THINGS TO DO
The Grotta Del Vento
A series of caves and vast galleries provide welcome respite from summer temperatures. There are three tours lasting from 1 – 3 hours. www.grottadelvento.com
Selva del Buffardello Adventure Park (15km)
Lush, green forest and breathtaking scenery with tree-top high wires, crossings (using ladders, walkways, bridges and wind-in-your-face zip wires; and finish off with a liberal dose of people in search of their inner Tarzan. www.selvadelbuffardello.it/en/
Parco del Levigliese (7km)
A steep canyon for watersports enthusiasts. Rockpool jumping, climbing, canoeing, rafting with excellent instructors. http://parcolevigliese.blogspot.it/
Bicycle Hire in Castelnuovo (5km)
There are two excellent bike hire shops in Castelnuovo where you can hire mountain bikes or road bikes for €10 – €15 daily. The Giro d’Italia swings by in May. Release your inner Wiggo.
Horse riding (10km)
Excellent horses for treks lasting 1 – 5 hours through the stunning Garfagnana landscape. www.maneggio-lacanottola.it
The most beautiful golf course in Tuscany? This little 6 hole course is beautifully maintained and provides some interesting challenges for even the most experienced golfer. The views of the Apuane Alps are nothing but a distraction. There is a driving range and putting green. Green fees are €18 and you can stay for the day.
A day at the Tuscan Riviera is quite an excursion with a breathtaking drive over the hills to the sea. Spot the marble quarries en route. Go on a Wednesday and pick up a bargain at the market at Forte dei Marmi.
There are courts in Gallicano, Barga and Bagni di Lucca.
Rock climbing (4km)
There is excellent climbing on limestone crags in the area. The nearest at Le Rochette is only 12 mins drive and offers great technical climbing on well protected routes. In hot weather there is a variety of faces which offer excellent mid to high grades. It’s easy to find crags which are not crowded and which will occupy you all day. You can return to Lavacchio to a pool or hot tub! There is a comprehensive guide book with English directions to the crags – “Toscana e Isola d’Elba” from www.versantesud.it
With every village hosting a festa or a sagra there is no end to entertainments. The following are some of the highlights available in the summer for a visitor:
The hilltop town of Barga is well worth a visit as the summer brings a score of artists who exhibit their work in this “Citta d’Arte”. Among the most well known is John Bellany, the Glaswegian artist who lived locally.
The Piazzette in July sees up to 5 bands/night playing in the piazzas while the Jazz Festival in August has a more international flavour. There is also Barga Opera. A more bizzare experience is to attend the fish and chips festival, held in July to celebrate the historic link with Scotland. For local information on what’s on in Barga visit www.barganews.com
Art Toscana run highly popular painting courses in Barga, as well as in Florence and Sicily. A possibility for non-participating partners perhaps?
The provincial capital, Lucca (38km) is a major draw, whether for cycling round the ancient walls, taking coffee in the wide piazzas or searching for an elegant gift in Via Fillungo. The Roman amphitheatre is delightful, there seems to be an elaborate church on every corner and there are a number of galleries and museums to visit. The summer festival brings well known bands (Van Morrison, Jamiroqai and Crosby, Stills and Nash to name but a few) in July. www.summer-festival.com
The Puccini festival
Held in August at nearby Torre Del Largo this offers something a little more refined. www.puccinifestival.it
Florence is easily accessed in a day and we can help you avoid the queues by booking you into the well known galleries such as The Uffizi and the Accademia. A climb up the famous Duomo offers spectacular views of the city while the central market offers bargains galore as well as a new food hall. By train from Lucca is a stress-free excursion. www.uffizi.com
Italian food varies by region and the locals are fiercely proud of their specialities. In the Garfagnana these include Chestnuts, Porcini mushrooms, Spelt flour, Pecorino cheese, Wild Boar and a variety of dried and cured meats including Lardo di Colonnata (a cured fat with herbs) www.academiabarilla.com
We can point you in the right direction to find these as well as to shops and delicatessens for acquiring the best produce.
Italian food is about flavour. It is about ripe fruit picked off the tree and eaten while still warm from the sun, fish straight from the water, meat reared and butchered with skill, wine made with the genuine local grapes and matured in ancient barrels, organic vegetables just dug from richly matured fields with the earth still clinging to their roots. This is not a romantic vision, it is how our food should be!
Local restaurants we can recommend include:
Trattoria Bonini (4km)
For outstanding food and wine www.trattoriabonini.it
Vecchio Mulino Castelnuovo (5km)
Andrea Bertucci will introduce you to Garfagnana produce and enthuse about the Slow Food Movement. www.vecchiomulino.info
Barga offers an elegant dining experience where the food is a notch above your local trattoria www.scacciaguai.it
Il Pozzo (7km)
In Pieve Fosciana this is a Slow Food restaurant which offers local seasonal food and excellent pizzas. www.ristorantepizzeriailpozzo.it
Our closest restaurant at just 15 minutes walk away from Col di Lavacchio where a good meal can be had at a remarkable cost. Both the steak and the pizza can be recommended and you will be sure of a friendly welcome.
Further afield we can recommend restaurants in Lucca such as Canuleia or Ammodonostro as well as wine shops and bars. You could always visit a winery on the Strada del Vino just north of Lucca. www.stradavinoeoliolucca.it where some fabulous whites and reds can be purchased.