Verrucole, a fortress on a hill

The magnificent Fortezza delle Verrucole sits 600 metres above sea level above the village of Verrucole. It is 3 kilometres from the town of San Romano in Garfagnana. The fortress offers spectacular views over the Garfagnana valley and the Apuan Alps.

The fortress was built by the Gherardinghi family in feuding times around the 11th and 12th centuries. It was originally 2 buildings, Rocca Quadra and Rocca Tondo on each side of a hill and surrounded by a wall. It fell into serious disrepair until a 6 year restoration brought it back to life and open to the public. It is a wonderful glimpse into medieval life.

We visited on a cloudy spring day and walked up the path from the village.

There is a quaint ticket office at the entrance. A costumed attendant sold us our €5 tickets.

We walked up the steep steps to the tower, which had been very well restored. The first floor has been set up as if the original residents were still there.

The kitchen is particularly well done.

The top floor of the tower has information and history and great views from the outside terrace.

The toilet built into the outer wall might leave you a little exposed in winter.

We ventured to the other end of the site. There is a very good cafe that serves coffee and light meals.

We were able to have a little archery practice for the tiny sum of €3. Our friend Moira proved to be a natural and hit the target almost every time.

Jim tried too, but probably should keep his day job as an accountant. I am useless at things like this, so I was happy to watch.

We walked back through the village past an old church to the car park below…a last look at the Fortezza.

Fortezza delle Verrucole is very well presented and an interesting place to spend a couple of hours. The drive up to Verrucole is through gorgeous scenery. It is an easy day trip from Bagni di Lucca.

http://fortezzaverrucolearcheopark.it

Lucca cathedral renewed

The impressive San Martino cathedral in Lucca has had its facade cleaned recently. On my last visit it was covered in scaffolding. I was happy to see it uncovered and looking wonderful.

San Martino Lucca

The church was begun around 1070 and has had many additions over the centuries. The facade was started in 1204. There are 3 magnificent arches with open galleries above adorned with sculptures.

San Martino Lucca

San Martino Lucca

San Martino Lucca

There is a legend to explain why the columns on the facade are different. When the residents of Lucca wanted to decorate the facade they began a competition and invited artists to create a column. Many artists created columns and the residents decided not to select a winner but used all the columns and didn’t pay the artists.

The labrynth embedded in the right pier of the portico is believed to date from the 12th or 13th century.

San Martino Lucca

The original of the sculpture of San Martino, who was a knight on horseback, dates from 1233 and is inside the cathedral. The one on the facade is a copy.

San Martino Lucca

I’ll take you inside in another post.

 

Faces at Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio is an incredible spectacle. The amount of organisation any work to pull this event together is huge. The floats are stunning, the costumes are fabulous, the music thrilling, but what I like most is the fun and enthusiasm of the participants and audience.

Here are some of my favourite faces from this year’s event.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

See much more on Carnevale Viareggio on Bagni di Lucca and Beyond.

https://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/carnevale-viareggio-2019/

Grotta del Vento

The Grotta del Vento, wind cave, is a cave in a mountain in Garfagnana, an area in the Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany. It is near the towns of Fornovalasco and Vergemoli. (About 35 minutes from Bagni di Lucca) The cave has 2 entrances, one at 642 metres above sea level and another on the other side of the mountain at 1400 metres.

It is a wind cave because air is able to blow through the cave from one entrance to the other. The direction of the wind depends on the temperature outside the cave. In summer, when the air outside is warmer, the air is drawn through the higher entrance and out of the lower entrance. In winter the reverse happens and the air flows upwards. If the temperature outside is the same as inside there is no wind. The temperature inside the cave stays at around 10.7degrees C all year. A heavy door has now been installed to stop the flow of air, but you can certainly feel it once the door is open.

The cave is open for visitors. There are 3 guided tours available. The first is the one I did. It takes about 1 hour and explores the part of the cave lined with limestone formations. Fascinating stalactites and stalagmites glisten as you walk along the narrow path which takes you deep into the cave.

The entrance.
Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Just for fun a large skeleton of a bear has been installed near the entrance.

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Soon the door is opened and we enter the cave.

The narrow paths are lit and you can see the stalactites and stalagmites and pools of water. There are steps occasionally, but it is not too strenuous and there are hand rails for safety.

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

You can see some tiny ones beginning to form. It would be necessary to come back in a few hundred years to see much of a difference. Most take about 1000 years to grow 10 centimetres.

Grotta del Vento

At one point the guide turns off the lights so that you can experience total darkness. It is quite an eerie feeling.

The second tour takes 2 hours and a descent is made into an area without limestone formations but interesting forms of erosion on the walls. The third one takes 3 hours in a vertical shaft which is climbed from the bottom to reach a final chamber at the top, followed by a short underground tunnel.

The cave was first discovered in 1989 by children exploring the area. The only one small enough to climb through the entrance was a 4 year old girl. The others opened the entrance a little, but were too frightened to go further than 20 metres into the cave.

The first expedition for research purposes was organised in 1929 by the Florentine Speleogical Grouo of the Italian Alpine Club which stopped at about 60 metres from the entrance by water.

The Bolognese Speleoligical Group got further in 1961 after a prolonged dry spell. Other expeditions followed until 1975 when the explorations extended to 2470 metres and the cave was opened to tourists. Now there are 4 galleries known with at least another 20 branches to be explored.

The guided tours are well organised and the guides are very knowledgeable. There is a shop and a restaurant nearby, so it would be easy to spend several hours here.

See more on the Grotta del Vento website…grottadelvento.com

Goats on the move

One of the things I really enjoy about Bagni di Lucca is occasionally coming across traditional farming activities.

In the area behind Montefegatesi on the way to Orrido di Botri it is not unusual to come across a large herd of goats, with the occasional sheep, being brought in for the evening after a day foraging in the forest.

It doesn’t even matter when the road is taken over for a while.

Goats

Sheep

Goats

These goats are milked to make cheese, a labour of love for the couple responsible. I wonder if young people will step up to keep these jobs alive or will they eventually be lost.

 

La Sosta

La Sosta, near Pescaglia, is a bit of a drive from Bagni di Lucca, but is a great place for Sunday lunch.

La Sosta

The little restaurant is nestled into a pine forest beside a church.

La Sosta

There is an outdoor eating area for sunny days.

La Sosta

We visited on a cool autumn day and chose to sit in the cosy indoor area.

La Sosta

It isn’t a big room and it was soon packed.

La Sosta

The food is great! Porcini mushrooms and pumpkins are in season so it made sense to order some. The pasta below has pumpkin and spicy sausage…delicious.

Pumpkin risotto.

Scaloppine with porcini mushrooms.

La Sosta

Excellent fried vegetables.

La Sosta

The table next to us ordered a feast.

La Sosta

La Sosta

La Sosta is open through the week for dinner and Sunday lunch. It is in Pascoso,via Pescaglia or Fabbriche di Vallico.

Phone…0583 357657