Lunigiana - the undiscovered part of Tuscany [more]
Hello Italy offers a wide selection of villas in Tuscany as well as houses, apartments, cottages and agriturismo bed &breakfasts amidst the beautiful countryside in the unexplored region of Tuscany known as Lunigiana which is well known for its crystal clear river pools for bathing and inexpensive dining out. Lunigiana is based in the heart of ancient, rural Italy, yet within reach of such beautiful cities like Florence, Pisa and Lucca. Situated half an hour from the winter ski slopes and half an hour from the summer beaches this proves to be in an ideal location.
Hello Italy boasts a wonderful collection of Tuscany based villas, farmhouses and apartments, most with swimming pools, set in the beautiful Chianti and Sienese countryside. They are in or near small, attractive villages and within easy reach of Siena and Florence. The Chianti, Le Crete, Montalcino and Vald'Orcia regions are all very distinctive. Each village has its secrets to reveal - the picturesque villages of Gaiole in Chianti and San Sano, the towers of San Gimignano, the beautiful town of Pienza, the wineshop cellars of Montalcino and the hot springs of Bagno Vignoni.
We have a vast selection of Tuscany based apartments in the historic centre of Siena, Florence and Rome which you can now easily access without having to hire a car. Train travel is cheap and efficient throughout Italy and local bus services are available to smaller towns such as San Gimignano or Montalcino for those who wish to explore further a field. We can thoroughly recommend Siena as the ideal city for a short break - traffic-free, lots to see and easy to walk around. This would be Ideal for a short break taking advantage of cheap flights now available off-peak.
Rome and Gaeta
These wonderful apartments in Tuscany are situated in the heart of Rome. You can spend days or weeks wandering through the streets finding unexpected marvels at every turn. The cities offer such sights as the Forum and the Vatican and excursions can be made to nearby attractions such as the Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Tarquinia and Cerveteri. Wonderful coastal resorts are within easy reach by train or you could combine a week in Rome with a week in a villa on the coast at Gaeta.
Umbria and Assisi
Having a villa holiday in Tuscany based locations such as Umbria is a voyage of discovery, wandering through the many and varied hill towns each offering its own piece of history. We even have some superb, frescoed apartments in Assisi itself. We also offer an amazing variety of self-catering and hotel accommodation throughout Umbria - from the classic hillscapes around Todi to the green hills on the Tuscan border above Lake Trasimeno.
Ideal for those who would like to spend some of their holiday by the sea, we can arrange hotels in Lerici, Camaiore and on Elba or a wonderful new apartment right upon the beach in the Tuscan resort of Follonica.
Take advantage of the wonderful Italian landscape on one of our breathtaking walking holidays around the Cinque Terre, and other areas of great beauty in Tuscany and Liguria.
Another beautiful area in a forgotten corner of Tuscany located such that Florence is less than an hour away, and the treasures of Ravenna and Faenza are within easy reach. The Alto Mugello is situated in an area of rolling hills descending from the Appenine passes to the west and meets the coastal plain of the Adriatic. With out doubt this is wonderful walking country, with many rivers and small towns to explore.
Hello Italy also offers a range of packages at 'Wellness' centres throughout Tuscany and Umbria all situated in hotels and in apartments within a relaxing spa. 'Terme' or spas are traditional in this part of the world, warm healing waters springing up all over the area are not uncommon. We can combine these geological factors with packages including a variety of massages, treatments and gourmet food - generally harvested and prepared on the estate in which the hotel is situated.
We trust that this may encourage you to visit the wonderful region of Tuscany called Lunigiana and to explore its villages and hill walks enjoying the simple unspoilt atmosphere of its countryside and eating places, or to make the occasional foray to one of the beautiful beaches on the nearby coast.
Here in Lunigiana you will experience a very relaxed tempo of a century or two ago - calm andunhurried - but the reverse side of the coin may mean tolerating power cuts during theoccasional thunderstorms, or the simultaneous use of immersion heater and other electrical machinery may cause the overload switch to trip! Cocks crow, church bells ring, and chainsaws buzz preparing the wood for winter.
Many of the ‘Borgos’, old hill villages, are worth a visit. Try just wandering through the village streets, saying buongiorno or buona sera to the people sitting around on chairs or doorsteps chatting in the sunshine. If you attempt a few words of Italian, they will always be pleased, and many of the youngsters will want to practise their English. Tavernelle, Crespiano, Virgoletta, Prota, Camporaghena, Bastia and Varano and all typical examples of traditional Lunigiana villages.
The rhythm of the seasons still rules here. Tomatoes are 'passed' through sieves in the summer to make 'passata' for the year, the barrels are left to soak and swell in the street ready for the year's vintage (an less attractively, the lees are often thrown into the gutter after the wine-pressing, causing a strong wine/vinegar smell and small fruit flies to fill the streets).
In their time the olives and the chestnuts are harvested and processed in the 'cantine' beneath the village houses.
Funghi hunting is an obsession. Tens of kilos are collected by each family each year. The places where they are found are closely guarded secrets, though you have to have a licence to collect them. There is even a 'funghi' machine in one bar instead of a fruit machine!
You will certainly want to spend some time exploring themorning markets in Lunigiana mountain villages. Each morning a traditional market is held in a different village.
