A wet day at Devil’s Bridge

I took this photo of the wonderful Ponte della Maddelena through the windscreen of the car. (I wasn’t driving).

It is a pity there isn’t a footpath on the road near the bridge. It could be done. A small foot path could be built beside the road, over the river. It would make a great viewing platform.  I tried walking along the road once…never again!

Here are a few photos I have taken of the fabulous bridge over the years.

I took the photos below years ago with my first digital camera. It must have been 2004. The conditions were perfect.

Whatever the season the bridge looks great.

The bridge was decorated for the 150th anniversary if the unification of Italy.

The bridge always looks stunning. Fortunately it never changes…everything around it does.

Anyone fancy a burger?

We all love Italian food, but sometimes it is good to eat something else. Who doesn’t love a good hamburger? Eataly has opened a “Hamburgheria” in Via Fillungo in Lucca, and the hamburgers are great. You can have your burger cooked to your liking, rare, medium or well done, the bun is good and it is all well presented. (The chips could be better)

As you would expect from Eataly the cafe is very stylish.

They also have pastries and desserts…to be tried on another visit.

This is well worth a trip to Lucca.

Eataly…91A Via Fillungo, Lucca. It is in a courtyard off Via Fillungo, so you might need to look carefully to find it.

 

Osteria I Macelli

The translation of I Macelli is The Slaughterhouses. I am guessing that the site of this excellent restaurant was once an abattoir. The bright yellow building sits beside a little stream behind the main commercial area of Borgo a Mozzano, the village near the Ponte della Maddalena.

Osteria I Macelli

The restaurant is one of our favourite places to dine, with good reason. The food is very good, the setting pleasant and the service is friendly and efficient.

image image image image image

To get there, drive down the one way street in the centre of Borgo a Mozzano and turn left at the sign for the restaurant.

I look forward to many delicious meals at I Macelli when I return to Bagni di Lucca very soon.

 

Castiglione di Garfagnana

After I left Pieve Fosciana I drove a little further on to Castiglione di Garfagnana which sits at 545 metres above the Esarulo River, a tributary of the Serchio River.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

The town dates back to a Roman Castra, called Castrum Leonis (Lion’s Castle), built to oversee the valley that leads to the San Pelligrino Pass. The castle was built between1170 and 1227. It became Lucca’s most important garrison in the Serchio valley. In 1390 the “Rocca” or castle was extended and towers were built.

Some of the Rocca remains and you can walk through the narrow streets of the town to the top.

There is a road around the edge of the town outside the wall, offering excellent views of the castle and the surrounding countryside.Castiglione di Garfagnan

I entered the town through the Porta del Ponte Levatoio. It was mid afternoon and the town was deserted, leaving me to wander alone.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

I went up into the old castle for some gorgeous views over the town.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

Coming down from the top I came across the Church of San Pietro which was built in 723 by 2 Lombard brothers, but was rebuilt in the 12th century by Bishop Guido of Lucca.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

Castiglione di Garfagnana

I walked on through the pretty streets as it began to rain.

Castiglione di Garfagnana

Castiglione di Garfagnana

I will return when the town is a bit busier, I am sure there is more to discover.

 

 

Il Pozzo

Bagni di Lucca is on the edge of the Garfagnana. The area lies between the Apennine and Apuan Alps in the upper valley of the Serchio river. It is almost entirely mountainous and heavily wooded.

It is also dotted with pretty villages, which will take years to discover. I recently visited Pieve Fosciana. It is tiny, with a cluster of houses around the church of St John Battista, one of the most ancient in Garfagnana.

Come for a little walk through Pieve Fosciana…

There are lots of narrow cobble stone laneways and pretty gardens, the usual interesting doorways and building decorations.

Pieve Fosciana

Pieve Fosciana

I was impressed with this house in particular. The residents have gone to some trouble with the facade.

Pieve Fosciana

Pieve Fosciana

The main reason for my visit to Pieve Fosciana was to try restaurant Il Pozzo. I have heard it is one of the best in Garfagnana.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

They have an indoor dining area and a very big terrace. I was the first there for lunch, but it soon filled up, mostly with local workers. You know a restaurant is good when the locals arrive in number.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

Il Pozzo Pieve FoscianaThe restaurant prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients served in a traditional way, with a slightly modern twist.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

I ordered the pasta with lobster.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

Followed by guinea fowl with truffles…they were both excellent.

