Lupinaia in Garfagnana

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.

A walk in Cocciglia and Pallegio

On Sunday I joined another of the guided walks to some of the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca. This time the walk took us to Cocciglia and nearby Pallegio.

We began at the bottom of Cocciglia.


First there was a small detour to Ponte Nero, the old bridge that crosses the Lima River at Strette di Cocciglia.

From the bridge you can see the stunning Strette di Cocciglia, a beautiful part of the river,  now the home of Canyon Park adventures.


We were able to see inside the Oratorio di San Rocco, the little church dating from 1532, at the beginning of the bridge.

Then it was back to the path towards Cocciglia. The village was named after a late Roman settler called Caucilius or Cocilius. Along the way we saw some well kept farm plots and this very stylish little shrine.


Just before the path that takes you up the hill to Cocciglia is the Oratorio San Michele, dating from the 13th century, with its well kept cemetery.


Across from the Oratorio is the path to the village. This was the only way to the village before the road was built in the not too distant past.

 




From the path there is a good view of Pallegio, the village we visited next.


Our first stop at the beginning of the village was here.

We walked along a tiny laneway where the wall was covered with caper plants.

Cocciglia is a maze of tiny streets with archways and tunnels, the remnants of old defence gateways into the town. Houses are tucked inside these structures. The doors to keep enemies out are long gone, but you can see where they were.

This wall of a house is ancient. It could tell some stories.

We kept going up towards the parish church dedicated to San Bartolommeo.

Some of the construction is Roman with additions in medieval times.


 

You can see the repairs and additions in this wall at the base of the church.

We arrived at the top of Cocciglia.

In the church is a cross depicting the crucifixion.

From the top we walked down the road to drive to Pallegio. Before the town is the Oratorio di Santa Maria della Quercia, with a stunning interior. These precious churches have to be firmly locked to prevent theft of the treasures inside.




From here we walked down a leafy path to the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge, part of the ancient path between Cocciglia and Pallegio.

Just past the bridge is a remnant of the Roman path.

On one of the stones is the mark of the man who placed it all those years ago. It is amazing to me that I can stand on a path that has existed for 2000 years or more.

Further up the hill is the tiny town of Pallegio.
Very few people now live in the village and the parish church is now closed. We stopped for refreshments and spoke to some of the friendly people from the town. It would be sad to see these villages become empty. Let’s hope some people come to buy the old houses and bring new life.


 


 

 


On the walk back to the car there were excellent views of Cocciglia and Casoli in the distance.

…a last look at Pallegio.

Once again the walk was great fun and very informative. Thank you to Antonio and Virgilio for sharing their love and knowledge of these beautiful villages. We are so lucky to have these intact, authentic places to explore in Bagni di Lucca.

There are more walks to come.

San Cassiano walking path

On Saturday the Alta Via dei Pastori was opened. The walking path takes you from San Cassiano to Monte Prato Fiorito.

The mayor officially opened the path.

Aldo Lanini from Pegaso Trekking was the initiator and the one who brought together a group of people to organise the project.

San Cassiano di Controni was once the most populated of the Bagni di Lucca villages. It is the largest in area with several hamlets.

The information board tells the story.

This is a wonderful initiative. There are dozens of old mule trails between the villages of Bagni di Lucca. It is the perfect way to see this gorgeous area. I’m sure this new path will be put to good use.

Thank you Agostino for being there and taking the photos to share.

Blue sky over Cocciglia

Cocciglia looks stunning from the SS Brennero, especially under a gorgeous blue sky.

Cocciglia is just one of the wonderful villages that make up Bagni di Lucca. Each one of the ancient villages has something special. Click here to see a list of the villages. There is a link to a post on each of the villages I have visited.

Make the most of your visit to Bagni di Lucca

I am often asked for ideas on what to see in Bagni di Lucca. This can be a little complicated because Bagni di Lucca is not one town, but a collection of villages scattered on either side of the Lima River in quite a large area. There are around 25 villages.

It also depends on how long is the intended stay and whether a car will be available.

For a one day trip from Lucca without a car I usually recommend taking the CTT from Piazza Verdi to Ponte a Serraglio, one of the villages along the Lima. Stop for a coffee at Il Monaco or Bar Italia in the little piazza.

Bar Italia

Il Monaco

Walk up the hill to Bagni Caldi to visit the Jean Veraud Terme, where people have been “taking the waters” for centuries. The road is a little steep, but you can stop along the way to admire the view.

Ponte a Serraglio

If you book ahead you could enjoy one of the treatments, a deep marble bath or the steam grotto, one of which was the personal steam grotto of the sister of Napoleon.

Bernabo Spa

Terme Jean Veraud

Keep walking up the hill towards Colle and take the path down the other side to La Villa, the commercial centre of Bagni di Lucca and the home of the Comune. In summer the beautiful pool is open, offering a swim with a wonderful view.

