A visit to the natural park of Orecchiella

The Parco dell’Orecchiella is a real gem in the Garfagnana area, with hectares of woods offering a multitude of hiking paths while admiring wild animals and visiting natural museums. The park is less than one hour drive from Casa Tolomei.

Today we decided to go despite an unpromising weather forecast, to beat the closure of the park at the end of October (during October it’s only open on Sundays).

One of a pack of wolf sculptures that are displayed near the visitor centre.

A short walk from the visitor centre, we met with a group of mouflon (a bit like a mountain goat.)

And further along, we absolutely loved our encounter with the bears

The small bear was very curious, or maybe just hopeful to get something nice, like berries?

It was a misty autumn day up there among the summits

The autumn colours were already starting to come out

A few chestnuts in the bag (presently roasting in our wood oven).

We found all kinds of mushrooms and toadstools on the woodland floor. Unfortunately we are not experts but we’re fairly sure these are not safe to eat! We’re still waiting for the day when we’ll find the famous Porcini!

We were really happy that we made the trip up into the mountains, for despite the weather we truly enjoyed the Autumn atmosphere. The park is usually open between April and October (only on certain days during some months.) The entrance fee is very reasonable (in 2019, 2 euros adults, 1 euro children over six) and entitles you to see the animals and other managed attractions of the park. Definitely worth a visit!

A sunny walk from La Villa to “Il Moro”

Today was sunny again, so we decided to explore further paths around our home. We love walking and we’re extremely happy to have so many possibilities just at our doorstep.

The path to Il Moro, a very high viewpoint just a few kilometers from Bagni di Lucca, starts at Il Paretaio, when the road up from La Villa turns down to Bagni Caldi (before continuing to Ponte a Serraglio). We were amazed to discover such a blissfully peaceful, sunny and spectacular path.

Along the way there are some beautiful waterfalls to be seen

All around are amazing views. We could see so many villages perched on the mountains

When we arrived at Moro basso we continued towards Moro alto

From Moro alto there is another path to Longoio, a beautiful village on the mountains of Bagni di Lucca.

We decided to leave Longoio for another time. The sun was slowly setting and we headed for home, enjoying the views of our pretty village in the warm glow of the sunset.

It was yet another charming walk and a great way to enjoy a blissfully sunny day!

A walk to Benabbio

Tuscany is famous for its sunny days, and Bagni di Lucca is no exception. Even in January the weather can be fabulous, with dry, sunny days set against a magnificent blue sky. Perfect weather for a walk in the mountains!

On Sunday the nearby village of Benabbio hosted a festival, called “Festa de Necci”, which celebrates a local product similar to a pancake. Necci are made with chestnut flour and filled with ricotta , nutella, cheese, hams, or whatever you fancy. What a great opportunity for an adventure with all the kids!

The walk starts from above the English cemetery of Bagni di Lucca, which is a real gem and worth a visit by itself. Since the first part of the walk was a bit too overgrown for the kids, we decided to walk for a while along the street up to the beginning of the mule track, a beautiful path amidst woods and fields. This is the very path that our famous guests, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, travelled along to reach Benabbio, riding on mules (well, it was the 1800’s!)

Along the way you can admire the view over Bagni di Lucca, La Villa, and up towards Benabbio, a charming little village higher up the mountain.

We were all very happy when we finally reached Benabbio, and headed straight for the party in the square, for a feast of Necci and mulled wine!

The walk took, in total, an hour and a half. It’s an easy, lovely walk that even kids can manage. If you happen to be in Benabbio at lunch time, you can enjoy a great meal at the famous restaurant “Il Cavallino Bianco”, right in the centre of the village, before you head back to Bagni or continue your walk towards another of our local villages. Still much more to explore in this wonderful area!

La Valle di Babbo Natale – a great family event in Bagni di Lucca

This year edition of “La Valle di Babbo Natale” has probably been the most successful one so far. This tradition was born thanks to the efforts of a group of young people from Bagni di Lucca who devote much time and work to the creation of a magical event,  attracting more and more people every year. Villa Webb looked wonderful as the setting for Santa’s house there was a surprise in every room.