BAGNONE Bagnone, 'the jewel of Lunigiana', is a quaint old arcaded market town with a river tumbling over rocks in the gorge below. Above, the ancient castle looks down over everything. There are several bars, restaurants and useful shops, including the oldest pharmacy in Europe - still trading!
VILLAFRANCA LUNIGIANA The old quarter of the town dates back to the mediaeval times and was originally built along the Roman Way,the old route connecting France to Rome. The Ethnographic museum is well worth a visit, showinghow life was lived in Lunigiana until very recently, illustrating the various aspects of agricultural and pastorallife. It is picturesquely set in the old mill of Villafranca next to the bridge in the centre of the town. ClosedSundays and Mondays. Some of the exhibits look just like what you may see in the street at certain times of the year. Nothingchanges very fast in Lunigiana! The remains of Malnido castle are still imposing and picturesque, the castleunfortunately having been destroyed by the British in the war!. Saint Francis' church has two outstanding terracottas by the Delia Robbia school and in the town you will findantique shops selling all sorts of bric-a-brac, old furniture, prints and ancient books.
FILETTO Filetto is the most original and interesting village in Lunigiana. Unlike all the other villages and small towns, it is a squarre walled town, having been originally a Roman 'castra'. The the elegant loggia in the middle of the main street and the Marquis' palace and the Fatebenefratelli Convent are all of great interest. Just outside the village lies one of the oldest chestnut woods in the region (a relic of a more extended forest).This was where many of the mysterious carved stone images, now in Pontremoli museum, were found. A big fairtakes place every year on the 25th of August, near the chapel and spreads all around in the forest. Every year insummer, Filetto hosts the "Mediaeval Market". The narrow alleys and the secluded squares of the village becomefull of merchants in mediaeval costumes, shops are opened selling all sorts of handicrafts and restaurants servetraditional foods. In the main street there is also a Pottery Workshop, where courses of pottery, ceramic art anddecoration are held throughout the year.
MALGRATE The old village of Malgrate, with its mediaeval castle, stands on a hill overlooking the Bagnone valley, from whichone can have a magnificent view of this part of Lunigiana. The village and castle are of outstanding historical andenvironmental interest. Today the two elements, village and castle are strictly connected to form a unique andattractive setting. There is an excellent restaurant hidden behind the bar in the car park.
VIRGOLETTA This village developed along the main street on a spur of solid rock with the church and the piazza at one end andthe castle at the other, where the archbishop of Canterbury stayed in the 10th century on his way to Rome.Along the main street you will find doors, windows and other fine examples of mediaeval decoration. The castlehas an elegant courtyard with an attractive double staircase. Virgoletta was a stop on the Via Francigena – theroute from Canterbury to Rome.
OTHER HISTORICAL VILLAGES Irola, Mocrone, Merizzo, Fornoli are smaller villages with an interesting history of their own. Near Fornoli are the remains of an old ‘hospital’ used by the pilgrims during the Middle Ages.
Through EQUI TERME flows 120 litres of sulphurous water per second creating a thermal resort renowned since ancient times. Equi Terme spa has now been reopened andoffers many different treatments and a wonderful outdoor bathing pool. Several restaurants are to be found there.
Just out of Equi Terme, along a path, the mountain opens up into a cave called ' La Buca' - the mouth. It is a large cavern with a lake and stalactites where Paleolithic and neolithic remains have been found. The new caves of Equi Terme are full of stalactites and stalagmites in a large variety of colours from dazzling white to basaltic black. The largest cave is over 80 metres high.
Bagnone, a truly splendid town, is set on the river and a marvellous place to potter about. Take the old lane to the Ponte Vecchio with almost every window trailing with geraniums.
Over the ages people and armies have passed through or settled in Lunigiana, each contributing to its complex defence system. Lunigiana is known as 'Land of the Hundred Castles'. Many are still standing others have been ruined by time. Many castles were built by the Marquis of Malaspina, though they stretch through times from the remains of Bronze age constructions to bastions of the 17* Century.
Many are privately owned (Bastia, Monti and Fivizzano). Some have become properties of the state (Comano Castle dominated by a cylindrical tower, Aulla and Pontremoli) The Fortezza della Brunella (16th Century) above Aulla is worth a visit. It is set in a beautiful holm-oak park and has undergone intense restoration works. It was bought in 1903 by the British Consul who lived there with his family and later his children used it as a summer retreat. (see 'A Tuscan Childhood' by Kinta Beevor).
In Pontremoli Castle (closed Mondays) is the Stele museum. These prehistoric stone statues have been found in large numbers in this part of Lunigiana. They stare out at you from the past in a most impressive manner.
There are Romanesque churches, called 'Pieve' at Crespiano, Monti, Sorano, Codiponte.. Also worth seeing is the beautiful church at Licciana (connected to the castle by a bridge), and the lovely Santuario della Madonna di Loreto between Licciana and Panicale.
Lunigiana is known as 'Land of the Hundred Castles'. Many are still standing, while others have been ruined by time.
Driving or walking around Lunigiana you will discover its rich natural beauty and the character of one of the loveliest parts of Italy, set like a green jewel in a triangle between the glistening sea, the mighty Apennines and the soaring Apuan Alps.Note that some footpaths may have become overgrown or re-routed. Walking maps can be obtained from themap shop in Licciana-Nardi. You will find it in the village on the left hand side of the main road from Aulla toLicciana. Although we hear that not all the walks turn out as set down!. Prepare to be flexible, always take waterwith you and wear appropriate shoes.
