Garfagnana properties are well priced when compared to real estate in other areas of Tuscany such as Lucca, Siena and Florence. Located in northern Tuscany, Garfagnana has property at around 30% less than equivalent properties in southern Tuscany. Low priced farmhouses go for around 750-1,000 Euro depending on renovation required. Garfagnana offers skiing, and an outstanding natural environment. Garfagnana is an area of Tuscany that is well worth discovering if you are searching for a idyllic holiday home in Italy.
The Garfagnana is for sure one of Tuscany’s best kept secret’s, when the rest of Tuscany is jammed with people and traffic the Garfagnana is having another quiet and peaceful day thanks to its location in the lush Serchio River valley north of Lucca and Pisa, surrounded by a natural barrier of two mountain ranges, the Apennines and the marble mountains of the Alpi Apuane. One cannot see or hear the noise of the cities, but we are still close enough to experience what they have to offer.
Trekking and Walking
In Garfagnana, trekking opportunities are amazing. Easy valley walks or mountain peaks, the choice is yours. People think of Tuscany, and they think of rolling hills, villas and cyprus trees. In Garfagnana there are mountains and alpine scenery. There is the highest mountain in Tuscany, Monte Prado at 2054m, which can be walked as part of the main Apennine chain from such peaks as Mount Cusna. Walk the Apennine ridge starting from Casone or some lower level walks in the Alpi Apuane, and areas such as Campocatino and the lower peaks of Monte Forato. Alternatively walk the network of forest tracks. The jagged peaks of the Alpi Apuane, with their imposing outline, offer superb views of the coast line or of the Garfagnana valley and the Apennines in land. The highest peak of the Apuane Alps is Monte Pisanino at 1965m. The Orecchiella Natural Park and the Pania del Corfino, are also truly spectacular both in winter and summer. Walk the Apennine ridge starting from Casone or some lower level walks into the Alpi Apuane, and areas such as Campocatino and the lower peaks of Monte Forato. Garfagnana is a hidden gem of Tuscany for trekking and walking.
Cycling Mountain Biking
In the Garfagnana, there is no shortage of tracks and trails. The routes for mountain biking that range from animal tracks or old mule tracks, to single tracks used for hunting and farming, from jeep tracks and fire trails to single marked walking tracks, the choice is endless. This choice allows for all abilities and you can adjust the routes accordingly to suit ones need.
The Garfagnana being a lush area with regular rain falls has enabled some valleys to be dammed to create electricity from this natural source. The location of these lakes are stunning with amazing backdrops of the Alpi Apuane and villages reflected in their waters, and little inlets and places to explore, let alone the abundance of wildlife on their shore. Explore these lakes by a kayak. The following lakes are certain to provide you with an excellent day out Lago di Valli, Lago di Gramolazzo, Ladi di Pontecosi.
Ski resorts are to be found crisscrossing the Apennines, where there are a number of ski stations.The Main resort is that of Abetone but there are also smaller ones such as Casone and Passo Radici and Febbio, which is just across the border in Emilia Romagna
Days out in the Garfagnana Valley
If what you are looking for is a cultural day out you can visit the local sights if interest, such as the Medieval Towns, Cities and sights such as caves and Castles in the area, one can explore the valley of the Garfagnana, and the Cities of Tuscany.
The valley of the Garfagnana to Lucca. Along the way stop at the medieval bridge called the “Devils Bridge”, this masterpiece of construction spans the lower part of the river Serchio. On arrival in Pisa stop at Piazza dei Mirracoli. There is the Leaning Tower , and when you see it for real, it is only then you realise how much it really does lean. The baptistery and the Cathedral are both worth a visit. A walk along the main shopping street to see the river Arno.
Lucca is a small city which has an atmosphere that has long since been lost in other Tuscan cities. The hum of activity, the locals at work and the history of the city make for a great experience. Stroll along the 4km of city walls with the local cyclists and walkers. There is the Cathedral with many works of art, the mummified body of Santa Zita in the the church of San Frediano and the Piazza Antiteatro, built on the remains of the Roman amphitheater. There is a lot to see and Wednesday is market day.
Florence. The Ufizzi Gallery and the Academia are a must to see especially Michelangelo’s “David” . Stroll the Ponte Vecchio and Boboli Gardens and experience the amazing views from Piazzale Michaelangelo. After the Duomo and Santa Croce, one can then attack the markets for a bargain, excellent leather and paper products are to be had there. A beautiful city, busy but one can still find a quiet spot there there.
