Villages near ‘The Turret’ to explore…

There is a host of walks from ‘The Turret’ to day trips to various villages.

The following pages have been given to me by another apartment owner, so we have not been to all of these villages. Our past trips to Itlay has to renovate our apartment to as you see it today. So our next trip will include many of these – they all sound so great.

If you take a copy of the page (on your phone) and the directions are different or I should add something to the page, can you please let me know.

PLACES TO SEE FROM PONTE SERRAGLIO

This suggested itinerary does not include many wonderful walks which can be done locally. These vary from very easy to those requiring alpine skills!

My suggestion is to ask the locals which villages are best by foot. A nice walk is up to the thermal spas which are under renovation. This road continues and comes out in the Villa if you keep going.

The Tourist Information Office at

Piazza dell’ Erbe in Castelnuovo or in Lucca at Piazza Verde.

Barga       This is one of our favourite villages.

A morning trip to Barga, parking at the top car park.. Walk through the arch into the old town and go to the right towards The cathedral. The views from the cathedral over Brucciano and the mountains, Pania,are lovely.

Walk back down the steep streets of the town, stopping for a coffee in the town square, or browsing in the antique shops and galleries. There is a fabulous arty/funky shop about half way down that is great.

Barga is not a large shopping centre, but there is a lovely interesting spots to stop and have a look. The hardware shop holds a host of things you won’t have seen for years.

Just remember everything will close at lunchtime until about 3.30 for siesta.

There is a small market on Saturday mornings in the new town.

Every 2nd Sunday of the month, there is an antique market in the old town.

The Beaches

You can drive to the beaches at Torre del Lago – free, public beach in about an hour or so.

Camaiore

Viareggio

Forte dei Marmi

To go to Camaiore, go towards Lucca and just after the four tunnels there is a

large pub on the right. The scenic route to Camaiore is here.

Otherwise, go to Lucca and take the motorway towards Viareggio. You can turn off for Camaiore, Viareggio or Forte dei Marmi

Alternately you can take the mountain pass over to Forte dei Marmi or Massa.

The is a wonderful drive with spectacular views, passing some of the marble quarries, but it is a very windy road if you are not a good traveller.

The beach at Torre del Lago is a free public beach. All other areas are predominantly private beaches where you pay to hire an umbrella, sun beds etc. Most in Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi also have swimming pools, restaurants and bars.

Those at Forte dei Marmi are the most expensive, but most exclusive.

Mountain Road to the Seaside

Make your way to Castelnuovo and take the first turn on the left when you reach the town (signed Forte dei Marmi) but the sign isn’t very obvious!

Do not leave this road! It goes up over the hills and past the beautiful semi – submerged village of Isola Santa. Stop here for a walk down to the village and along the water’s edge.

There is only one junction on this road. This is after you exit from a tunnel and to the right is Massa. Straight on is Forte dei Marmi.

There is a (not good) restaurant and bar at the crossroads. BUT – if you park the car here, there is a very high arch leading into one of the disused marble quarries.

The Forte dei Marmi road is quicker, but the views from the Massa road are spectacular.

If you want to take the Massa road, watch out for the amazing views of the Mediterranean and all the marble quarries.

The best stopping place – unfortunately – is immediately you come out of a long tunnel and the road starts to go downhill again. The tunnel is just after a restaurant called “I Ghobbi”.

Try to stop immediately you exit to the tunnel – there is a parking space for a couple of cars to the right. You can walk up to one of the marble quarries from here and the view is wonderful.

This road takes you into Massa.

Head for “Mare” and you will come onto the road that goes all the way along the sea front form here to Camaiore.

A Day in Lucca

Lucca is a medieval walled city and the streets are narrow and (largely) traffic free. Climb the Torre Guinigi or the Torre Del Ore (Tower with the tree) for a great view over the city. Visit some of the Palazzos, the Cathedral, the Chiesa di San Michele, museums or sit and have a coffee and people-watch.

On a fine day, it is lovely to walk along the top of the walls – this takes about an hour and a half at a very leisurely pace. Or hire a bike to do this – at the Piazza Verde (the main tourist information is also here, housed in a triumphal arch!).

You can also hire bikes at the Porta Santa Maria.

Remember that everything will close from 1p.m. until 3.30

If you visit Lucca on a Monday, walk the walls before lunchtime, or visit the attractions, as shops stay closed on Monday mornings.

We recommend that you go to Lucca mid week. In summer it can be very busy with groups of tourists.

There are several car parks around the walls.

If you do drive, don’t park in yellow spaces. These are for residents only. Visitor car park spaces are blue.

If you are thinking of taking a trip for a couple of days by train, there is a long term carpark just after you go past the front entrance to the Train Station at Lucca. I think we stayed for three days for less than 30 euros.   But double check when you get there. It is safe and makes catching the train a lot easier.

Florence / Sienna

 It is unrealistic to do both in one day!

Florence can be reached in a little over an hour by car, via Lucca and the autostrada.

Alternatively, you can catch the early morning train from Lucca. You’ll get to Florence by about 10.30 and won’t have to endure the Florentine driving or have to pay for parking.