VAL Dl TAVERONE There are many possibilities for anyone who wants to go walking in and around the Taverone valley. The countryis a spider's web of paths and mule tracks. Every village has paths leading out to surrounding meadows andwoods or on to the next village. We have selected a few of these walks. • Baccana to Bastia: Through the countryside by way of the hill tops • Maesta (Licciana/Tavernelle/Comano fork) to Varano. Short but practical for getting from or toVarano without having to follow the road all the way round. • Ripola to Apella. Glorious countryside. • Tavernelle to Cattognano. Over an old humpback bridge and past the ruins of an old mill (start oppositeCapriolo Bar in Tavernelle). A pretty walk through the woods. • Prota to Groppo San Pietro. A very pretty walk connecting two villages high in the mountains. • Amola to Panicale. Take the track towards Molesana These are but a few suggestions. There really are hundreds of little paths leading from the villages through woodsamidst spectacular scenery. Be adventurous and let us know your favourites. We ask you to respect thecountryside and refrain from picking fruit and vegetables from the land, as it is the villager's livelihood.
APENNINES For the more adventurous there are some splendid mountain excursions, especially up to and on theTuscan/Emilian Apennine ridge. For these go by car to the Passo del Lagastrello or to Comporaghena (aboveComano) During the summer months and on a nice day you will only need light clothes and walking shoes or trainers, but itwould be sensible to carry a sweatshirt or jumper in case the wind gets up. It is also cooler at 1800 metresaltitude. Do take water with you and something to eat - not salty food! CAMPORAGHENA is a small village above Comano. During the war many escaped British prisoners hid in themountains above Camporaghena. One day the German soldiers approached to capture the British. The parishpriest rang the church bells to warn the soldiers in hiding and they consequently made their escape. The priestwas shot dead in front of his church by the Germans. There is a plaque to his memory at the front of the church.Camporaghena is divided into two parts: Top and bottom. When driving into Camporaghena there is a hairpinbend - up is to the top part of the village and down the lane on the right hand side of the bend is the bottom part.Camporaghena - Torsana: From the top of Camporaghena follow the red and white marks to Torsana,or from Torsana follow the signs to Passo del Cerreto. Camporaghena - Sassalbo: There are paths both from the top and bottom parts of Camporagheno markedSassalbo Camporaghena - Monte Marinella: From the bottom of Camporaghena go straight through the villageand follow the red and white signs to Monte Marinella. Camporaghena - Passo del Cerreto: Take the path to Sassalbo from where you follow the sign to Passo delCerreto. Torsana is perched above Comano in the other valley. Torsana- Punta Buffanara: Red and whitepainted marks indicate this path lading way up to one of the highest peaks of the Apennines (1878metres) About 5.1/2 hours return not counting rests Torsana- Passo del Cerreto: The patch down to the right marked Passo del Cerreto leads toCamporaghena and on to Cerreto through Sassalbo LAGASTRELLO is the old pass connecting Liguria and the North of Tuscany to Parma. If you drive toLagastrello either from Comano or Tavernelle, at the top you will pass the Lake Paduli on your right. At the end of the lake there is a bridge on your right and at the other side of the bridge a map of themarked Apennine walks reproduced by the Italian Alpine Club. There are some beautiful drives in the Apennines. One we highly recommend starts at the Passo del Lagastrello whichyou can reach either by following the road from Tavernelle or by the more picturesque but sinuous road fromComano. This drive takes you right to the Apennines and is extremely picturesque. Follow the signs: Rigoso, Monchio delle Corte, Passo del Tiocchiano, Corniglio, Bosco Lagdei, Lago Santo, Lagdei, ILagoni, Valditacca (one report was the road was poor here), Trefiumi, Rigoso, Passo del Lagastrello. From Lag’dei, which is a wild life park surrounded by lovely pine woods, you can take the chair lift up and back to thebeautiful Lago Santo. After Lagdei turn right at the Cancelli Foresta Parma (the park exit) towards Lagoni, twointerconnecting lakes, Lake Santo and the Lagoni are both set in a particularly beautiful place. The whole drive is approximately 70 Kms and takes about 3.1/2 hrs not counting stops and the chairlift.There are some superb places to picnic or if preferred try a little Trattoria in one of the villages on the way. Top
For the more adventurous there are some splendid mountain excursions. The country is a spider's web of paths and mule tracks. Every village has paths leading out to surrounding meadows and woods or on to the next village.
SHORT SCENIC DRIVES
Licciana- Fivizzano: Take the road from Licciana signposted Fivizzano. Follow the road up goingstraight on at fork signposted Fivizzano and then towards Agnino. This road is very winding andpasses the most magnificent scenery backed by the majestic peaks of the Apennines. This drive isapproximately half an hour and a picturesque way of getting to Fivizzano. Licciana - Bagnone - Filetto: From Licciana take road to Panicale. Pass Panicale and on to Villa diPanicale, Lusana and Gabbiana. Keep on the same road, which eventually arrives in Bagnone. Bagnone, atruly splendid town, is set on the river and a marvellous place to potter about. Take the old lane to thePonte Vecchio and view Bagnone from the other side with almost every window trailing with geraniums.From Bagnone follow road over bridge through the old part of the village and out the other side. Filettois approximately 5 minutes drive further on. An intriguing village built in a square maze pattern and has amarvellous house bridge crossing the main road.