Il Pozzo Pieve Fosciana

The service was very friendly and I could see that most of the other patrons were regulars. They also do a workmans’ lunch for a set price…I will try that next time.

If you can drag yourself away from the very good restaurants in Bagni di Lucca, try Il Pozzo, I’m sure you will like it.

Antique market in Lucca

If you are looking for antiques, or interesting old things for your home, garden or wardrobe head off to Lucca on the third weekend of each month for the Antique Market.

The vendors are spread over the streets surrounding Piazza San Giusto, Piazza Antelminelli, San Giovanni and more. There are around 230 vendors in the second oldest market in Italy you can find all kinds of treasures.

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique market

Lucca antique marketLucca antique marketLucca antique market

Quite a few great things have found their way to my house from the Antique Market.

 

Honey and more

The area around Bagni di Lucca and the nearby Garfagnana produces delicious honey. In spring and summer the mountains are filled with flowering trees bees love, especially acacia, tiglio and chestnut.

My friend Heather Jarman took me to visit delightful Francesca, who keeps bees on her agriturismo, Al Benefizio near Barga, to see the busy little bees in action. Chestnut trees were coming into blossom and the bees were out collecting nectar.

Each beehive has between 40,000 and 60,000 bees working to produce honey. Once they have filled their own hives with honey to feed the community the beekeeper puts more levels on top and the industrious creatures keep working to fill those too.

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

The nectar is loaded into trays of wax honeycomb. Each of these trays can be filled within a day. There are scout bees who fly out and find suitable flowers. They fly in a 3 kilometre radius of their hives and like to take nectar from the most numerous blossoms. When the nectar from these blossoms is exhausted they will move onto another type. This is how it is possible to have honey from a single blossom. The beekeeper needs to watch to see when the blossoms they want honey from are at their most prolific.

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Once the filled trays are collected they are put into a machine which scrapes the wax off.

Al Benefizio

They then go to a centrifuge which spins the honey out of the frames. Francesca uses no heat to process her honey. It is allowed to settle slowly to allow sediment and wax to go to the top or bottom of the honey.

Al Benefizio

Wax from the honeycomb is melted down and collected in blocks. Francesca then sends these books to be melted and turned into new bases for the bees to work from to build new cells for the honey. The bees could do this themselves, but having a good start allows them more time to do other things. There is one group of bees whose only job is to flutter their wings in front of the wax cells to evaporate the water from the nectar until it is the right consistency for honey…they are a very organised community.

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Francesca took us to one of her gorgeous old wooden tables under the cover of strawberry grape vines to sample her delicious honey. She drizzled acacia, tiglio and chestnut honey on pecorino cheese for us to try.

Al Benefizio

La Benifizio

La Benefizio

The acacia honey is light and almost clear. The chestnut honey is much darker and has a much stronger flavour. Tiglio, or linden, is somewhere in between.

Francesca’s bees work hard on her gorgeous property which overlooks Barga…what a spectacular view. Guests also get to enjoy the view and the lovely gardens which surround the cottages. I would love to stay here and pick the cherries from the trees. Soon there will be plums and figs ripe for the picking. There are also olive trees and a prolific vegetable garden.

La Benifizio

There are 3 apartments to rent at Al Benefizio.  La Stalla has 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and a wonderful private terrace with a spectacular view.

Al Benifizio

Al Benifizio

Il Fienile has a bedroom, bathroom, living area, kitchen and balcony.

Al Benefizio

Il Governo is a double room with bathroom. It was not available for me to see, but I’m sure it is just as lovely as the others.

Guests are free to wander in the terraced gardens, swim in the pool, meet Jubi the donkey, say hello to the chickens and tiny wildlife and delight in this gorgeous part of Tuscany.

Al Benifizio

Al Benifizio

Al Benifizio

Heather and Francesca work together to introduce visitors to a part of Tuscany they might not otherwise see. I visited Al Benefizio in late spring, a wonderful time to see the area. I think spring and autumn are the best seasons to see our beautiful area, you avoid the crowds and the countryside is at its very best.

Al Benefizio is a great place for weddings…and wedding photos. I think the old bed filled with hay is brilliant…these photos came from Francesca.

 

 

 

Al Benefizio…www.albenefizio.it

Heather Jarman…www.sapori-e-saperi.com