Bagni di Lucca pool

Have lunch at one of the many restaurants and perhaps take a walk along the river where Elizabeth and Robert Barrett Browning liked to walk when they visited Bagni di Lucca.

Lovers walk

From there it is possible to catch a bus back to Lucca. You could also walk along the river for about 2 kilometres to Fornoli, have an aperitivo at Cafe Catena, say hello to Paolo, and take the train back to Lucca.

Cafe Catene

For those staying longer it is important to know which village your accommodation is in. The 3 villages along the river, Fornoli, Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa, are easily reached by public transport. The others are not as easy to access. There are only a couple of buses a day from La Villa. You will need a car, or hire a taxi (which will need to be done in advance) or arrange transport with your landlord.

Without a car it can be difficult to access the outer villages. It is possible if you carefully coordinate the buses. Ask for help with a local or try the information office in La Villa.

If you have a car there are some truly stunning villages to visit. Each one is different and beautiful in its own way. Some have a restaurant or a bar, but many do not. I have visited all of the villages and if you go to the top of the page and click “Villages” a list will appear with a link to each one.

Be aware that the mountain roads are narrow and winding. There isn’t a lot of traffic and once you get used to driving on the roads you will be rewarded with spectacular scenery.

Mountain road

The villages are centuries old, some of them were settled by retiring Roman soldiers. Some have changed little and offer an authentic view of Italian life from times past.

Montefegatesi is the highest of the villages at 842 metres above sea level. Park on the edge of town and take the walk to the top to the statue of Dante for some of the best views over the mountains. Stop for a snack at the bar in the central piazza.

Montefegatesi

Vico Pancellorum has an excellent restaurant, Buca di Baldabo, which serves delicious home made pasta and local produce.

Buca di Baldabo

If you are up for it there is a steep walk to the top through cobblestone streets, rewarded with pretty views. Look for the ancient church at the bottom of the village.

There is a lovely walk from Pieve di Monte di Villa down to Ponte a Serraglio. Take the bus up, explore the village, have lunch at the Refugio Fiori and take a leisurely walk down through the beautiful forest. It is especially delightful in spring and autumn.

Luccio is the last village in Bagni di Lucca. In fact you leave the Lucca province briefly and enter Pistoia, before turning back to the road to Lucchio. The village clings like a limpet to the side of the mountain. It is said that hens in Lucchio lay square eggs to prevent them rolling down the slope.

Lucchio

Climb to the top to see the ruins of an ancient fort.

La Rocca Lucchio

Take a walk through the English cemetery in La Villa (take the walking bridge near the theatre) and look for some famous names. Some dedicated locals have been slowly restoring the graves to their original state.

English cemetery

If you are lucky you will be in town for one of the many festivals in the area. Check this blog, ask at the information centre or look for posters in the local bars to see what is on.

If you click “Eat” at the top of the page you will find a list of the restaurants in the area and a link to a post about each one.

Go back through the archives. I have been collecting stories about Bagni di Lucca for  5 years and there is quite a bit of information about the villages and what to see in the area.

If you have any specific questions I will try to answer them or direct you to someone who can help.

 

Postcard pretty

A couple of posts back I showed you some photos of Montefegatesi. A friend sent me a photo of a postcard of the village covered in snow. I don’t know when it was taken but Montefegatesi looks great with a white blanket.

Montefegatesi

 

I don’t think it will be a white Christmas in Montefegatesi this year. Merry Christmas anyway and have a wonderful 2017.

Montefegatesi in the autumn sun

If you take the road to Montefegatesi that goes past Monti di Villa and keep your eyes peeled you will spot a perfect place to stop to get excellent views of this gorgeous village. I went with friends in November and was rewarded with this lovely sight.

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

 

Montefegatesi

Mintefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Every time I visit Montefegatesi I am reminded of the tenacity of the early settlers to these mountain villages. They must have been made of stern stuff.

 

Presepe in Pieve di Monti di Villa

The living nativity in Pieve di Monti di Villa was a great success. Lots of people attended and got into the spirit of things. I was unable to attend as I am currently in Australia, but luckily my friends Teri and Charlotte were there and took some photos.

Presepe Pieve Monti di Villa

Valerio Ceccarelli also captured the event.

Presepe di Monti di Villa

Presepe Pieve di Monti di Villa

Presepe Pieve di Monti di Villa

Presepe Pieve di Monti di VillaPresepe Pieve di Monti di VillaPresepe Pieve di Monti di VillaPresepe Pieve di Monti di VillaIt is wonderful to see so many people take part and to see a crowd of people enjoying the event. These local festivals are a delightful part of life in the villages of Bagni di Lucca…long may they continue.