LONG SCENIC DRIVE Follow the Fivizzano road out of Aulla, but turn off up to Casola. Carry on, and on, with stupendousviews all the way through Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Barga, Borgo al Mozzano, and down into Lucca.You can also make a detour to Bagni di Lucca, where Byron and Shelley lived for a while. Not thequickest way to Lucca, but one of the most scenic routes in Italy. You can return on the autostrada, ifyou prefer. There is also a train that does this journey – this way the driver sees the views as well! You can catch itin Aulla, Gragnola or Monzone. Top
Leisurely drives through the mountains to Barga, Lucca and Bagni di Lucca will afford you some spectacularscenery, but the coast drives are equally beautiful. You will certainly want to spend some time exploring themorning markets in Lunigiana mountain villages. Each morning a traditional market is held in a different village.
The West side of the Gulf of Spezia
From La Spezia take the scenic road to Portovenere. The first part of the road is unfortunately not so beautifulas it over looks the docks and the military base. The first village you come to is Le Grazie, which is set in a lovely natural harbour. Here, well worth a visit, is theConvent of the Olivetari which has some lovely frescoes. The next village on is Portovenere. It is an enchanting old town with tall beautiful pastel coloured houses liningthe sea front. It has a wealth of interesting lanes and alleyways. Along the front all the colourful fishing boats bobin the sea and in the evening all the nets are laid out along the promenade. There are many pretty little boutiquesand stalls selling various artwork and clothes and many good fish restaurants. You can visit the castle and the oldchurch of San Lorenzo built in 1130. At the very top end of the village and surrounded on three sides by the seais the church of San Pietro built in 1277 on foundations dating from the 6Ih Century, offering magnificent coastalviews. You may want to take a boat to the islands of Palmaria and Tino, where you can visit the remains of a monastery.There are guided boat trips around islands from Portovenere.
The East Side of the Gulf of La Spezia - SAN TERENZO This charming multi-coloured fishing village was discovered in the 18th Century by Shelley and Byron. It isdominated by the Castle on the East side and has a natural harbour with a good sandy beach along the frontbacked by a colourful cluster of houses. Shelley lived in the Villa Magni situated along the front. It is a low arched building, now a museum housingpreserved mementoes of his stay. Shelley was tragically killed, at the age of 26, when his boat capsized in the bayduring a storm. His friends burned his body on the beach.
LERICI In the mornings you can buy fish off the wooden carts as they are loaded off the fishing boats. Further along the coast is Lerici, another picturesque coastal village dominated by its ancient castle. Lerici, once a RomanNaval base, now boasts a chic selection of boutiques and restaurants. The village is a series of stone flagged alleys linedwith pastel coloured houses and has many interesting old shops. Take an evening stroll along the promenade or stop inone of the many seaside bars to watch the world go by. During the middle ages it was the site of many disputes arising between Pisa and Geneva who fought over their rightsto the sea. Lerici is halfway between these two cities so the village itself was also contended over. In 1200 Pisa wonand built the castle and, clustered around it, a walled village on the site of the now picturesque port of Lerici. In 1265Lerici was lost to Genoa who extended the castle, which is Lerici's most important monument Lerici is still a fishing village and you can watch the fishermen at work along the quay. In the mornings you can buyfish off the wooden carts as they are loaded off the fishing boats. You can no longer drive into Lerici in season. You park in one of the two large car parks that you will be directedinto, and walk from there.
FIASCHERINO AND TELLARO
D.H.Lawrence sailed across to his house here on a fishing boat, complete with his trunk of books and a piano!
Further down the coast are the villages or Tellaro and Fiascherino. where D. H. Lawrence once lived. Tellaro is the last village of the Gulf of the Poets and is situated on a little rocky peninsula. In the middle is a lovelysquare surrounded by colourful, green shuttered houses which were part of the old walled village. Down from the square is a little landing place protected by a breakwater showering beads of spray over the houses.This scene has been painted by many local artists.
Festas celebrating the local churches' patrons take place throughout the summer months. These candlelightprocessions are followed by traditional songs and dances and, or course, a hearty offering of local delicacies.
THE CINQUE TERRE
These enchanting old fishing villages were and still are the homes of those who fishand work the land and the vines. Some of the houses along the Cinque Terre are still only accessible by boat. You can taste their wines and perhaps some acciughe (anchovies) in the true Cinque Terre style.
