Out and about in Tuscany

by Carl Scott, March 3, 2019

We really are situated in the most amazing location, with so many fabulous places for you to to visit. 

We’re building up lots of info about all the exciting places you can visit in the area. This is just a starter for the time being.

We’ll be giving you info on ‘Grand Days Out’; there are a lot of places that you can combine on a day trip. Tricky if you don’t know the area but luckily we do! Here’s a little taster though for now:


Lucca

The historic centre and cobblestoned streets of this stunning Medieval City are an absolute must and I won’t forgive you if you don’t include it during your stay!

Lucca in Tuscany

Lucca is a real gem, and we are so lucky that it is just 20 minutes from our house. It has such a relaxed feel about it. Actually that’s a Tuscan thing!

The well-preserved Renaissance walls of Lucca have broad, tree-lined pathways along the tops of these massive 16th- and 17th-century ramparts. They make for a lovey walk or bike ride. You can hire bikes easily just inside the city walls at Porta Di Santa Maria.

Casa di Puccini, where the great opera composer was born, is now a house museum and Lucca is steeped in Puccini’s history.

There are some amazing shops in the cobbled via Fillungo, which is my favourite street within the city walls. They also have some fabulous, well-placed coffee shops. There’s a wonderful restaurant along it called L’Oste Di Lucca. It’s a traditional Trattoria and Pizzeria

Outside the walls, is the neighbourhood of Liberty villas that surround the city centre, and there are some very impressive houses!

Perhaps due to the fact that its packed medieval centre is still nearly all intact, Lucca has become a genuinely fantastical setting. In the last few years, the city has become an important summertime destination for music due to the Lucca Summer Festival, which features some of the most noted artists on the international scene.

 


Montecarlo
(Not the Principality of Monaco) Half an hour or so from ‘Trebbio’. High up on top of a hill to the East of Lucca, Montecarlo is stunning.

Holiday Cottage in Tuscany near Montecarlo

It’s only a little village but clearly geared up for discerning tourists as there are loads of nice restaurants to choose from. And very little else.

You can walk around the entire place in half an hour, with views in every direction, including snow-covered mountains to the North.


Bagni Di Lucca

Half an hour from the house. As you can see from this photo, the town of Bagni Di Lucca is set deep in the Garfagnana valley, also on the River Serchio.

Bagni Di Lucca in Tuscany

 

Our house is to the start of the valley in the South, and Bagni Di Lucca is one of the first towns you come across as you drive North.

There’s a range of shops, cafe’s and bars here, as well as a number of restaurants. But mostly I love this view!


Chifenti

It’s just across the river from Bagni Di Lucca. Blink and you’ll miss is. It’s a mix of residential and industrial in the main but there is a tiny little ‘centre’ with a handful of shops and bars.

Chiefenti in Tuscany

But the reason I recommend you stop here is this bridge, the Ponte Delle Catene.

I wouldn’t suggest you plan a trip to Chifenti as it is so small, but if you’re passing to Bagni Di Lucca, Borgo a Mozzano, Barga etc further up the Garfagnana, then just stop for five minutes and take in the bridge.

Fun fact; the keys to the house were cut in a tiny little hardware store in Chifenti. Ok, that wasn’t much fun, but it was a fact! And the guy in there was very friendly. Didn’t speak a word of English but we managed.


Borgo a Mozzano
A quaint little town half an hour from the house. You drive through it to get to Bagni Di Lucca.

There is free public parking just on the edge of town and a bunch of little independent shops, including what seems to be a tiny street, mostly made up of shoe shops!

Borgo a Mozzano in Tuscany

 

As you can see, it’s very much narrow, cobbled streets, with crumbling old traditional Italian architecture.

It’s certainly not a day trip as it won’t take you long to look around, but worth stopping off for a coffee on your way along the Garfagnana.


Ponte Della Maddalena

Ponte Della Maddalena
Named after Mary Magdalene, whose statue stood on one side, this is also known as Ponte Del Diavolo (The Devil’s Bridge).

It stands just outside Borgo a Mozzano and is just an amazing example of Medieval engineering. You can park right next to it and take your pics, as well as walk over it. It really is (in my opinion) very beautiful.


Pisa
45 mins from the house. Basically famous for a piece of architecture that went horribly wrong! But it really is well worth a visit.

Less than an hour from the house but as you will fly in, then you may decide to capture this iconic city on your first or last day. The Leaning Tower and its neighbour, the Duomo are an absolute must when you stay with us in Tuscany

The Leaning Tower and its neighbour, the Duomo are an absolute must when you stay with us in Tuscany. And you have to take the obligatory tourist pic of you pretending to hold the tower up.

I broke with tradition last time I was there and took this one instead!

Pisa in Tuscany

You can walk up to the top of the tower on the inside, which is well worth doing. You can actually feel which side of the building you’re on as you wind your way up the steps (200 or so from memory) as you lean one way, then the other! The views from the top are amazing.

Pisa has an elite university, making the city rich from a tourist perspective, with bars and cafes, which mingle in well with the gothic and renaissance buildings, which are in abundance.

There’s a great botanical garden and museum in Pisa called Orto e Museo Botanico. It’s a walled garden with plenty of palm trees and lots of flora typical of the Apuane Alps, which lie to the North. It also has vintage greenhouses, a wonderful herb garden, and over 30 varieties of orchid.

