There are many trekking buffs and mountain lovers that come to Garfagnana to climb or simply to admire the peaks of our planet, especially those of the Apuan slopes.
Going from north to south, we find Mount Pisanino, surrounded by the peaks of Pizzo d'Uccello, Mount Grondilice and Mount Roccandagia. Heading further south we catch sight of the Tambura, Alto Sella, Mount Sumbra and Mount Altissimo that borders the group of the Panie and the Corchia mountains. Even further to the south is Mount Forato and the Matanna.
Imagine returning from the Sun King’s Palace at Versailles, outside Paris, and thinking, “I must have some gardens like that !” . . . .and then being able to . . .
Villa Torrigiani is situated in the most beautiful countryside NE of Lucca towards Montecatini. In 1636 the villa was bought by Marquis Nicolao Santini. The Marquis was ambassador for the Republic of Lucca at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. The Marquis was so impressed by Louis XIV’s gardens that he employed Le Notre – mastermind of Louis’s gardens - to create them at Villa Torrigiani.
Only a small part of these gardens remain – the Gardens of Flora and the Grotto of the Winds are especially attractive. Le Notre designed two large fountains which were to reflect the Baroque façade of the villa. Fashions change, however, and much of the park was altered later into an “English Garden” with sweeping lawns and trees instead of the very intricate parterres and terraces. I feel that both styles are lovely – in very different ways.
The villa, is beautifully kept, is still in private hands, and is one of the loveliest places I have ever seen. The inside has beautiful frescos and furniture and a “trompe l’oeil” window – a window which seems to be in three dimensions - by the Lucchese artist Pietro Scorzini.
Visiting times: 1st March – 1st Sunday in November.10.00 – 12.00 and 15.00 – 17.00.
Summer 10.00 – 13.00 and 15.00 – 19.00pm. Closed Tuesdays. Guided tours of the villa.
Price: 9 euros – park and villa. 7 euros – park.
Directions: From Lucca via Pesciatina (SS435) until junction for Camigliano, follow signs for the villa. From A11 exit for Capannori, follow signs for via Pescia and then for the villa. Parking in the grounds.
Imagine having the vision, the labour force, and the financial clout to carve gardens out from a hillside – and not to need planning permission either !
Garzoni gardens are about 20 km north east from Lucca at Collodi, not far from Montecatini. Collodi is the home of the Pinocchio legend – where there is a visitor centre and parking.
The palace was being restored when we visited in July 2004 and I believe is being turned into a hotel. The gardens, also undergoing extensive restoration, seem to “tumble” down a hillside. They were built over 170 years and reflect changing ideas and the desire of different generations to contribute to the estate. In its time this must have been one of the most flamboyant of private estates.
A description of the gardens in 1652 describes a labyrinth, a stream bridge, terracing, a wood divided by parallel paths. In the 18th century the cascade, the green theatre, parterres and two circular fountain basins at the entrance were added. What a play ground !
The “parterre de broderie” – created at the end of the 18th century near the two circular fountains - has been restored, research found that coloured sand, and not seasonal flowers were used, so this has been put in place. In the 18th century a parterre made up of coloured stones was created, only the Garzoni Coat of Arms and Monogram are left – proudly set out on the hillside.
This is an ongoing story, restoration of the massive palace was in full swing and it was totally off limits. Some of the gardens had been beautifully restored and work was continuing. The statuary on the higher levels was still in a sad state of decay and the Bassine – wood divided into parallel paths – had become very overgrown.
We shall visit again one day. If we won the lottery, maybe we could stay there !
Entry price: 5.20 euros (July 2004) for the gardens.
Opening times : 9.00 am until 1 hour before sunset.
15th November – 15 March - Saturday and Sunday and holidays – you would need to check about the holidays.
The City Botanical Garden could be a nice spot to have a rest without having around all the mess of people (tourists and locals). It is not a big park but very quiet, with a lot of plants (obviously!) and a nice pond.
The Botanical Garden is in Via dei Fossi just beside the Walls.