The Cinque Terre are five villages strung along the coast behind La Spezia now linked by train. Riomaggiore, Manarola,Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. These enchanting old fishing villages were and still are the homes of those who fishand work the land and the vines. The Cinque Terre produce wine for which they are renowned since ancient times such as the 'Biancho Nero','Sciacchetra', Red and white dry wine from Levanto, Bonassola and Framura further north. Steep terraced vineyardslook like stairs plunging down to the coves and little beaches where you can swim. The area is dotted with churches and sanctuaries of a bygone era. The churches are in the villages and the sanctuariesare in breathtaking position on the hills. The villages themselves face the sea either at the bottom of the hills(Riomaggiore, Manarola. Vernazza and Monterosso) or like Corniglia at the very top. The villages are made up of tinylanes leading to the village squares, ports and coves. The structure and setting of the villages have a rustic beautydifficult to beat. Some of the houses along the Cinque Terre are still only accessible by boat and the road only goes asfar as Manarola and from then on it is in a bad state of order. Here you can taste their wines and perhaps someacciughe (anchovies) in the true Cinque Terre style. From Corniglia you can enjoy an incomparable vista of the Cinque Terre. Corniglia and Monterosso have long beaches,while in the other villages you can swim off the rocks. How to get there: By car: From La Spezia take road sign posted to the Cinque terre to Riomaggiore and then you can walk along thefamous Strada dell Amore to the next village Manarola (15-20 Minutes) and then on to the next villages. The Strada dellAmore is cut out of the rock leading along the cliff edge and has spectacular views. By train: The trains run about every hour from La Spezia to each of the five villages. You may want to stop and take a dip in one of the many coves along the way or taste the Cinque Terre wine(Sciacchetra) or perhaps just climb up to the terraced vineyards above and have a look at the marvellous sea views.The walk from Riomaggiore to Monterosso is about 20 Kms. It can be very hot along the coast so do take plenty ofwater with you to quench your thirst if you intend to do the whole walk.
BEACHES Along the Versilia Coast, stretching from Marinella di Sarzana to Viaraggio there are many beaches, some privaterequiring a daily entrance fee and some public and so free of charge. Prices along this stretch of coast may varyenormously depending on the area and equipment. Some of the beaches are equipped with sport including waterskiing, wind surfing and paragliding. Or you may prefer the coves at Fiascherino. Behind Lerici castle there is a small creek or, on the other side ofLerici, there is a lido, and further along (at Venere Azzurra) there is a public beach with optional rental of deckchairs and/or parasols. Water sports available peak season. On the other side of La Spezia lie the lovely Cinque Terre. The very last of these villages, Monterosso boasts along sandy beach. There are both public and private sections. N.B. If taking your car to the coast please ensure that it is left in an official car parking spot. White car space linessignify free parking whilst blue indicate a tariff has to be paid. These tariffs vary from resort to resort and willeither be staffed by traffic wardens or by a pay and display system. Several free parking Zones have time limits andrequire that you display your arrival time on the front dashboard (disco Zona 1 Ora) Parking in any other areascould mean the towing away of your car and a heavy fine
You can walk along the famous Strada dell Amore to the next village Manarola and then on to the other villages. The Strada dell Amore is cut out of the rock leading along the cliff edge and has spectacular views.
PLACES EASILY REACHABLE FROM LUNIGIANA
PARMA Parma is a prosperous and industrial city but still retains an artistic quality with its quiet old streets and squaresproviding a lovely setting for concerts in the Summer. It is also traditionally associated with ham and ParmesanCheese (Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano). Places to see: Piazza Duomo with its cathedral built in Romanesque style. Piazza Garibaldi: with pavement cafessurrounded by find 17th century municipal buildings, Palazzo delta Pilotta - containing two museums with a superbcollection of paintings, among them masterpieces by Correggio.
Allow some time to wander around the porticoed streets where you will find excellent shops.
Bologna, capital of Emiglia-Romagna, is the gastronomic centre of Italy. This handsome old town, built mostly ofbrick is traditionally a centre of learning. It has Europe's oldest university where the first lessons in humananatomy were given. Bologna is also the birthplace of Marconi, the inventor of wireless. What to see: Start sightseeing at the very heart of the town. Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno. Pleasantpavement cafes line the arcaded Piazza Maggiore providing a splendid vantage point for observing the Bolognesiand their city. Across the piazza you will see the enormous basilica of San Petronio, built in 1930 and neverfinished. The nearby Piazza del Nettuno is famous for its fountain with the magnificent statue of Neptune knownas ''II Gigante", by Giambologna, one of Italy's leading sculptors. The best view of the city is certainly from the Torre degli Asinelli 320 feet up! Also the adjacent Torre Garisenda150 feet up! During the 12th and 13th Centuries there were some 200 towers erected in Bologna by the Comune.Today these are the only two remaining and have become city landmarks. Torre degli Asinelli leans about 3 feetoff-centre and the shorter Torre Garisenda tilts 10 feet in the other direction and figures in Dante's inferno.Allow some time to wander around the porticoed streets where you will find excellent shops. Alongthe Via dell'Independenza you will find a variety of shops selling fashionable clothes and leather goods.
Genoa, Lucca (a wonderful walled city)and Bagni di Lucca are within an hour of Aulla by car. Milan is about two hours and Turin (Torino) about three. The Italian Riviera, that stretch of the coast from La Spezia northwards to Genoa has world famous beaches and resorts. Leisurely drives through the mountains to Barga, Lucca and Bagni di Lucca will afford you some spectacularscenery, but the coast drives are equally beautiful. You will certainly want to spend some time exploring themorning markets in Lunigiana mountain villages. Each morning a traditional market is held in a different village. Festas celebrating the local churches' patrons take place throughout the summer months. These candlelightprocessions are followed by traditional songs and dances and, or course, a hearty offering of local delicacies.
Carrara means marble and Michelangelo thought of marble quarrying as an art just as serious as the actual shaping of the stone. You will find a trip to the most famous marble quarries fascinating.