Don’t visit Florence on a Monday as many of the sights may be closed.

Sienna is best reached by car, although you may not get as far as Sienna as there are so many other attractive places on the way – Pistoia, Montecatini, Volterra, San Giminiano etc.

Each one of these merits a full day visit!

The Palio is the main cultural event of the year for Siennese folks. If you are lucky enough to be there mid May and Mid August you are in for an absolute treat. You will find accommodation in the city hard to find and it will be expensive for the week over the Palio.   But it is so worth it.

The Palio is so hard to describe except to say it all about a horse race that takes about 3 minutes to run but about a week to get to. The riders are bareback and the race is held in the Campo – a massive ancient stadium.

There is a blog about it all on my web site or here is a separate page to read.

Or better still try this link or just google Palio Sienna for dates, accommodation etc. It is worth it if you are close by.

If you are lucky enough to find seats in the grandstands, I would recommend paying the money for them. Standing in the middle of the Campo for 5 hours in the sun to get a good spot was a great experience, but next time I would ‘sell the dog’ to pay for a seat (if it came with Champagne I would definitely have one).

http://www.discovertuscany.com/siena/palio-siena.html

To Fabbriche di Vallico

 There is a traditional working mill here and the public are welcome to visit.

It is after the village of Fabbriche – on the right next to a new looking chalet type restaurant.

On this road, there are several places where you can stop to picnic and sunbathe at the side of the river. A good place to visit if the heat is too much.

The road to Fabbriche is on the Gallicano – Lucca road. Signed about 3km outside Gallicano on the right. This road does go over the mountains to the coast – eventually!

To the Parco Orechiella

 At Castelnuovo, you will go over a small narrow bridge at the entrance to the town. After this bridge, keep straight on and the road goes round to the right and over another bridge. It then veers to the left. (You should pass the theatre on your left.)

You are heading for San Romano.

Once at San Romano, as you pass round the town there is a Bar/Cafe on your left with a car park outside it. About 100 metres past this look carefully for a road which goes off to the right at a strange angle! It will be signed for the Parco and also for Fortezza Verrucole.

 It is a direct road from here to the park, but it is worth stopping and walking up to the Fortress. It is reasonably easy in comfortable shoes!

As you drive through the park you will see slightly down off the road to the left, a very good restaurant with lovely gardens.

Just after this, take the fork in the road to the right. You will arrive at the tourist office, visitor centre and bar / restaurant.

 There is a brown bear enclosure below the visitor centre – it is the intention to release them into the wild – and on the other side of the centre there are deer, mountain goats etc.

At the entrance to the park, there is an excellent restaurant – La Greppia.

Orrido di Bottri

This is an area of one of the national parks, where you are taken by a guide, along the river bed and through ravines.

It is not difficult, but you need to have shoes which have good grip, not open, and which you are happy to have soaked.

It is another trip which you might want to do if you really feel the need to cool off.

This is the first turn to the right after Ponte a Serraglio – just up the street from ‘The Turret’.

Keep road which will go over the river and then bend to the left. After about 3 km you will come to a double roundabout and Orrido di Bottri is signed to the left.

Lago di Gramolazza and Gorfigliano

There is a large lake at Gramolazza. The location is stunning – set at the foot of rugged mountains – and the water is clean and safe for swimming.

There are picnic tables, grassy areas to sunbathe and a good restaurant next to the lake.

It takes about 3/4 of an hour from Canalecchia.

Go through Castelnuovo, with the walled part of the town on your left, on the road marked Piazza al Serchio.

Go on this road without turning until you come to the top of a hill where there is a junction with a road to the left signed for Piazza al Serchio. Once you reach P. al Serchio, drive through the town and after the main part of the town, the road rises and then turns to the right. Just after this there is a junction where the road to the left dips sharply down from the main road. There is a long list of places signed here – one of which will be Gramolazza! This is the second bottom of the list of signs. Take this road and you will reach the lake.

If you continue on past the lake, at the end of the lake, go left – signed Gorfigliano – and you can visit the ancient church here.

If you continue past the sign for the “Chiesa” on the left is a modern building which is a leather factory and shop. Usually worth a visit if you are not averse to wearing animal skins.

Sillico

 This is a beautiful village above Castelnuovo. There is a very good restaurant at the entrance to the old village.

The drive takes about 20 minutes from here through the depths of the Garfagnana.

Pisa

Most first time visitors wish to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Pisa is not an attractive tourist town, although a walk from the Leaning Tower down to the river, takes you to the old town, the shops and the University District.

We recommend that you combine a trip to Pisa with another excursion e.g. it is possible to drive from Pisa to Viareggio in about 30 minutes.

OR visit Pisa in the morning and Lucca in the afternoon.

Tickets are needed to climb the tower and can only be obtained on the day and cannot be pre-booked. To ensure success, we suggest early arrival in Pisa.

It is possible to take the train directly from Bagni di Lucca to Pisa Central Station and back. The Tower is about 10 minutes walk from Pisa Central.