The main entrance of the Villa, with beautiful Christmas trees and toys
Santa’s bedroom
The nativity
A wonderful nativity
Santa Klaus welcoming children in the charming old kitchen of Villa Webb
Kids could sit on Santa’s knee and have a photo taken

There was a bus offering a free service back and forth between Villa Webb and the village center.  The main street welcomed visitors with a beautiful Christmas market and many shows and activities for children.

The Christmas market was particularly charming this year

One of the most successful shows was performed by a street artist playing with fire

On Sunday morning we took part in the Santa’s Run, which is really a beautiful walk from Bagni di Lucca La Villa to Ponte a Serraglio. The participants were offered a Santa hat, a breakfast at the start of the run, and a generous buffet at the Thermal Baths.

Our group, walking with children
At the Thermal Baths we were offered a nice herbal tea made with the thermal water, and many treats to eat

Even the light rain of the afternoon did not prevent people from participating in this wonderful family event, and the Casa di Babbo Natale at Villa Webb was full of children queuing to sit on Santa’s knee.

It has been yet another great weekend in Bagni di Lucca, with much fun to be had for everybody. The village was looking wonderful and was full of visitors. Kids were thrilled and excited, and every activity was well organized, not to mention completely free. Don’t miss this event next year, you’ll love it!


What a wonderful, eventful December (so far)!

December so far has been a very eventful (and sunny) month. Every weekend there is a great event to attend.  The weather has been particularly good, and the villages of our beautiful “Valle dei Presepi e di Babbo Natale” are looking at their best. This weekend we went to Fornoli for the Fiera dell’immacolata on Saturday, and to Barga to the Festa del Cioccolato on Sunday.

The 8th of December is a festive day in Italy, the Festa dell’Immacolata, so we went to Fornoli and visited the traditional “Fiera dell’Immacolata”, a well organized market with stalls selling just about everything, from clothes to shoes, from little pets to Christmas gifts.

On Sunday there were many events around, but we love chocolate too much to miss the amazing “Festa del Ciccolato” in Barga. The village of Barga is one of the most picturesque around – a fortified medieval village set among rolling hills which has retained all its charm.

In the squares and alleys of this beautiful village, there were lots of stalls typical of a Christmas Market.

But the most amazing experience has been sampling chocolate of all types – what a treat!

In the end we couldn’t resist a cup of hot chocolate, which we sipped in one of the charming squares of Barga

In the afternoon we came back to Bagni di Lucca, where the kids attended a fashion show organized in the Square of Circolo dei Forestieri during another Christmas event: Total Look under the Christmas Tree.

We are so happy to have had the chance to attend an array of beautiful, fun events in our area and we’re already counting the days till next weekend, when Bagni di Lucca La Villa will transform itself into the Village of Father Christmas.

The wonderful nativity in Monti di Villa

Bagni di Lucca has a wonderful tradition, the presepio vivente or living nativity scene.  Every year, one of the quaint mountain villages takes a turn to recreate the nativity scene by setting up the entire village to represent past times in an extremely charming way. I have to say this is one of Bagni di Lucca’s best-loved traditions. This year it was the turn of Monti di Villa, a village right on top of the mountains which enjoys amazing views all around.

We arrived early to fully enjoy the charming atmosphere of this amazing set up, which beautifully recreated what could have been a Roman village at the time when Jesus was born.

While walking around the village admiring the nativity, one could enjoy some of the many specialties offered by various stalls, such as homemade tortelli, bomboloni (donuts), pizza, home made bread with local oil, pasta fritta, tigelle, necci (pancakes made with chestnut flour), roast chestnuts, mulled wine, etc…

Even Santa made his  appearance, progressing through the village to check who’s been naughty or nice.

The whole scene is set up to anticipate the arrival of baby Jesus

It was an amazing day, and, as every year, so well attended. Throngs of people kept arriving till late in the afternoon, to enjoy the spectacle of such a magical event in the most stunning setting.