A trip via the back roads from Aulla to Carrara will acquaint you with some wonderful scenery andremind you that these mountains are haunted by the memory of Michelangelo. Carrara means marbleand Michelangelo thought of marble quarrying as an art just as serious as the actual shaping of the stone.You will find a trip to the most famous marble quarries fascinating. The rivers and streams in Carrara run white with the dust from the quarries, some of which have been activesince Roman times. There are many quarries open to the public. It is possible to drive to several (follow signs inthe town). There are several related exhibits in town including the Museo del Marmo. Not far away, is the great Marina di Carrara, the marble port from which the famous stone is shipped allover the world. Just to the north is the ancient Roman site of Luni, a colony built as a defence againstthe Ligurians and now an exciting archeological exploration.
TORRE DEL LAGO - PUCCINI No opera buff can visit the region without a trip to the shrine of the great master, Giacomo Puccini. All of hisoperas except his final one, Turandot, were written here. Puccini's villa is on the banks of the picture postcardlake and he, his wife and son are buried in the chapel next to the villa. These might be a lovely setting for a picniclunch and lazy afternoon nap or one might explore the nearby resorts of Viareggio and Forte del Marmi. There is an annual festival with performances of the Puccini Operas on a stage by the lake during July/August andwell worth a visit.
Why not combine your holiday here in Lunigiana with a visit to Siena - a wonderful mellow old Italian walled city set amidst breathtaking countryside. Every gateway in its thick battlement walls frames views of sunflowers, maize and vineyards.
Why not combine your holiday here in Lunigiana with a visit to Siena. It is a wonderful mellow old Italian walledcity set amidst breathtaking countryside. It still retains a distinct mediaeval character. Every gateway in its thickbattlement walls frames views of sunflowers, maize and vineyards. Within the walls are a jumble of narrow trafficfree streets, well-preserved ancient Gothic buildings and artisan shops clustered around the imposing humbugstripedcathedral. Painters have always flocked here, lured by the clarity of the light and, of course, the iron rich earth that theyused to colour their oils. Getting around: Siena is surrounded by car parks, from which you can ascend to the old city by escalator of lift.There are good bus services from the Piazza Domenica to nearby towns. What to see: Piazza del Campo is the heart of Siena and one of the most beautiful squares in Europe- a paved,fan shaped basin. The Cathedral -in the Piazza del Duomo - Its face is a surprisingly delicate sculpture of pinks, greens and golds. Ofparticular note are the beautiful marble floors, the Carrara marble pulpit and four statues by Michaelangelo. Museo dell'Opera del Duomo - tucked around the corner from the cathedral and the home of Siena's most prizedpaintings: Duccio's Madonna di Maesta and Lorenzetti's Birth of the Virgin. Torre di Mangia - in the Campo. 332 feet high, for beautiful views over the tiled rooftops. Palazzo Publico - once a palace and now the town hall. The exterior sculptures tell the town's history. Look forSenius, the wolf who supposedly founded Siena. Inside is the City museum. Pinacoteca Nazionale - Palazzo Buonsignori, via san Pietro, a huge collection of paintings. Special events: 2 July and 16 August, the Palio horse race takes place. A handful of horsemen gallop barebackaround the Campo three times - dangerously - whilst the town folk party. Not to be missed!
PISA Pisa is about an hour by car from Aulla. If you arrived via Pisa, you may have seen its most famous monument, theleaning tower, from the air. Even if you did, the city which 900 years ago was known as the city of marvels isworth a day's exploration. The great Cathedral complex of Pisa, the Field of Miracles, comprises the Duomo, the Baptistry and the leaningTower. The baptistery is the largest of its kind in Italy. The Campo dei Miracoli also includes two museums and a cloister. There is a festa on June 25th (Gioco del Ponte),which culminates in a giant tug of war over the Arno. As in all Italian cities, food is plentiful through notnecessarily cheap. It is probably best to leave your car in the car park near the Campo die Miracoli and walk.
Florence can be reached by train or car from Aulla. Parking in Florence is expensive and may be difficult. Cars are banned in the centre. The train station is centrally located and Florence is a wonderful city for walking.
FLORENCE Florence can be reached by train or car from Aulla. Parking in Florence is expensive and may be difficult. Cars are banned in the centre. The train station is centrally located and Florence is a wonderful city for walking. If you do drive, a good tip is to park up at Piazzale Michelangelo (form the Certosa exit on the A1) Parking here is free, though unguarded, and the view overFlorence is stupendous.. You can easily walk down into the city, but check the number of the bus for your return– it’s a long haul back up. June 24th is the feast of St John the Baptist, a traditional holiday in Florence. Also during three June weekends, theCalcio in Costume, a renaissance football game, takes place in the city. A good guidebook will help you to make the most of a short visit to Florence. The city is very compact, has somegood shopping streets and some fun markets in addition to more art than any city in Europe. Have an espresso ata table in the Piazza della Signoria. Or go to the Giubotto Rosso, in Piazza del Reppublica – a favourite haunt ofartists, from the Futurists onwards. The walls are covered in their paintings. After a brief tour of the Uffizi museum you can stroll across the Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace, and the BoboliGardens. Before you return to your train or car, visit the market near the Duomo and rub the nose of the bronzecinghiale (the wild boar) and wish fervently to return to Florence! You can book tickets for the Uffizi Gallery Museum by telephoning 055 294883. This means that you will not haveto queue - go straight to the door and claim your ticket.