The Marble Quarries of Carrera
The scenic mountain road from Castelnouvo di Garfagnana winds it way up into the Alpi Apuane. Past places such as the old medieval centre of Isola Sant and Arni, to the Passo Vestito. For a beautiful descent down the mountains and past huge quarries, and villages to Massa. Then onto Carrara and up into the mountains again for a closer look at marble production and a quarry tour. There are huge caverns to be seen, there is a museum on marble production too. We see sculptors at work, and have the chance to purchase some marble artifacts.
Lake Vagli | Lago di Vagli Every 10 years in the Garfagnana, one of the lakes is emptied in order to carry out work and repairs to one of the dams that provide Hydro Electric power to some of the villages of the Garfagnana. This Lake, Lago di Vagli when drained reveals the amazing hidden remains of a medieval village called Fabbrice di Carregine.
When the dam was built, the valley was flooded and this village was consumed by the water. Before the rising of the waters, it was a village of artisans and tradesmen who were then moved to new housing on higher ground. Near the village of Vagli Sotto. The locals have given the village a nickname the “Paese Fantasma” or ghost village and a local folklore has grown up around the submerged village of strange sightings and unexplained events.
Yearly Events in the Garfagnana, and Lower Valley.
Each year the main time for festivals and Sagras is really the holiday period of July and August. This is when most small villages in the valley start to have their local fairs and festivals. Celebrating local foods and traditions, such as trout, polenta and mushroom festivals, to Beer festivals which are now becoming popular. There are music festivals also is the summer months which range from Opera to Rock and local folk music.
Events to Note
Barga Jazz Festival and Barga Festival della Piazette.- July
Borgo Mozzano Beer Festival – beer, local food, music and fair.- July
Castelnuovo Beer Festival – German food And Beer – Early August
Sillico Medieval Festival – food, wine and Music - July
Lucca - Summer Concerts, all main stream International Artists, from Paul Simon to Oasis.
Torre del Lago – Viareggio – Puccini Open Air Opera Festival - August International Folklore Festival – Camporgiano 25-28 / 07 / 2002
Viareggio Carnevale – This is one of the main Italian Carnevals, takes place in March
Plus Many other Small Village Festivals, such
Hotels In Garfagnana
Hotel La Lanterna - Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Hotel Ludovico - Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Hotel Il Grotto - Villetta
Il Casone - Casone
Alpino - Barga
Il Marquee - Pieve Fosciana
Places To Eat In Garfagnana
Il Pozzo - Pieve Fosciana. A local restaurant, which provides a great range of the local dishes of the valley. The food is excellent as is the service. The food is all local Garfagnana recipes, all part of the Slow Food Scheme to preserve the old ways of preparing and serving food to maintain its flavour. A good place to go all year round, with outside seating for warm summer nights. Highly recommended.
Il Triti - Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Located in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, the restaurant has a good varied menu, much along the same lines as Il Pozzo. The staff are friendly and the service is good. A more modern feel to the restaurant but the food is good and recommended
La Vecchia Lanterna - Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. A good place to go to all year round again, with outside seating for the summer. The menu, unlike others is mostly seafood based which makes a nice change from the others which are predominantly meat. Here the fish is tasty and good sized portions are served. The seafood antipasto can will fill you one its own! There is the usual fritto misto, langoustines, prawns etc, not too many locally caught fish on the menu though. However a good option and recommended
Il Castello – Castiglione di Garfagnana. Good for the summer and eating outside, reasonable food here, with a good selection of the various local dishes. Only good to eat outside as indoors is very basic. Follow directions to Collemandina, pass this town and carry on till road junction to Castiglione and other main directions to the right. Follow the road down for about 150m and the restaurant is up on the left hand side of the road.
Il Casone- Casone. A bit more off the beaten track, as it is up at 1300m in the Apennines. A welcoming place and an old stopping point on the main pass across the Apennines. The hotel is big and from the outside, nothing amazing. But the food again is of a high standard and highly recommended. The menu is varied and full of local specialties. Nice to go in the winter time and sit by the log fire and relax there. Plus order a hot chocolate that is so thick the spoon stands up straight in the cup !!
Buca dei Gracchi - Campocatino. For a relaxing day take a short walk in the Alpi Apuane to Campocatino for great views and a memorable location. Visit the Hermitage of San Viviano and then lunch at the Buca.The menu once again is local. The antipasto and the local home made pastas here are excellent. In season the fried Porcini Mushrooms are great ! Recommended but can be expensive.
Villa della Rose - Villa Collemandina. In the central square of the town, a small bar and restaurant with very good quality food, a bit more expensive but the quality is very high.
