Return to Tuscany 2019
Two years ago Jim and I won the bid in an auction for a holiday in Tuscany in support of Starchild Charity. At last this September (2019) we headed for Bagni di Lucca for our stay at Tuscan Rooms. Our accommodation was in a refurbished 200 year old town house with a little balcony, shutters on the windows, chestnut beams and a beautiful marble staircase – situated in a quaint little street in La Villa. Claire, one of the owners, made us very welcome and we enjoyed our stay in the quaint but comfortable surroundings.
Bagni di Lucca, 27 miles north of Lucca, is a commune rather than a town, made up of 25 villages. It was a relaxing base, pretty and interesting but off the tourist beaten track.
We had some interesting drives up into the hills in Bagni di Lucca, taking wrong turnings and driving through tiny, winding streets. In the 19th century the area became hugely popular with European aristocracy attracted by the thermal spas. We drove up to Spa Terme to check it out – it looked like a pleasant place to relax but it was a beautiful day and we had more exploring to do.
Ponte del Diavolo
My favourite sight was the spectacular medieval bridge Ponte della Maddalena, also known as Ponte del Diavolo (Bridge of the Devil), which crosses the Serchio river near Borgo a Mozzano.
Barga in the Garfagnana region, known as the most Scottish town in Italy, is worth a visit. We had been to Barga twice before but we drove up one evening. Driving in the dark up into the hills needs a bit of concentration as the road is steep and winding, but if you get a chance, don’t miss this fascinating medieval town high in the Tuscan hills. We had a delicious meal in the lively L’Osteria restaurant. And sure enough got chatting to Cliff an Marie (a Scots-Italian) from Dumfries. (Read the brilliant feature on my website about Barga by Ian R. Mitchell – Chianti, Culture and Chips)
Apart from our car journeys around the area, we also made good use of Bagni di Lucca Train Station in Fornoli village. There is no ticket office but there is a lovely statue.
It’s only a thirty minutes journey by train from Bagni di Lucca to Lucca and the fares are much cheaper than at home. The beautiful walled city is not to be missed and we visited it twice. One of the main tourist attractions in North Tuscany, Lucca’s centre is very busy with attractive shops, churches and the fabulous circular Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, perfect for people watching while you enjoy a meal or a gelato. If you are in the mood for something more peaceful you can stroll, or cycle, along the tree lined pathways on the well preserved
Renaissance ramparts overlooking the city.
Another major tourist attraction is the beautiful city of Firenze. The journey from Bagni di Lucca is just over two hours by train, changing at Lucca and then onto Florence. However, we were soon to discover that whilst the fares were very cheap, the trains tended not to arrive on time so there was no guarantee of connections working out. We waited forty five minutes at Lucca, however, we met a wonderful eighty year old woman from New York City, who had been staying in Lucca for five weeks learning Italian.
Florence is absolutely gorgeous and although there are hundreds of tourists the famous sights are impressive and there’s much to see: the statues, the fabulous architecture, wonderful Duomo and the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge over the River Arno. We enjoyed the street life and the delicious food and al fresco coffee.
We had planned to visit some other part of Tuscany where we have never been. That included Volterra, San Gimignano and Siena. However, we had some pretty bad weather when we were there. The forecasts were so bad that we decided to ditch the car and take the train to Arezzo. The weather was indeed dull and wet but we absolutely loved Arezzo.
Much less of a tourist attraction than other parts of Tuscany, Arezzo in East Tuscany is an ancient Etruscan city built on a hill – it was a wonderful surprise. Arezzo is a captivating place, very easy on the eye – the shops have fabulous displays with appealing windows and every cafe and restaurant appears inviting.
Narrow cobbled lanes branch off the main street, Corso Italia, and at the end of many you can find a wonderful church some with amazing frescoes and unusual architecture. The Cathedral with its wonderful vaulted ceilings is situated at the very top.
The Cathedral of Santi Donato e Pietro, Arezzo
Piazza Grande is the beautiful main square. Here there are many cafes and restaurants and the interesting antique shops that Arezzo is renowned for.
The rain didn’t put us off in the slightest and Jim captured some of the atmosphere on his camera.
We were really happy with our accommodation at B & B Tarussio where Bianca and Alessandro made us exceptionally welcome. We had a lovely room with the cleanest en suite I’ve ever seen and breakfast was lovely with delicious coffee and selection of cereals, pastries and yoghurt.
Can really recommend this very hospitable b and b. Just a short walk from Arezzo train station.B & B Tarussio
We will definitely return to Arezzo.
Pat Byrne, October, 2019.
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