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

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.

Chestnut polenta

I have revisited Il Totto in Elio Sassi in nearby Garfagnana to enjoy their version of cucina povera again. The restaurant famously served chestnut polenta and ossi salati, which translates as salted bones.

Once most of the meat has been removed pork bones are soaked in brine for a few days then boiled.

Il Totto

There was a large table near us and their polenta was delivered on a board and cut using a special tool.

Il Totto

Il Totto

Il Totto

Il Totto

Il Totto

Il Totto

Il Totto

They serve other things as well. I had ravioli with ragu and fried chicken a rabbit…delicious.

It is a lovely drive up to Elio Sassi. The views are glorious from the village. I highly recommend a visit.

Wings drying in the sun

If you look closely at this photo you will see 2 birds standing on the wall in the river at Ponte a Serraglio.

Ponte a Serraglio

One is a cormorant (I think. I am happy to be corrected)  The black bird was drying his wings in the sun. He wasn’t there long before he flew off, no doubt looking for lunch.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

It always surprises me to see seagulls on our river, but I suppose it is not all that far as the crow (or seagull) flies from the sea.

Green buds are beginning to appear on the trees. Spring is underway.

Ponte a Serraglio

The sun is shining, but there is a fierce wind blowing.

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.

 

Amazing Lucca

It is always great to hear about young Italians starting a business. It can be very difficult to get a new enterprise up and running in Italy.

I was delighted to meet Federica, who, along with her husband, has set up an adventure tour business in Lucca called Amazing Lucca.

Federica Amazing Lucca

As I walked with Federica she told me of their love and passion for the area and their desire to introduce people to a side of Italy they might not otherwise enjoy. With a minimum of 2 people and no more than 12, they will guide you through Renaissance villas, medieval churches, stunning countryside, vineyards and glorious mountains.

On foot, or on a mountain bike you can discover secret places off the beaten track with people who know the area. Meet locals and taste the produce of this incredible land. Trudge or ride up rugged mountains and find hidden streams, enjoy enchanted forests and breathtaking landscapes. Federica and Alessandro will guide to to spectacular places.

Alessandro is the mountain bike guide and Federica is the nature and walking guide. Even if you live in the area this would be fun, but what a great way to introduce your visiting friends to the area.

The tours are graded from easy to demanding, meaning there is something to suit everyone.

Take a look at their excellent website. It is in Italian and English.

http://www.amazing-Lucca.com

Via Del Campaccio, Lucca.

info@amazing-lucca.com

Federica…(39) 338 7901829

Alessandro…(39) 340 2798654