 

Fun fact

The first time I went to Italy as an adult I went to Pisa years ago. Went into a bar and I ordered two lattes as one might here. Don’t forget that translates to ‘milk’ though. So I got 2 hot milks, which if course, being British, we dutifully drank! It’s a ‘Cafe Latte’ if you actually want coffee in it!!!


Livorno

Livorno in Tuscany

This historic port City is only an hour from our house but as it’s just 20 minutes South of Pisa, you may wish to visit on your first or last day. You could combine it with your visit to Pisa.

It’s well worth visiting though, if only to stroll along the Terrazza Mascagni, which is an amazing checker-board paved promenade along the beach.

It’s quite a large city centre but there’s plenty of parking. There are some great shops and restaurants here so take your credit card!


Montereggiano & Forte Di Marmi

Two seaside resorts next to each other, less than an hour from the house.
Forte Di Marmi is basically a long beach that stretches on for miles, with nice restaurants and bars all the way along it. There is a pier that you can walk along to the end, often with surfers either side of you catching some waves. (Unlike Southwold, there’s nothing on the pier though).

Turn around and you have a backdrop of the mountains in the distance.

Montereggiano & Forte Di Marmi beach

Looks a bit like Southwold eh?

Montereggiano fishing

Montereggiano is more of a city with a harbour and even out of season it is thriving with activity. I was last there in December and there were loads of locals milling around. It’s got a great atmosphere to it.

There’s lots of shops, bars and restaurants, as well as the hustle and bustle of a fishing port.

And you won’t get fish much fresher than this. Straight from the boat to the market stall in less than five feet!


Montecatini Terme

Medieval thermal baths about 3/4 of an hour from our house. It is considered as one of the biggest spa towns in Italy and to be honest, a bit like Pisa with its tower, this is what it’s known for. That said, there’s plenty more to see here too, including some wonderful architecture as you can see.

Montecatini Terme Tuscany

Not only can you have everything from saunas and beauty treatments, to massages and mud baths, you can actually drink the waters of the Terme di Montecatini! There’s nine thermal centres to choose from.

Wander the length of the Viale and you’ll find the “Palazzina Regia”, which in days gone by was the summer residence of the Medici family, The War Memorial in the Royal Park, opposite to the Town Hall and the Town Hall itself, built just over a hundred years ago.


Montecatini Alto and the Funiculare

Montecatini Alto and the Funiculare Tuscany
Sat above Montecatini Terme is Montecatini Alto, which can be reached by car but it’s probably more fun to take the ‘Funiculare railway’. It’s well over a hundred years old but is still fully functional. If any of you have been to Capri, there’s one there. Actually it’s there whether you’ve been or not!

It’s a medieval village built in the Romanesque style of the 12th century. There’s a picturesque Church there, with a white marble baptismal font, and a series of important and famous frescoes. In addition to the churches there it’s worth visiting the ruins of the ancient walls that defended Montecatini hundreds of years ago.

I took this pic from Montecatini Terme just before I drove up. The views from the top are fabulous.


Florence

Only an hour and a half from our holiday cottage in Tuscany and surely on your bucket list?

Steeped in history and an absolute Mecca for tourists, it really is a must if you have a midweek or week long break with us. I only say that as it’s a 3 hour round trip, but it still makes Florence very doable.

I first went there about 20 years and again with my Daughter 15 years ago. Having been back again recently, it’s still as exciting. Stunning architecture around every corner, you can just feel a magic here.

Florence

I’ve been in touch with a great travel blogger called Indiana Jo and this is her photo as I love it! And this is her guide to Florence so do have a look for more info.


Barga

Tuscany Holiday Photo

Well worth a visit if you fancy a trip North along the Garfagnana, taking in Borgo a Mozzano, Bagni Di Lucca and Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana. It’s a lovely drive and there are some wonderful views along the way, as well as when you arrive.

It is a small town though so it’s not really a destination as such. Well worth taking all of these in if you want to get a feel for the area though.

Barga is included in the list of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy for its historical and artistic importance. And you can see why when you’re there.


Castelnuovo di Garfagnana

The main town of the Garfagnana, it is at the other end of the valley to our house, but still only 45 minutes away. It’s very beautiful, again with lots of historic architecture, typical of medieval Tuscany.

As I’ve said above, you can take it in with a trip along the River Serchio, with some of the others such as Barga, Bagni di Lucca and Borgo a Mozzano.

Castelnuovo di Garfagnana Tuscany

As with the others, this is only a small town so won’t take you long to wander round. Do take a relaxing stroll though and stop off for coffee and a pastry in one of the ‘Pasticcerias’. The pace is slow here so let your shoulders drop and go with the flow.

There’s a fabulous restaurant here, near their famous theatre. Al Teatro is easy to find, just off the main centre, just a few minutes walk away.


Grotta Del Vento

Holiday Cottage in Tuscany near Grotta Del Vento
Translates to ‘The Wind Cave’ and it is staggering inside! It’s an hour from the house, the last 20 mins of which are up a seriously winding, mountainside. But boy, is it worth it?!?!?!

Thousands of years of the formation of stalactites and stalagmites by wind and a river have resulted in the most incredible spectacle.

There are a couple of underground, crystal clear pools including this one, and other than lighting, and a series of concrete steps and handrails, this is untouched!

It is simply breath-taking, so well worth a visit, and can be tagged on to a trip to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana or Barga as it’s up that end of the valley.