We can’t wait to attend next year’s nativity in another beautiful village of Bagni di Lucca.

A day out around Porto Venere 

Every summer we visit Liguria. It is one of our favourite spots for a day out and we all love it! It is an ideal trip for anyone who likes a bit of adventure.
From Lucca you can take a train to La Spezia. At La Spezia we normally take a train to Monterosso, the first of the Cinque Terre, but this time we explored a different area and took the bus to Porto Venere.

The bus trip by itself is beautiful and takes you in under 20 minutes to Porto Venere, a charming village on the Golfo dei Poeti.

The walks above the village offer amazing views on the gulf.

Porto Venere is a real gem and we love strolling around the village, the port, the church and the castle.

It was a sunny day and we decided to take the boat to the Isola Palmaria for a nice swim.

From the island you enjoy amazing views all around up to La Spezia.

After a walk and a fabulous swim in crystalline waters, we took the boat back to Porto Venere. The trip is very enjoyable, but too short for our kids, so we decided to take the ferry to La Spezia and enjoy another trip on the gulf.

La Spezia is a port city, with a line of palms along the promenade. It feels very “Riviera” like.

From the port we walked to the station along the very charming city centre, with open views on the Mediterranean on one side and dotted hills on the other.

We had a wonderful day at Porto Venere, travelling by train, bus, and boat to enjoy all those amazing views on colourful villages and blue, blue and blue!

The weekly market

Twice per week, all year round, there is a beautiful, colorful market in the square of  Bagni di Lucca.

Every Wednesday and Saturday, the square  is filled with stalls selling seasonal fruit and vegetables, plants and flowers, clothes, shoes, local produces such as honey and cheese, sandwiches, housewares, cleaning products, and much more.

The fruit looks gorgeous at this time of the year, and it smells nice too!

It is a treat for the eyes to walk around the stalls, take a look at all the products, try some specialties and buy some locally sourced fresh tomatoes and salad.

Clothes are very pretty and inexpensive at the market.

I particularly like it at this time of the year, when the air is pervaded by the scent of the linden trees and the square is bustling with people. While shopping at the market, you can enjoy a cappuccino at the cafe, have an ice-cream at the new gelateria, or have a sunny lunch in one of the several restaurants around the market.

A renovated Ice Cream shop in town

After one year, the Gelateria La Primavera re-opened this weekend with a new look.

It was always very busy and well attended by both locals and tourists,  so its reopening was awaited with much anticipation.

The ice-cream selection is very wide and the flavours all look delicious. I had “melograno” (pomegranate), which I highly recommend to anyone who loves a good fruity home-made ice-cream.

La Primavera does not only sell ice-cream. It ‘s also a cafe / bar with fresh pastries etc.

Outside there is a nice patio area with tables and chairs.  There used to be a dance floor at the end of this patio. where locals used to dance at the weekends.  Let’s hope it will be brought back, we could do with some dancing after an ice-cream!

The restored ice-cream shop, right in the centre of Bagni di Lucca Villa, is very welcome  and we do wish them all the best of luck. For sure, we’ll be visiting very often and treating ourselves to a very wonderful Italian ice-cream.

 

 

Azalea Festival at Borgo a Mozzano

The village of Borgo a Mozzano, a few kilometers from Bagni di Lucca, holds every year a very colourful festival, la festa dell’Azalea, or the Azalea festival.

All along the main street there are stands selling local products, food, drinks, clothes and, of course, flowers!

Although the sky was a little overcast, the festival was very well attended.

The villagers decorated their houses and arranged very beautiful displays along the main street – what a treat to walk amongst so many colourful flowers and decorations!

A band played music and danced along the street. We were very impressed with the dancers!

Due to a rainy start to the day, we weren’t sure whether to participate. But we were very happy that we did. We had a great day   at Borgo a Mozzano, enjoying the beautiful displays, the music, the decorations all over the town, and overall the very festive atmosphere of such a pretty village!