Guest post by Belinda

Lovely Belinda, who is currently living at Ponte a Serraglio, has written a post for us about a walk she did in August with guides Franz Della Mea and Francesco Foschi. Francesco took the beautiful photos of the scenery along the way.

A long walk to Lago Nero…by Belinda

Luckily the August day we chose for our long walk to Lago Nero was not too hot. Our destination is quite high in the mountains so we had to be careful to dress appropriately, you can never be sure of the weather in the mountains and it can change suddenly.

Our journey began at the base of Prato Fiorito. I was promised a long walk and my guides certainly gave it to me. Our uphill walk lasted for 5 hours.

Lago Nero is close to Abetone and we passed gorgeous scenery along the way. Sometimes looking over the edge towards Orrido di Botri was a bit ‘hairy’.

Admiring the view

Admiring the view

The upward journey seemed endless at times, but we stopped often to take in the magnificent views and to eat our Mars bars for energy.

A standout tree

A standout tree

More stunning scenery

More stunning scenery

We finally reached Lago Nero. The lake definitely looks black…hence the name. We were very close to Abetone, in fact we could see the cable cars and ski run tracks.

Happily on a downhill bit towards the lake

Happily on a downhill bit towards the lake

The lake is small and at quite a high altitude, 1,730 metres elevation. It is in the Provence of Pistoia in northern Tuscany.

The lake comes into view

The lake comes into view

Beautiful Lago Nero

Beautiful Lago Nero

Guide number 3, Rino, cooling off in the lake

Guide number 3, Rino, cooling off in the lake

We really deserved our lunch at the rifugio where we dined on cheese, bread and red wine. These rifugios are dotted through the area and do a great job for a small donation.

After an hour rest we struggled to get our tired legs moving for the 4.5 hour return walk…the only way home.

On the way back to Prato Fiorito we took in different details of the landscape. For instance,the many variety of mushrooms and colours…and found it fun hunting down a bag full of the small bright yellow ones which are a flavoursome ingredient with the right pasta. We also noticed patches of ‘dug-up ground and rustled leaves, evidence of chingali, but luckily the wild boar were nowere to be seen in the daylight.

The 9.5 hour walk was a bit gruelling at times but fabulously rewarding. A return visit is in order for next summer.

There are lots of amazing walks in the mountains around Bagni di Lucca. I will tell you soon of some others I have done.

Magnificent magnolias

The magnolia trees are in flower right now in Bagni di Lucca. The season is almost over and green leaves are beginning to take the place of the blooms.

There is a huge tree in Fornoli.





…another at Villa Fiori.







…and more in the park in La Villa. You can see the flowers fading and the leaves forming here.







My favourite one of all is the one behind the English church in La Villa.






What a pity we have to wait until next year for it all to happen again.

Tiglio tunnels in winter

The gorgeous Tiglio (Linden) trees form magnificent green tunnels on the roads leading into Bagni di Lucca in spring and summer.

I think they look just as wonderful in winter when their moss covered trunks and grizzled branches starkly show the way to Bagni di Lucca.







In just a few weeks spring will begin and the trees will turn green before our eyes…and in no time at all they will look like this.


A problem with chestnuts

Chestnuts have been an important part of the lives of the people of Italy for centuries. In times of famine they saved people from starvation. The trees provide wood for building, furniture and to burn for fuel.

There are approximately 850,000 hectares of chestnut forests in Italy, and around 39,500 hectares in the Lucca province alone.

So it is alarming that there is a disease attacking chestnut trees. Chestnut blight, or Endothia parasitica first appeared in 1938, but it the last few years the problem seems to be growing.

The disease appears a a lump at the base of the leaves.





The leaves die and the tree is then unable to produce chestnuts.

Let’s hope scientists can come up with a cure for this destructive disease. Apart from anything else, chestnut trees are beautiful. It is a delight to drive through chestnut forests in the mountains around Bagni di Lucca.






Do you know what a firefly looks like?

Every night fireflies are flickering in the dark. They are like pretty little fairy lights in the garden. Our friend Jim caught one and we had a close up look.



As you can see they are really tiny. The light comes from under the rear end. We let our firefly go and he took off and was soon shining his light once again in the garden.

The lovely Italian word for firefly is la lucciola…such a pretty little thing deserves a delightful name.

My friend Paolo told me that when he was young the children in his village used to catch fireflies because they believed they could turn into coins overnight. They would keep them in an upside down glass and in the morning there would be coins under the glass.

There was even a little poem about them.

Lucciola, lucciola vien da me
Che ti do il pan del Re,
Pan del Re e della Regina,
Lucciola, lucciola vien vicina.

Of course, he now realises that his mother put the coins there but he admits to spending many hours wondering how it was possible for such a tiny insect to produce money.

Evil ivy

Wherever I walk in the Bagni di Lucca and Garfagnana areas I see lovely old trees covered with ivy. Many people think this looks attractive, and while I think that ivy is a pretty plant, it is a pest when it wraps itself around trees. It eventually strangles the tree and kills it.

If the ivy is small enough and close enough I pull it off. The ivy on the tree below is now dying on the road beside the tree. I hate to see these trees destroyed.


Does anyone know why more isn’t done to rid the trees of this pest?

Bruno’s chestnuts

Autumn is chestnut gathering time in the Garfagnana. I went with Heather from Sapori-e-Saperi to visit the chestnut forest and metato (drying hut) belonging to Bruno Bertoncini in the Garfagnana, the mountain area near Bagni di Lucca.

Bruno’s chestnut forest is beautiful, and it shows what the cultivated chestnut forest looked like. These days they are mostly wild and not cleared as they used to be. Obviously if the trees are cared for they will give better chestnuts.



It has been a difficult growing season this year. Some of Bruno’s trees have blossomed 3 times instead of just once, as they should.


This tree has new growth and flowers at a time when the fruit should be ripe….strange.

There are many types of chestnuts, some are better for flour, some have better keeping qualities and some are good for roasting.



Before chestnuts can be ground to make flour they need to be dried. Bruno has a gorgeous metato which was busy drying chestnuts when we arrived. The nuts are dried for about 40 days. The fire has to be kept burning at just the right temperature for all this time.





The fire burns on the ground floor of the hut and the chestnuts are above the fire on a slatted floor.


The delightful Bruno told us lots of interesting things about chestnuts. He is a man who clearly enjoys his work.


The trees are pruned regularly. Here is a tree which has been pruned and has regrown.


I think Bruno has a delightful office. I’m sure the work is not easy, but imagine going to work here each day.





Bruno has a wonderful agriturismo called Collettino, near his chestnut forest where guests can stay in comfort and immerse themselves in this beautiful area.

And now for a few more chestnut photos.







Baby pomegranates were growing when I first arrived in Italy in September and now they are ready to eat…..another reason to love autumn.





Pomegranates are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B5, potassium and fibre (if you eat the seeds) and are the latest so called, super food.

You could drink the juice, or use the seeds in salads, knowing that it is doing you good, or you could do these things just because pomegranates are delicious.


There is to be a live nativity in Monti di Villa at 3.00pm on December 9. It will commence at the church in Monti di Villa and move through the streets of the village. It will be followed with food and drinks…….I wish I was going.

There is to be a bus taking people from La Villa. Please check for details at the information centre in La Villa.

Changing seasons


One of the things I love the best about Bagni di Lucca is the obvious change in the seasons. I come from a sub tropical climate where there is not a lot of difference.

There is a view that I have been photographing for a year to document the lovely changes.









I like all the seasons ( except when it gets really hot in summer ). Autumn is particularly lovely in Bagni di Lucca…..and it is about to start.