Montefegatesi is the highest of the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca. I think it is also one of the most picturesque.
Autumn is a great time to walk on the stunning wall that surrounds Lucca. The trees are losing their leaves quickly now. Soon the trees will be bare. Come for a walk…
This lovely old tree just outside the wall looks as though it is set for removal. It has been fenced off perhaps because there is a danger of falling branches.
I love walking through the tunnels and up the stairs onto the wall.
I was lucky to be there on a glorious autumn day.
Walking on the Lucca wall is wonderful in any season. Best of all Lucca is just 30 minutes from Bagni di Lucca.
Fornovolasco is a tiny village in the comune of Fabbriche di Vergemoli in the province of Lucca. It is one of many villages in the Garfagnana to be explored. It is 480 metres above sea level and has a population of fewer than 100people.
Two streams join in the village.
I crossed just past where they meet via a pretty bridge.
There is a delightful piazza on the other side of the bridge.
Several narrow streets take you through the village.
Across another bridge the streets climb steeply upwards.
Gardens are squeezed into small places.
I found a renovator’s delight waiting for a new roof.
The church was not open.
Back down the hill…
I found a tunnel leading to another group of houses.
The village restaurant, Rifugio la Buca, looks a bit like a Swiss chalet. It was not open the day I was there.
I walked back along the river to my car.
Every single village is different…there is always something interesting to see. Just past Fornovolasco you will find the Grotta del Vento.
I have now been in Italy for 8 months and because of flight cancellations and other Covid related issues it looks like I will be here for another 8 months, which gives me lots of time to explore.
The wonderful nearby region of Garfagnana is full of picturesque villages to explore. On a (rare) recent fine day I drove up to Lupinaia. The narrow turnoff to Fosciandora and Lupinaia is on the right, just before Castelnuovo when driving from Bagni di Lucca. I have been there before when I visited for the excellent chestnut festival, which won’t be happening this year.
I parked the car outside the village and walked up. The views across the Serchio valley are spectacular.
Lupinaia is ancient. It has been mentioned in manuscripts from the mid 700s. It is a tiny village…come for a walk with me.
A narrow street leads from the small piazza at the entrance of the village.
I passed a well designed wood stack, some red berries on a tree and a pretty garden.
I walked on towards the lovely green space where the people who live here can enjoy some gorgeous open space, with great views over the village.
I walked back and walked up the hill towards the church.
The church of San Pietro dates from 754AD and is mentioned in many medieval documents. There are treasures inside, but it was not open so I can’t take you in.
From the top, in front of the church the gorgeous valley can be seen below.
Along the way through Lupinaia I spotted some wonderful old doors. I am always curious about what is behind them.
There are several pretty decorations dotted through the village.
I don’t know how many people live in Lupinaia, but it is well cared for and obviously loved by those who do.
On the way down the mountain I saw another village…and more views, to be explored on another day.
Here is the post I wrote about the chestnut festival in Lupinaia. It is one of the best in the area.http://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/roasting-chestnuts-in-Lupinaia
I enjoyed looking back on the post. It was great to see Lupinaia full of people enjoying the chestnut festival on a gorgeous autumn day. I can’t believe it was 9 years ago. I miss these wonderful local festivals.
It is interesting to see how newcomers to Bagni di Lucca see our lovely town. Mark and his wife Katrina have recently bought a property here and he has taken some excellent photos of Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa.
I hope Mark and Katrina enjoy their new lives in Bagni di Lucca. It is always great to welcome new people to the area.
Boveglio is a village clinging to the mountainside not far from Benabbio on the road towards Collodi and Pescia. It belongs to the Comune di Villa Basilica and has a population of about 150 people.
Little of the ancient village is visible from the road. I parked at the top and walked down the steep path to explore. One of the first things I noticed was the lovely gardens, many filled with hydrangeas in bloom. My visit was a little while ago, so they are probably past their best now.
Come for a walk through Boveglio…
I came to the piazza where I found a bar beside the statue dedicated to fallen soldiers.
From the terrace I had an excellent view of the village and surrounds.
Then it was back up to the top.
Boveglio is delightful. The gardens are beautifully cared for. Most houses are built of grey stone, so it could quite drab without the riot if colour provided by the lovely flowers. Thank you to the green fingered gardeners who made this walk through the village so joyful.
When you have explored all the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca there are hundreds of interesting hamlets to visit in nearby Garfagnana.
Isola Santa is a partially submerged village not far from Castelnuovo in the Garfagnana. It was built in the Middle Ages, probably the 13th century, around a hospice for travellers and pilgrims.
The hospice was disbanded in 1575. It was brought back to life in 1608 and rebuilt as the church of St Jacopo, which still stands today. The detached bell tower was built in 1899.
In 1950 the construction of a hydroelectric station forced the inhabitants to leave. A dam was built and the old bridge and a mill were flooded. Years later some inhabitants returned and restored some of the buildings, but these days it is almost deserted.
It doesn’t take long to explore a Isola Santa…come for a walk through the village.
The best reason to come to Isola Santa is to enjoy the calm, clear water held back by the dam. It is a great place to have a picnic, eat at one of the restaurants or go fishing.
Isola Santa would be a lovely day trip from Bagni di Lucca.
The most recent guided walk I did was in La Villa, the central village of Bagni di Lucca. The walk focused on the English presence in Bagni di Lucca. In the early 1800s the area was a popular part of the Grand Tour. Many English came to visit and some stayed a while.
We began our tour at the most obvious place, the English Church in Via Evangelina Whipple.