GASTRONOMY IN LUNIGIANA
Lunigiana is a triangle of Tuscany, squeezed between Liguria and Emilia. For millenia it has been crossed bypilgrims and merchants. The result of these exchanges is noticeable in the architecture, language and, best of all, the food of the region. From the three regions, Lunigiana has taken the best of each.
TORTA D'ERBE is a local pie made with a base of very light pastry and filled with edible field grasses -leeks andspinach and the result nevertheless is always delicious. TESTAROLI are the pride of Lunigiana cuisine. You will not find them anywhere else in Italy. They are made froma batter of wheat flour, water and salt which is cooked in large cast iron pans with lids. They form a sort ofpancake which is then boiled and cut up into small strips and is usually served with Pesto Another speciality of Lunigiana is PANIGACCI. Like Testaroli they are made of a batter but one which is cookedin red hot clay dishes over an open fire. Panigacci are then served as hot crispy pancakes which you then spreadwith a soft Stracchino cheese and fill with mixed cold meats such as Parma ham, salami etc. The village ofPodenzana is famous throughout Italy as the home of Panigacci. FOCACETTE are similar to panigacci but made with maize flour and can be sampled at the many local festas andsagras. FOCACCIA is well known throughout Italy but particularly good in this region. It is leavened bread cooked witholive oil and salt; particularly good when just out of the oven and still warm in the mornings for breakfast.Focaccia can also be found made with onions olives and sausages. For pasta there are the famous TORTELLI OR TORTELLONI which are similar to ravioli but stuffed with ricotta(fresh goats cheese) and spinach and served with parmesan cheese, fresh sage and melted butter.You will see many stalls in the local festas and indeed in many of the local grocery shops (alimentari) a plumpbeige/brown mushroom in wicker baskets lined with chestnut leaves. The inhabitants of Lunigiana look forwardto the beginning of the season when these funghi (mushrooms) begin to grow. They are a great delicacy andexpensive to buy. You will find them frequently served in restaurants with pasta in a sauce or often with cream ina sauce with meat. They are in fact the 'boletus edulis - "cepe " in French or PORCINI in Italian. You can buythem fresh to cook there, or dried to take home. The cheeses, such as pecorino, are served in most of the restaurants or sold in the grocers. Pecorino Toscana isparticularly good. Other good cheeses are gorgonzola with or without MASCARPONE, STRACCHINO (creamycheese), fresh PARMIGIANO. A great part of Lunigiana is covered by chestnut woods and chestnuts at one time constituted the local peopleslivelihood before and during the war. There are many local dishes where the main ingredient is chestnut flour butthe most popular is probably PATTONA - a chestnut batter cooked in clay dishes and served with ricotta andsalami. Many of the festas held in the region will serve dishes based on chestnuts. Although Lunigiana is not famous for its wines, most restaurants make their own from grapes they collect fromthe South of Tuscany. Wine here is of course really very reasonable to buy. The area of Lunigiana is surrounded by well-known vineyards. To the south is Chianti, which produces the mostfamous wines of Italy; other Tuscan wines worth a try include Vernaccia, Aleatica, Brunello di Montalcino andNobile di Montepulciano. The Cinque Terre produce pleasant dessert wines such as Sciacchetra.
DICTIONARY OF LOCAL DISHES AND PASTA
CANELLONI Large cylindrical pasta stuffed and oven baked. CROSTINI Slices of bread toasted or deep fried and covered with various toppings FUNGHI Lunigiana delicacy - Wild mushrooms GNOCCHI Oval shaped pasta made of potato dough and served with sage and butter. LASAGNE Sheet pasta layered with meat sauce, white sauce and parmigiano cheese and baked in theoven PANIGACCI A batter made of sheet flour, water and salt and baked over an open fire and served ascrispy pancake. They are served with stracchino and cold meats. Look for restaurants specialising inPanigacci. It is a typical Lunigiana experience. You roll up your cold meats in the pancake as you do withchinese pancakes. PAPPARDELLE Wide ribbon pasta usually served with hare sauce. PENNE Cylindrical 'lined' pasta PESTO Sauce made of fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic and grated goats cheese and frequently served withpasta and testaroli. RAVIOLI Square pasta stuffed with vegetables, meat, ricotta cheese etc. RISOTTO Rice cooked in stock until it is completely absorbed and flavoured in many ways including thefamous Porcini funghi which is delicious. TAGLIATELLE Very thin ribbon pasta TESTAROLI A batter of wheat flour, water and salt, which is cooked in large cast iron pans with lids.They form a thick pancake which is then cut into small strips and boiled for a few minutes. Testaroli isusually served with pesto. TORTA D'ERBA A light pastry case filled with wild grasses or vegetables and baked. TORTELLI Similar to ravioli but larger and stuffed with ricotta (fresh goat's cheese) and spinach andsometimes served with Parmigiano cheese, fresh sage and melted butter
FISH -SHELL FISH DATTERO DI MARE grows in the cracks of some sedimentary rocks. Divers catch them using a hammerand chisel to breach the rocks. They taste delicious. MUSCOLI or COZZE are mussels. They are often: floured and fried, or cooked with garlic and parsley andtomatoes. This sauce is very good on spaghetti. TARTUFFO DI MARE (sea truffle) is very much appreciated for its exquisite taste. It can be eaten with squeezedlemon as an hors d'oeuvre. They grow on the bottom of the sea and divers search them out in the sand. ZAMPA DI VACCA tastes of musk. It is particularly difficult to find as it grows on rocks hidden by seaweed. PATELLA is nother mollusc. When fried it is similar to the precious sea truffle. Also worth a mention are the RICCIO (sea-urchin), the LUMACCHINE DI MARE, the OGLIERE or FIDELINI DIMARE that we call 'Biguete or Beleteghe - a kind of small fish that is delicious when floured and fried.