Jan-Mar, Nov, Dec: mon-fri 9.30-12.30
April: mon-fri 10.00-13.00, 15.00-17.30
May, June: 10.00-13.00, 14.30-19.00
July, August: 10.00-13.30, 15.00-17.30 September: 10.00-13.00, 15.00-18.00
October: 10.00-13.00, 15.00-17.00
Saturday and Sunday closed.
On the marble mountains over Versilia there is this small tiny village famous for his particular product: the "Lardo".
The Lardo it's a particular part of the pig grease. Colonnata people used to put it in small marble boxes with herbs, salt and pepper for some months. This was the base for the day meal of the ancient querrymen working in the marble querry around the town.
In Colonnata you can buy this famous food for a lower price respect to the shops in Lucca and the other cities.
If you come to Lucca in August you shouldn't miss this trip. A hike on the top of "Pania della Croce" peak to have a sight of the sun rising from the sea.
You have to do a 2 hours hike through woods and green slopes until you reach the Rossi Refuge just under the peak. Than you can choose if climb the peak (1 hour) and sleep on the top under the big iron cross or sleep in the refuge and start the climb at night to arrive at the cross just before dawn.
You need to be a bit trained to do this hike but no need of special equipments, just a pair of trekking shoes.
Ask the tourist office in Lucca for a map and for the path to follow to reach the refuge.
At the end of Via Elisa there is this villa. Not opened for tour or visit, it hosts the newspaper and photograph city archives and sometimes several kind of exhibitions.
The nice park is opened all day long and in summer is often used for concert of classical music.
In this old palace belonged to Guinigi family is the city historical museum. The whole history of Lucca and its surroundings is represented here by several handcrafts, paintings and sculptures going from the Romans Age to the late Renaissance.
Beautiful roman and medieval marbles are in the well kept gardens near the Walls.
On the top of the San Michele church there is a statue of the archangel Michele.
If you stand on the right corner of the square (on the right facing the facade), just outside the very perimeter, you can see in the summer night a sparkle glittering on the angel's hand.
On the opposite side of Piazza San Michele respect to Via Fillungo there is Piazza Bernardini with his homonymous palace.
IF you look at the first window of the ground floor you can see a stone bended like it was iron: it is called the "Devil's Stone".
The legend says that Mr. Bernardini was peruaded by the Devil himself to build the palace where a holy image took place. During the construction a stone of a window of the ground floor started bending and there was anything that could stop it.
Near about Lucca there are several opened old villas. Those villas are usually open for wedding celebrations or other kind of important party. In spring and summer it's possible to visit the huge beautiful gardens and, in some of them, also the buldings.
The most famous are located a few kms North-East far from the centre (Villa Reale in Marlia, Villa Mansi in Segromigno and Villa Torrigiani in Camigliano).
You should ask the tourist office for opening time.
AKA Ponte del Diavolo (Devil's Bridge) this bridge is located in Borgo a Mozzano, 10-15 Km far from Lucca towards Garfagnana.
His name is due to its shape, so incredible to let people say it has been built by the devil.
Every halloween night there is a popular fest in which a carriage containing a puppet of Lucida Mansi (a rich lady of Lucca who sold her soul to the devil to keep her beauty for ever) is thrown down the brigde.
In this building, that once was a church, there is the old town market. There are several food shops (butchers, grocers and so on) and some craft shops.
The exterior appearence is little bit scruffy, but it's going to be restored by the fine arts office.
It's really characteristic and a few lucky tourist can see it because is out of the main path.
It's a few step far from the middle of Via Fillungo in the very centre of the town.
Villa Garzoni in Collodi is described in our guidebook as the 'greatest "palazzo in villa" of the region'.
Unfortunately, it was undergoing extensive renovation in July 2004, so we didn't see it.
The gardens are open though (5.20 euros). Dating from the 17th century, these are also being restored.
This villa dates from the latter part of the 16th century, and was enlarged and transformed at the start of the 18th century by Alfonso Torrigiani. Visits to the house are by guided tour. There are original frescos in the rooms, and fine furniture.