but I couldn’t fit anything else in, so I just had a coffee.

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I have been back for dinner, which is also excellent. The prices are a little higher, but worth every centesimo.

There is a small parking area on the side of the road on the Gallicano side of the restaurant.

www.osteriaalritrovodelplatano.it

Lunch at Al Barchetto

Not far from Bagni di Lucca on the road to Gallicano, Al Barchetto is a great place to have lunch. I have passed it many times and finally made my way there on a lovely autumn day.

The restaurant is set beside a fishing lake.

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The interior is bright and cheerful, and the service is much the same.

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We ordered the workman’s lunch for €10 and it was excellent.

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The restaurant has a tradition of home style cooking and quality service. Their hand made tordelli has been mentioned a few times by those in the know, so I am going to order that next time. We saw some very delicious looking meals being delivered all around us…maybe a few visits are necessary.

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The summer outdoor setting had just closed when we were there. In summer it would be wonderful to sit by the lake.

Al Barchetto. Via Magenta 71

0583 75773

The edge of Tuscany

Not far from Bagni di Lucca, there is a road through the mountains called Passo delle Radici. It is part of the border between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. It is a place of many signs.

It was a cold autumn day when we drove through the beautiful mountains. There was a distinct difference between the Modena side and the Lucca side.

Here is what greeted us from the road looking towards Emilia Romagna.

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This was on the Tuscany side of the mountains.

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In between is the tiny town of San Pellegrino.

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There is a wonderful olld church there with 2 pilgrims in an elaborate glass case. Click here to see an earlier post about them.

The views from the edge of town are spectacular and the drive up there is excellent. It is about 1 hour from Bagni di Lucca, taking things slowly to enjoy the view.

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