If climbing the tower is not a priority and you are flying out of Pisa airport, we recommend that you leave early for your return flight, visiting the tower en route to the airport, which is about 10 minutes away!

I found the Cathedral next to the Tower of Pisa more interesting. Gallaleo designed some of the structure inside the church.

Be wary of pickpockets around here.

Lucca Villas

 On the outskirts of Lucca – our side – there are several magnificent villas which are open to the public. The tourist information centre may have information on them – I have not looked personally.

Montecarlo – Wine

 Just outside Lucca on the road to Altopascio. Montecarlo is a walled town sitting atop a hill and can be easily seen from the road. The town itself is very small, but the views are lovely and it is one of the principal wine producing areas.

For the “Strada del Vino” go towards Lucca and after the three tunnels, go straight over the large roundabout – sign posted for Marlia and Altopascio.

At the end of this stretch of road, there is a junction / roundabout – go to the right and then immediately to the left – signed for Altopascio. Once on this road, follow signs to the village of Montecarlo.

The other section of this main “wine road” (Strada del Vino) . Again, just after the three tunnels, take the road signed to Camaiore.   One of the most famous vineyards is on this road (Colline di Lucchese ).

Abetone

Just an hour up the hill from the apartment is a great spot for a day trip.

If it is winter, there is great skiing. If in summer or out of season, there are still great restaurants and scenery along the way. Some old villages as well that you could check out.

We went in winter on a public holiday so it was a bit nuts. But will go back another day as the views of the mountains are fantastic.

Cinque Terre

Five beautiful coastal villages, each perched on a rock outcrop. A walk goes between each village, and all five can be walked in about 4 / 5 hours. A train service runs underground between the villages, so it isn’t necessary to do the whole walk!  Also sometimes the walks are closed if they have had landslides. The train station will be able to tell you what walks are open.

A more leisurely way to see the villages are by ferry. In summer they run very regularly between the villages – in winter, there are no ferries, but the train keeps going.

I have written a blog on our visit to the Cinque Terra as we loved it and will go back whenever we can.

Highlights in Monterossa are the ‘Fast Bar’ – yes, a true Italian bar complete with lovely locals, the odd tourist, great service and conversation with everyone. Alex, the owner or his staff can tell you where to eat and what to see. His mate Stephano has a couple of apartments close by, so if you think you would like to stay, shoot me an email and I will give you his details. If you are happy to wing it, Alex or his mates will be able to find you accommodation that suits your budget and lifestyle. Blonde backpackers seem to have a great time in this bar – but the rest of us fare pretty well as well.

The train can be taken from Lucca to La Spezia or Viareggio.

You can also drive there but parking is an issue.

A must to try the Lemonchello from here and anything with basil in it is just spectacular (if you love basil). Seafood is amazing as they catch a lot of fish and stuff locally.

The water is unbelievable for the colour it changes to during the day. Hire a deck chair/lounge thing and soak up the atmosphere. Most cost about 5 or so euros (you can barter) and it comes with wifi and a nice boy will sometimes serve you drinks as well.

Often ladies come by offering to massage your feet – they will look sneaky because they are not really allowed, but they do a great job for a few euros. Just avoid the umbrella sellers – they are a bit dodgy.

Pietrasanta and Carrara

Both are centres for art and sculpture, and usually have various exhibitions at any time. Carrara is also the marble centre of Italy and a round trip can be done, through the marble quarries.

Genoa

Genoa is about a three hour drive up the coast by autostrada or via “B” roads.

The drive itself is lovely, passing through some beautiful coastal towns.

Genoa itself has a fascinating historic centre, full of narrow alleyways, with small shops selling all types of food and wares. The cathedral is beautiful and in the new part of town there are some very elegant shops.

There is a harbour-side commercial centre and a new aquarium / deep sea world and a replica of the original flagship of Christopher Columbus – his birthplace is in the old town and can be visited.

We would recommend parking at the huge car parks down at the harbour centre and walking into town form there.

Our visit here was great fun but it is not the cleanest or safest feeling city. Nothing untoward happened to us, just has a slightly seedy feel. But great shops and things to see and do.

We caught a ferry to Portofino for the day and it was stunning and one of the best days of our trip. Portofino is very similar to the villages in the Cinque Terra. In fact I think the Cinque is better.

The Hermitage at Calomini

 This can be done from here on foot , or by car from Gallicano or Vergemoli.

The Hermitage is a beautifully tranquil place, with a magnificent church carved into the rock face. Next to the church is the hermitage and this can be visited ( closed 12 – 4).

There is also a lovely simple restaurant open all day for coffees and for meals at lunchtime and evenings.

By car – easy route!   If you don’t want to travel on the mountain road, go down to Gallicano and drive out towards the Grotta del Vento. You will see the hermitage up on the hill on the right, after you leave Gallicano.

Grotta del Vento   – Wind Cave

 A spectacular underground complex of caves.

Drive from Gallicano.

It is open all day from 10 – 5 (last tour).

Tours of 1, 2 and 3 hours can be taken. Walking shoes or trainers are needed.

Tours are in several languages.

If you find any other great places to visit, please let me know and I will include it in here for everyone to enjoy.