Having had the privilege of visiting this impressive little part of Italy, I have invited an expert, DebraÂ KolkkaÂ from BagniÂ di Lucca and beyond to share some insiders tips. Tip: fly to Pisa! Ciao, Mrs O
BagniÂ di Lucca is a collection of pretty villages in northern Tuscany in an area called the Garfagnana. It is roughly 25 kilometres from Lucca, one of the loveliest towns in Italy.
The road to BagniÂ di Lucca was built by Napoleonâs sister Elisa Bacocchio, who was Duchess of Lucca for a time. She liked to spend her summers in Bagni di Lucca, where she would Â âtake the watersâÂ in one of the many thermal springs in the area.
The road from Lucca follows the winding SerchioÂ river. The spectacular river valley is dotted with small villages and the views of the magnificent ApuaneÂ Alps make the drive a delight in any season. About 3 kilometres before BagniÂ di Lucca, at BorgoÂ a Mozzano, is the stunning PonteÂ della Maddelena, or Devilâs Bridge.
Just past the devilâs Bridge, the SerchioÂ and the Lima river come together, and Fornoli, the first of the 3 villages that form the main part of Bagni di Lucca, comes into view.
One kilometre up river is the hamlet of PonteÂ a Serraglio, the most picturesque of the villages along the river.
La Villa, the commercial centre where there are lots of shops and restaurants, is another kilometre up river. There are 25 small villages in the surrounding mountains, making up the wider Bagni di Lucca community.
PonteÂ a SerraglioÂ is an excellent place to base yourself to discover the area. There is a good selection of hotels, B&Bs and apartments to choose from –Â Villa RoselenaÂ B&B, Hotel Corona, Bridge Hotel and the AnticoÂ AlbergoÂ TermeÂ at BagniÂ Caldi.
I would suggest being up bright and early toÂ start the day with an excellent cappuccino and one of Annalisaâs delicious pastries from Bar Italia or Il Monaco. Take the time to sit at the bar and watch the village come to life.
After breakfast take a walk and discover the sights of PonteÂ a Serraglio. The first casino in Europe was built here in 1837. It was renovated several years ago and now looks just as it did when Puccini played there and it was visited by the VIPs of the day. There is a cafe and a restaurant and there is often live entertainment in the evenings.
Cross the passerellaÂ in front of the casinoÂ to Villa Fiori. If you are lucky there will be a local festival in full swing.
Walk up to BagniÂ CaldiÂ and make an appointment at the thermal springs. It is possible to use the natural steam grottoes, one of which was the personal steam grotto of Napoleonâs sister. Rumour has it that Napoleon joined her on occasion. Follow up with a hot stone massageÂ or one of the many theraputic services on offer.
From BagniÂ CaldiÂ you can walk through cool chestnut forestsÂ and over the hill to La Villa. Wander through the grounds of Villa Ada, once the home of the DeâNobili family. In summer it is possible to swim in the open air pool fed by thermal springs while taking in the spectacular view of the surrounding mounains.
There are lots of choices for lunch in La Villa. Trattoria Borghese is excellent value at about 6 euros for delicious local fare. We also like Osteria della Piazzetta. They specialise in fresh, local produce and have excellent wine.
While in La Villa, call into the information office (open in the mornings, not Sunday) in case there is a performance at the local theatre, or an exhibition at the CircoloÂ dei Forrestieri. It is amazing how much happens in this tiny place.
Then walk back to PonteÂ a SerraglioÂ for a gelato and a rest, or a treatment at the spa, before an aperitivoÂ at Bar Italia. RistoranteÂ Vinicio, beside the bridge,Â serves excellent wood fired pizzas for dinner or wander up to La Villa to Del SonnoÂ and try Jayneâs delicious saltimbocca.
The next day you could take a drive to Lucca or some of the surrounding mountain villages. If you donât want to go that far, the Loversâ Walk along the river at La Villa is delightful. There used to be a walking path all the way from La Villa to PonteÂ a SerraglioÂ and recently part of the walkway has been restored. It is dedicated to the Barrett BrowningsÂ who spent a few summers in Bagni di Lucca.
Go across the walking bridge to visit the English cemetery and wander through the wonderful old headstones. The English church in La Villa now houses a library with some excellent historical material.
These are just a few suggestions on how to spend a couple of days in lovely BagniÂ di Lucca. Of course, there is much more toÂ see if you have more time, but do take the time to smell the roses â or pansies. There is a reason why Bagni di Lucca has been popular with artists and writers for centuries. Peace and beauty and a sense of history are still drawing people to the area.
Debra Kolkka â http://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com
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