Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 19, 2012

What to do in Bagni di Lucca?

Ponte a Serraglio – part of Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca is a collection of pretty villages in northern Tuscany in the Serchio/Lima Valley, close to an area called the Garfagnana. It is roughly 25 kilometres from Lucca, one of the loveliest towns in Italy.

The road to Bagni di Lucca was built by Napoleon’s sister Elisa Baciocchio, who was Princess of Lucca for a time. She liked to spend her summers in Bagni di Lucca, where she would  ‘take the waters’  in one of the many thermal springs in the area.

The road from Lucca follows the winding Serchio river. The spectacular river valley is dotted with small villages and the views of the magnificent Apuane Alps make the drive a delight in any season. About 3 kilometres before Bagni di Lucca, at Borgo a Mozzano, is the stunning Ponte della Maddelena, or Devil’s Bridge.

Devil’s Bridge

Just past the devil’s Bridge, the Serchio and the Lima river come together, and Fornoli, the first of the 3 villages that form the main part of Bagni di Lucca, comes into view.

One kilometre up river is the hamlet of Ponte a Serraglio, the most picturesque of the villages along the river.

La Villa, the commercial centre where there are lots of shops and restaurants, is another kilometre up river. There are 25 small villages in the surrounding mountains, making up the wider Bagni di Lucca community.

Ponte a Serraglio is an excellent place to base yourself to discover the area. There is a good selection of hotels, B&Bs and apartments to choose from –  Villa Rosalena B&B,  Hotel Corona, Bridge Hotel, Villa Talenti and the Antico Albergo Terme at Bagni Caldi. The Stay in Bagni di Lucca page at the top of the blog gives more information on this.

I would suggest being up bright and early to start the day with an excellent cappuccino and one of Annalisa’s delicious pastries from Bar Italia or Il Monaco. Take the time to sit at the bar and watch the village come to life. Practise your very best Buongiorno! and make friends with a local.

Bar Italia

join the crowd at Il Monaco

After breakfast take a walk and discover the sights of Ponte a Serraglio. The first casino in Europe was built here in 1837. It was renovated several years ago and now looks just as it did when Puccini played there and it was visited by the VIPs of the day. Unfortunately it is now closed and only available when there is a function or concert.

the casino

Cross the passerella in front of the casino to Villa Fiori. If you are lucky there will be a local festival in full swing.

the walking bridge across the Lima

Villa Fiori across the bridge

artists’ day at Ponte a Serraglio

Walk up to Bagni Caldi on the hill behind the casino and make an appointment at the thermal springs. It is possible to use the natural steam grottoes, one of which was the personal steam grotto of Napoleon’s sister. Rumour has it that Napoleon joined her on occasion. Follow up with a hot stone massage or one of the many theraputic services on offer.

Elisa’s steam grotto

From Bagni Caldi you can walk through cool chestnut forests and over the hill to La Villa. Wander through the grounds of Villa Ada, once the home of the De’Nobili family. In summer it is possible to swim in the open air pool fed by thermal springs while taking in the spectacular view of the surrounding mounains.

Villa Ada

the thermal springs beside Villa Ada

Have lunch in La Villa at Del Sonno. It has been a restaurant for more than 150 years. Try Jayne’s delicious saltimbocca.

saltimbocca at Del Sonno

saltimbocca at Del Sonno

While in La Villa, call into the information office (open in the mornings, not Sunday) in case there is a performance at the local theatre, or an exhibition at the Circolo dei Forrestieri. It is amazing how much happens in this tiny place.

Then walk back to Ponte a Serraglio for a gelato and a rest, or a treatment at the spa, before an aperitivo at Bar Italia.

The next day you could take a drive to Lucca or some of the surrounding mountain villages. If you don’t want to go that far, the Lovers’ Walk along the river at La Villa is delightful. There used to be a walking path all the way from La Villa to Ponte a Serraglio and recently part of the walkway has been restored. It is dedicated to the Barrett Brownings who spent a few summers in Bagni di Lucca.

dedicated to the Barrett Brownings

Lovers’ Walk in spring

Go across the walking bridge to visit the English cemetery and wander through the wonderful old headstones. The English church in La Villa now houses a library with some excellent historical material.

the bridge to the English cemetery

one of the headstones in the English cemetery

These are just a few suggestions on how to spend a couple of days in lovely Bagni di Lucca. Of course, there is much more to see if you have more time, but do take the time to smell the roses – or pansies. There is a reason why Bagni di Lucca has been popular with artists and writers, including Shelley and Byron, for centuries. Peace and beauty and a sense of history are still drawing people to the area.

pansies on the Ponte a Serraglio

I have also started another blog about Helsinki. My grandfather was Finnish and I absolutely love Helsinki and Finland. I travel there several times a year and have gathered hundreds of photos of this gorgeous city. Not nearly enough people know just how beautiful Helsinki is. Hopefully I can spread the word. Take a look at http://beautifulhelsinki.wordpress.com


Responses

  1. Beautiful, Deb < Beautiful.

    I love it !

