La Garfagnana, a brief introduction.
One of the prettiest areas in Tuscany which provides landscapes of infinite beauty is the region of la Garfagnana. It is a place which excursion lovers cannot leave out. They will be able to enjoy the Parco Nazionale dell’Orecchiella and enjoy unpolluted roads in a setting which is as attractive in the summer as in the winter. A main road crosses the region of La Garfagnana, a road which in other times was famed among the travellers who wished to avoid malaria in the strip of Versilia and escaped along this way towards the interior regions, far from mosquitoes which carried the disease. The most important town of the region is Castelnuovo di Garfagnana which is 60 km from Lucca.
In the 14th century Castelnuovo became an important transport hub in the valley of La Garfagnana. In 1370 Castruccio Castracani convinced the castenuovesi that they were they could resist Lucca, and they managed to resist any kind of siege until 1377 when Luccatook the region again. The bridge which Castruccio had constructed to connect the castle to the old neighbourhood Cellabarotti, today Santa Lucia, dates back to these times. In 1429 on considering how powerful the offensive of Firenze in occupying the territories was, and the fact that it had managed to subjugate Lucca itself, Castelnuovo willingly surrendered to Nicola Este de Ferrara to be able to be free from Lucca ’s domination. The Estes made Castelnuovo the capital of the recently created Vicaria de la Garfagnana and compensated its inhabitants for their loyalty by giving them privileges.
In 1512 Francesco della Rovere, duke of Urbino entered Castelnuovo, but was immediately humiliated when Lucca returned to power. In 1521 the Florentine troops took the town again, encouraged by pope Leon X. After his death, the castelnuovesi rebelled, took the castle, expelled the papal representative and requested Alfonso I de Este to come back to govern the province. The duke’s answer was to send Ludovico Ariosto as a governor. The region was completely divided as to support. Castelnuovo was still loyal to the Estes de Ferrara, Castiglione de Garfagnana to Lucca while Barga was under Florence’s domination. In fact Upper Garfagnana was divided among the three most powerful states of northern Italy then.
Castelnuovo remained faithful to the Estes until the Napoleonic troops added it to the Cisalpine Republic to annex it later to the Principality of Lucca in 1805, which was governed then by Bonaparte’s sister Elisa Baciocchi. In 1814 in the background of the restoration the Estes came back, with the popular support of Francesco IV, who governed the town and the valley as far as the Unification of Italy, apart from a short period in which it came under the domination of the Grand Duke of Tuscany between May of 1848 and April 1849. In 1860 the plebiscite by which Castelnuovo and other centres of Garfagnana became part of the province of Massa Carrara assigned at first to the region of Emilia Romagna, was celebrated. In 1923 Castelnuovo was finally again added to the province of Lucca, closing a cycle which lasted over 7 centuries.
Places which cannot be missed in the region:
The thermal springs of Pieve Fosciana and the Ethnographic Museum which houses elements related to different aspects of the rural life of la Garfagnana and which is in the town of San Pellegrino in Alpe. Barga-situated to the south of the region and the most interesting town of the region.
An enchanting place in which time seems to have stuck and where the quiet narrow streets take us back to the past. The biggest attraction of the area is in the underground caves de Grotta del Vento, open every day from April to September for guided visits. They are located by the village of Fornovolasco.
The caves, stretching for 1,2 km, wind underground. Among stalactites and stalagmites they seem to be a trip to horror. The visitors have to go in groups as it is very easy to get lost as only part of the caves are lighted. The terrain is steep and rough and offers the possibility of enjoying a singular outing.
San Romano in Garfagnana is a pretty town located towards Bagni di Lucca. From this town you can admire spectacular views of Upper Garfagnana.
Parco Naturale dell’Orecchiella is open ever day from July to mid September, and by appointment from November to June. A nature reserve of exotic flowers, wild boar and deers surrounded by the Apuan Alps and which offers spectacular sceneries to travel on foot or by bicycle. The park, which stretches for 50 km, has its maximum height of 2054 m in Monte Prado. To get to the park there are different alternatives, the easiest one departs from Villa Collemandina, goes past Corfino and from then on gets to the Park of Orecchiella at a distance of 7 km. it is a 30-minute drive across unsurpassed beautiful settings with breathtaking sceneries and which anticipate what is in the Parco dell’Orecchiella. In it there are pathways of different levels of difficulty. At the Centre of Visitors you can be advised on which one to take. There are also paths for the youngest visitors, such as the path of the “giardino dei fiori di montagna” where you can wander along the most picturesque varieties of plants. Behind a pine forest you get to a conservation area in which there are animals of the park in an area kept from the public.
A meal is around 25 €.
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