THE ORDER OF COURSES In Italy food is eaten in the following order ANTIPASTO - Starter, hors d'oeuvre. Usually consists of thinly sliced cold meats such as Parma ham,salame etc. referred to as Antipasto Italiano or Salumi Misti or Affettati and generally accompanied bypickled vegetables. Often you get little ‘fritelle’ – slices of zucchini, etc fried in batter, and ‘sgabei’, chiselshapedfried dough. Antipasto can also be a hot dish (stuffed pancakes) or seafood. PRIMO PIATTO - This is the pasta course. Pasta, risotto or soup, is eaten as a primo. Many people findthat antipasto plus a primo pasta dish is more than enough. A group can often ask for a selection ofdifferent pasta, so everyone can try everything. Ask for ‘misto’. SECONDO PIATTO - This is the main course (meat or fish). CONTORNO - Vegetables. In Italy vegetables do not automatically come with your main dish andshould be ordered separately. FORMAGGIO - Cheese DOLCE - Dessert or GELATO - Ice Cream or FRUTTA - Fruit CAFFE - Espresso is normally served unless otherwise ordered. CAFE MACCHIATO is espresso with a touch ofmilk . LIQUORE – Liqueur – Try Limoncello, often homemade and delicious. VINO - Wine. Most restaurants make their own wine. (Vino della casa) and will simply ask if you prefer red(rosso) or white (bianco) ACQUA - Water. When ordering you should state if you want ACQUA GASSATA (Fizzy) or alternativelyACQUA NATURALE (plain mineral water)
In Italy it is normal to make a cover charge to include bread, etc (pane e coperto) IVA (VAT) will be included in your bill and service sometimes is as well. As a general restaurants are open from 12.00 to 14.00 and from 1900 to 2400 (pizzerias are normally open untilmuch later). We advise you to book, especially in the Lunigiana countryside in the evenings. Italians usually eat outat lunchtime! Beware of prices on the coast, which are much higher than in the Lunigiana area. Many restaurants in Lunigiana do not have a menu. They just come and tell you what they havethat day. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it. They don’t tell you the prices, but they willalways be reasonable in this sort of restaurant, as will the house wine. BUON APPETITO !!
Il Terzo di Città The Terzo di Città, was the original residential centre of Siena.
PINACOTECA NAZIONALE (National Art Gallery) Palazzo Buonsignori Via San Pietro 29 Tues.- Sat. 8.15-19.15, Mon. 8.30-13.30, Sunday and public holidays 8.15-13.30. Closed 1 January, 1 May, 25 December Tickets: Euro 4,30 - Reduced Euro 2,00
PALAZZO BUONSIGNORI , Via San Pietro 29 Tues.- Sat. 8.15-19.15, Mon. 8.30-13.30, Sunday and public holidays 8.15-13.30. Closed 1 January, 1 May, 25 December Tickets: Euro 4,30 - Reduced Euro 2,00
PICCOLOMINI LIBRARY in the Duomo 1 Nov.-14 March 10.00-13.00, 14.00-17.00; 15 March-31 Oct. 9.00-19.30; Sunday and public holidays open from 13.30 - 19,30 Closed: 25 December, 1 January Tickets: Euro 1,50 - groups of 15 or more 1,20
Il Terzo di Camollia On the arch of the Camollia city gate appear the words: "Cor Magis Tibi Siena Pandit", meaning "Siena opens its heart to you wider than this gate". The inscription was a tribute to Ferdinando I de' Medici, and today has become a symbol of Sienese hospitality.
SANTUARIO DI SANTA CATERINA Costa di S. Antonio Orario: 9.00-12.30, 15.00-18.00 Admission free
Terzo di San Martino and Piazza del Campo The Terzo di San Martino grew up around the Via Francigena, the route taken by pilgrims heading for Rome. Saint Martin was the patron saint of pilgrims and wayfarers, which explains the name of the district.
MUSEO CIVICO (City Museum) - Piazza del Campo 16 Mar. - 31 Oct. 10.00-19.00 1 Nov. - 25 Nov. 10.00-18.30 26 Nov. - 15 Feb.: 10.00-17.30 16 Feb. - 15 Mar.: 10.00-18.30 26 Dec. - 6 Jan.: 10.00-18.30 Closed 25 Dec. Tickets: Euro 6,50 - Reduced 4,00 - groups of 15 or more 5,50 www.comune.siena.it/museocivico
TORRE DEL MANGIA (Mangia Tower) - Piazza del Campo 1 Nov. - 15 Mar.: 10.00-16.00 16 Mar. - 31 Oct.: 10.00-19.00 Closed 25 Dec. Tickets: Euro 5,50 - All-in-one ticket for Museum and Tower Euro 9,50
MUSEO PER BAMBINI (Children's Museum) - Via dei Pispini, 164 phone +39 0577 46517 www.comune.siena