Bagni di Lucca
In our wee valley along the Lima river there are three little towns, like pearls on a string, all called by their localities, but overall, called Bagni di Lucca. We are in the little locality in the middle called Ponte a Serraglio, home to thermal springs and baths and beautiful old villas and the original casino from the 1850's where the game of roulette was created.
Bagni di Lucca has been inhabited since the bronze age, as shown by remains of Ligurian sepulchres of the 8th century BC, and known for its mineral springs since the Etruscan and Roman times. Since the 14th century it has been the main spa centre of Italy, welcoming guests from all over Europe In Napoleonic times the place was a favourite retreat of the Buonaparte family, coming for the spas as well as for a casino. After the Congress of Vienna and throughout the 19th century the Dukedom of Lucca became an international court, and Bagni was the summer retreat of the court, with the casino organizing also magnificent dance events. When, however, the Dukedom was sold to Leopold of Lorraine, the Granduke of Tuscany, the casino was closed in 1853, and later after 1860 when Tuscany was included in the kingdom of Italy the decadence of the place as a fashionable resort began.
The Thermal Springs
The thermal waters of Bagni di Lucca, known since ancient times, were frequented by Napoleon and Paolina Bonaparte. There are 19 thermal springs of sulphate-bicarbonate-calcic water. Classical thermal treatments may be followed in the 'Jean Varraud-Casa Boccella' complex. The spa waters of Bagni di Lucca are unique in their kind, characterised by two caves with natural vapours with temperatures oscillating between 40° and 47°. The Grotta Grande and the Grotta Piccola constitute a natural habitat in which to relax and cleanse yourself, for treatment of the skin or slimming. The calcium-bicarbonate-sulphate springs in the caves are believed to have healing properties for rheumatic or stress-related disorders. One folk legend would have it that the thermal activity in the area is caused by a volcano situated under the village of Bagni Caldi and nearby Ponte a Serraglio. In addition there is the Ouida Centre that offers the most recent thermal treatments combined together with beauty programmes. The centre is open all year round.
Another thermal baths and a holistic therapy centre, housed in the historical Villa Demidorf situated in the Ponte a Serraglio area, is Villagio Globale. At this centre, run by qualified medical staff, one can take a bath in the thermal waters or a massage, acupuncture, or even try a course in yoga, bio-dance, rebirthing, rolfing sacro-cranial and other therapies.
Eating in Bagni di Lucca
There’s lots of good eateries in Bagni di Lucca and in the little surrounding hilltop towns, but some to remember are:
Trattoria Borghesi Pizzeria VLE UMBERTO I 8555021 - BAGNI DI LUCCA PONTE (LU) Tel. 058386514 Great for lunch, complete menu, three courses 9 euros a head, and wonderful local home cooked food.
Circolo dei Forestieri snc di Pierotti G. Pierotti M. Piazza Jean Varraud, 10 55022 Bagni di Lucca LU http://www.circolodeiforestieri.it Tourist menu 11 euros a head. Good value in lovely surroundings. The terrace out the back is a delightful spot.
Other restaurants worth trying are Da Mamma and Del Sonno as well as hidden away places in some of the villages around the mountains which we will be able to give you directions to.
The region offers trekking and climbing in its hills and mountains. The Orrido di Botri, just 40 mins away, is one of Italy's largest and longest canyons, a very deep but narrow gorge carved through the rocks by the Rio Pelago. Now a nature reserve, the gorge is home to a wide range of plant and animal life and can be visited via the Corpo Forestale dello Stato centre at Ponte A Gaio.
Not far from here is the glorious Monte Prato Fiorito, (field of flowers), - this is the largest of the mountains that surrounds the town at 1297m. From the town follow the road to Montefegatesi and take the right turn signposted 'Alberetta' about 1km before that village. Follow this road until it stops going uphill and the Prato Fiorito (flowery meadow) side is facing you. The walk up the last 200m metres of altitude is quite easy, if steep in parts.
The area is full of beautiful little towns worth discovering.
Barga, known for its historic monuments, artistic richness, while from atop the hill visitors can see the green valley of the Serchio river and Apuan Alps, renowned for their marble quarries, and the less rugged Appenines. Nature lovers walk in the nearby mountain woods.
The ancient town of Barga is situated in the valley of the river Serchio on the edge of the Garfagnana Region. The original historical center of town still remains. The old houses are gathered around the dominant cathedral dating back to before the year 1000 and protected by its surrounding walls.
This entire valley is situated between the green Apennines and the rockier Apuan chain (with its marble quarries).
The area of Garfagnana is famous for the nearby Wind Cave in the Apuane range and the Nature Park of the Orecchiella. Barga hosts traditional folkloric and musical events such as Opera Barga and Barga Jazz.
Historically, the area has close links with Scotland, where many barghigiani emigrated in the early part of the century, often to work in the catering trade.
Lucchio The Tuscan village of Lucchio in the Province of Lucca, blends into the side of the mountain and seeing the medieval castle and village houses it would be difficult to believe this is the 21st century.
When coming from Bagni di Lucca, Lucchio village is hidden from view. The narrow, winding road one has to travel to reach Lucchio makes it understandable why. In the 14th century the Lucca nobles made Lucchio the main fortification to guard the border.
Today, the castle is in ruins, but the location of the 11th century structure obviously was in a dominant position to watch over the entire Lima valley between Pistola and the Garfagnana.
In the time of the Renaissance the castle was not needed to guard the borders, and was left to crumble, although some of the stones were used to either build or repair the houses of the village of Lucchio.
Montefegatesi ( 850 m A.S.L. ) is an ancient medieval village, once populated by the Ligurian-Apuan people, province of Lucca, Tuscany. Built onto a strong rock and situated in the middle of a natural dell formed by the tosco-emilian Appennines and the Apuan Alps, the Tirreno sea and some of the islands of Tuscan archipelago can be seen when the weather is fine.
Because of its geographical conformation and thanks to its exposure to sunlight and to the winds blowing from the sea, Montefegatesi has always been a very popular health resort, particularly suitable for children, old people and for everybody stressed by the rhythm of modern life. Visually from the outside of the village, it is wonderfully classic, with its spiralling houses climbing to Dante’s peak.
There are many villages in the area to be discovered with spectacular views, ancient buildings and wonderful friendly people.
Farther afield are Lucca, the Cinque terre, Pisa, Volterra and Florence. All are day trips, though of course you could easily do an overnighter in any of them.