Vecchio Mulino - Castelnuovo. A delightful Osteria in Castelnuovo. As you walk in the shelves are stocked with local wines and meats and local produce, plus a 2 metre long Mortadella !! You can sample local foods, meats, cheeses, and cakes and savoury tarts. It is a very special experience. One can also combine a wine tasting or Oil Tasting with your meal. Like Il Pozzo is part of the Italian Slow food scheme. Recommended
Places to go to in Garfagnana
Grotta del Vento The Grotta del Vento. A system of caves in the Alpi Apuane mountains when the weather conditions are right the wind blows through the caves, from where they get their name.
Eremo di Callomini, on the same road as Grotta del Vento, an old hermitage and monastery, visit the chapel. Also a bar serving food too.
Barga. Visit the the old town, noted for its richness and amazing winding streets. Great Views from the Cathedral at the top of the old town.
Campocatino. A great old shepherds village in the Alpi Apuane, one of the quaintest places in the area, good place for lunch too and for drinks at the bar. It is a great place in the mountains for walking, bird watching or just to relax and gaze at the views. A must see in the Garfagnana area.
Vagli and the lake at Vagli. A perfect old town nestled on the shores of this magical lake, the lake itself is very impressive with the reflections of the mountains in the water.
Pania del Corfino & Orecchiella Natural Park
Butterfly and other wildlife of the Tuscan Natural Parks. One of the best places to see wildlife in this area and a great place for relatively easy walking. Here there is a visitors centre where you can gather more information and or enter the centre to find out more about the wildlife of the area: bears, deer and boars etc. The walking is good and a good day out is to walk up to the top of the Pania del Corfino which has wonderful views of the Garfagnana Valley
Verrucole Fortress. A very scenic location for a fortress, on the top of a small hill in the middle of the valley, great views of the mountains and one can sit and relax here and then have a drink at the bar below.
Cinque Terre. A world heritage site, near La Spezia, a great coast line with 5 picturesque villages dotted along the coast, one can walk them or use trains and boats to get around from village to village. Also places such as Portovenere are worth a look. Portovenere is on a peninsula and has great views and an excellent location.
The Coast of Massa and Forte dei Marmi
Here there are miles and miles and beach with the back drop of the mountains behind. Good swimming and warm water too. The beaches to be found just outside Viareggio in the direction of Pisa, to the left of the Port of Viareggio. The drive to the coast from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana via the Alpi Apuane mountains is very scenic as you pass through one small village after another, in 45 min you are at the coast.
The Marble Quarries of Carrera. Great to look around and see how all the marble is cut and manufactured.
Shops in General. Castelnuovo has the main supermarkets and stores. In the old town there are supermarkets and a visitors centre. There is also Conad, a bigger supermarket and a sports area such with an open air pool and tennis club. Thursday morning is market day in Castelnuovo. Biggest store is Pianeta / Leclerc and a big hyper market in Gallicano, which you pass on the way to Lucca.
Things to look out for
Lucca is famous for its Olive Oil Production.
The Lucchese and Montecarlo hills are wine producing areas, good local wines from just outside Lucca, there is a wine route that is signposted if you wish to explore it.
Wednesday am in Lucca, inside the walls of the old town, a selection of food and other goods.
Saturday am Pisa just out from the town on the road for Lucca.
Thursday AM is Castelnuovo Market. Castelnuovo has good local produce and cheeses such as Pecorino and other delights.
Florence, is good for leather products, jackets etc and hand made paper goods, good market here that is always running.
Things to Buy
1) Wine – Local wines are good from the Lucca and Pisa Hills then you also have a huge selection of wines from southern Tuscany: Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano regions.
2) Alcoholic Beverages – Limoncino, a lemon drink chilled as a sweet liqueur. Amaretto, a sweet almond liqueur. Grappa, available locally as is Mirtillo, a Blueberry Liqueur
3) Olive Oils – Lucca is famous for oil.
4) Balsamic Vinegar – from just over the mountains in Modena
5) Local Produce is Garfagnana – Honey which is great, various blends are available. Farro which is a spelt or buck wheat and still produced in Garfagnana, great for salads and soups etc. Sun dried tomatoes. Chestnuts are a greta local tradition and can be bought as flour, jam, pureè or whole. Another delicacy is the mushroom primarily the Porcini. Can be brought dried or fresh in season. Great for sauces and risotto etc.
Getting To Garfagnana
If you’re coming from South, take highway A1, then A11 and head in the direction of Capannori exit.
If you’re coming from North, take highway A1, then follow indications to Genova-Livorno, Viareggio and finally Lucca (a11). Exit at Lucca est and follow indications to Lucca, Borgo a Mozzano, Fornaci di Barga.
Lucca - Aulla rail line. Trains heading to Garfagnana leave from Lucca or Pisa Centrale stations.
Daily runs from Lucca it takes you about an hour and there are more or less 8 runs per day.
Contact us for an initial call, or send us your requirements, so we can suggest the perfect Italian home for you.