The English community wanted their own place to worship. They had been meeting from 1829 in part of the Hotel Pellicano (now Hotel Regina). By 1838 they had a permanent pastor, Robbins, and requested permission for a church a year later. In 1840 Carlo Ludivico di Borbone granted that permission provided it did not look like a church.
Architect Giuseppe Pardini designed what was called a Palace for the English Nation. Its last activity as a church was in 1936 and in 1976 it became a library and archive centre.
The Teatro Accademico was built in 1790. It attracted famous performers and patrons from all over Italy. When the casino opened in Ponte a Serraglio in 1839 it was an important part of the social scene and took over as the place to go in the winter when the casino was closed.
In 1939 it converted to a cinema before reverting to live performance in the 1970s. It was restored in 1980 and holds regular performances, including hosting the Teatro Scuole each spring for the last 26 years. Students come from all over Italy to take part.
Circolo dei Forestieri, Foreigners’ Club, was built to cater for the number of foreigners arriving. The French court of Elise Bonaparte came first, then the English. A young Puccini played here. It was renovated in 1928. On the first floor roulette was played under the eye of Galeazzo Ciano and his wife Edda Mussolini. These days the upstairs rooms are used for events, exhibitions and meetings. The ground floor houses a restaurant.
We walked across the passerella built in the early 1900s. To get to the English cemetery.
In 1842 the Stisted family acquired 1800 square metres of land to build the English cemetery. The last burial took place in 1953 and the cemetery was closed. It fell into disrepair, but is being beautifully restored by a group of volunteers.
Is the the final resting place for many notable people, including the Stisteds who had a lot to do with the English community in Bagni di Lucca.
Marie Louise de la Remee, known as Ouida is buried here. She was a famous writer, born in Suffolk in 1839. She was a prolific novelist and an animal lover. She lived in Bagni di Lucca for a time and died in Viareggio in 1908.
Rose Elizabeth Cleveland was the sister of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd president of the USA. She was his First Lady until he married. During a visit to Bagni di Lucca during WWI she met, and became close friends with, Evangelina Whipple who was a wealthy widow. Together they did philanthropic work including building an orphanage.
They volunteered for the Red Cross with their friend Erichsen. Whipple helped during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. Erichsen contracted the flu and died several days after the war ended. Cleveland died several days later after nursing her friend. Whipple died in 1930 and was buried beside her friend.
The renovation work continues in the cemetery.
The guided walks have been an excellent initiative in Bagni di Lucca this summer. Thank you to all involved in their organisation.
There is still one more coming up on 23rd August.
La Notte di San Lorenzo falls on 10th August. For a few nights around this date the Perseid meteor shower crosses the Italian sky and people like to find a quiet, dark place for some stargazing.
The celebration dates back to Roman and Etruscan times. Catholics mark this day in remembrance of the martyr, believing falling stars represent the tears of San Lorenzo and the embers of the fire that burned him.
A lovely event was organised at Villa Web, in Bagno alla Villa. Participants were invited to come along with a blanket to sit on the grass in front of the Villa and, with some luck, spot a falling star and make a wish.
To make things interesting, the terme below and the Villa were open for guided visits.
The terme looked lovely lit up at night.
Villa Web is full of treasures.
The kitchen, in particular, appeals to me.
Upstairs are several of the games that are from the Casino in Ponte a Serraglio, the first purpose built casino in Europe.
There is another excellent collection on the top floor, where I will take you another time.
I didn’t see a falling star, but no matter. It was a delight to lie back and search the sky…a special way to spend an evening.
I am very impressed with the organised events this summer. Well done to all those involved.
On Sunday I joined a guided walk to the old houses in Bagno alla Villa, one of the older parts of La Villa, the main village of Bagni di Lucca. It was organised by the Fondazione Culturale Michel de Montaigne.
We began at the English church in Via Evangelina Whipple. To cater for the English community in Bagni di Lucca in the 19th century, in 1839 Carlo Ludovico, Duke of Lucca, granted permission to build the “Palace of the English Nation” as it was called. The building was designed by Giuseppe Pardini. The church is now a wonderful library, which is now closed because of the disruptions caused by Covid 19.
Across the road from the church is a path that takes you up to meet the road going to Bagno alla Villa.
There is a great view of the church from up here.
The view also includes La Villa and behind to San Cassiano.
The first Villa we came to was once the summer home of Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister. There were no gates in her day. People preferred there gardens to be open.
We walked on to Villa Mansi, built between 1622 and 1669 by the Mansi family, one of the families of the Lucca aristocracy.
On a wall beside the above entrance is what is believed to be an original Della Robbia. It is in excellent condition.
The next house is lovely.
The highlight of the visit for me was being able to go inside the Terme
The baths have been closed for many years. It is a great pity that these wonderful establishments have not been able to be opened and used. They could be an asset to Bagni di Lucca.
Above the Terme we came to Villa Web, where Lord Byron stayed in 1822. The house is sometimes open for events and it is full of wonderful things from Bagni di Lucca’s past.
Beside it is the house where his friend Percy Shelley stayed.
From this level there is an excellent view of the top of the Terme. These structures were added to bring light and ventilation to the baths.
We walked back down towards Via Evangelina Whipple.
I particularly liked this little garden corner.
We came to the stables for the villas, now apartments.
Through the gates beside the stables is Villa Ada, which we didn’t visit. Here are photos I took a few years ago. This is another house begging to be restored and put to good use.
I am really enjoying these walks in Bagni di Lucca. Thank you to the organisers.