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    • Thanks! Bagni di Lucca is very special. I’ll be back there soon.

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  2. I am dying to come visit. It’s funny, I read your blog all the time, but this recap gives me a sense of the place and the wider context like never before somehow. I must see it with my own eyes…

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    • This is why I put the post on my blog, I think it gives a good overview of what we have in BdL.

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  3. Well done Deb, what a comprehensive post you wrote. Very inviting.

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  4. Well done Deb. What a comprehensive post you wrote. Love it.

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    • Thanks!I love our village. It has lots to offer visitors.

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  5. Debra, I’m hooked. Hope we can catch up in April when I visit Lucca. And that photo of the Devil’s Bridge is WOW!!!!! The reflections are bellissimo! Ciao

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  6. Debra, I am enjoying the blog so much since a recent trip to Bagni di Lucca and the area. Will be back in the spring and wondered if anyone can suggest a small hotel in Venice. Something in a good location with charm and medium pricing. thanks Helen

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    • Hi Helen, I stayed at the Hotel Firenze in Venice. It was very reasonable in the off season, but I am not sure about spring.

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  7. A great overveiw of this beautiful area. Congratulations Deb.

    Cheeers Judy

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    • Thank you! I hope to see you there again soon.

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  8. Damn, we missed a few things when we were there, Debra. We’ll have to come back some time!

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    • You definitely will need to come back. There is lots to see in BdL.

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  9. Congratulations Debra. Your love for the area shows through in this wonderful post. A great guide for when we come to explore your region

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    • I feel very lucky to be able to spend so much time in this gorgeous place.

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  10. Superb! You’ve really captured the essence of what makes this beautiful, magical little place so special. Thank you.

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    • Thanks, Caroline, I can’t wait to get back.

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  11. Dearest Debra, this posting is already now a classic that I I will revert to every time I need to describe Bagni di Lucca, our little paradise. Love it! And I miss you! Looking forward to having you back again! Rose

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    • Thanks Rosaly, I hope your guests find it useful. See you soon.

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  12. I shared this on FB as an antidote to the bad news around Italy in the last few days. Post is so beautifully done and really shows the highlights of the BDL area. For longer stays, I hope visitors don’t miss some of the beautiful villages in the mountains above Bagni di Lucca. There is so much to see and explore in those mountains.
    All the best and thank you for keeping us connected to our little piece of paradise until we return.

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    • When I get back to BdL I am going to visit as many of the villages as I can, take photos and write about each one. I look forward to it. Thanks for sharing the post.

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  13. Such a good briefing of the area!
    I had a look at the Helsinki blog… following you there too. 🙂

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    • Thank you for taking the time to look at Helsinki.

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  14. This is wonderful. Thanks for the tour…may I print this and put in our flat that we rent!?? It is a great post.

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    • Please do print it for your guests. I hope it is useful.

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  15. It sounds so beautiful there – and so historical. Right up my alley! I wish I could hop over to Italy every time I read about these gorgeous places and explore them. Instead, I put them on my “evernote” wish list so that I can remember all about them the next time I make a trip! The list keeps growing and growing….I think I should just spend about year exploring all of Italy’s hidden gems!!! If only….Thanks for the post…and the ideas 🙂

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    • I could spend my whole life exploring little villages in Italy and not see all of them.

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  16. I’m bet you can’t wait to return. Great photos, Deb. Love it!
    Kathy

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    • I am very keen to be back there. I love my home in Brisbane and miss my friends when I am not here, but I have others in Italy to get back to.

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  17. Well this was grand. i joined you at the end of your italian stay this time so i missed the overall feel of the area. lovely lovely lovely.. c

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    • This is actually the first time I have done an overview of the village. It has been an interesting exercise in more ways than one. I will be back soon to beautiful BdL.

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  18. We fell in love with Bagni di Lucca the first time we visited it, about 6 years ago. And we are still in love with it. It took several trips and countless home inspections to find the right place for us, a portion of an 18th Century mill on the river and only a very short walking distance from the Villa. I keep on discovering interesting pieces of history, art and architecture. I also learn a lot about local customs and culinary arts from my neighbours. I am looking forward to returning there in April. We have plenty of things to talk about, Debra!

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  19. Where in Italy is Bagni di Lucca?

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    • Bagni di Lucca is just outside Lucca, which is between Florence and Pisa, slightly closer to Pisa. It is northern Tuscany. We are in the mountains, but as we are in the valley, we are not all that high above sea level.

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  20. Beautiful pictures Debra. I fwd your blog onto friends here in the states. They just love it.

    Pam

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    • Thanks Pam, there are lots of people reading the blog now. Perhaps it is all because of you.

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  21. What a beautiful post, Debra. Can’t wait to experience your lovely area and, once again, follow your recommendations for sights and food all the best of Italy!

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    • Little Ponte a Serraglio has a lot to offer.

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  22. Debra:

    Some Internet resources are touting your town as a cheap place to retire. Are there long term rentals and any idea on cost? My wife and I visited Lucca 2 years ago and it was our favorite Tuscan stop.

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    • There are long term rentals here, but I have not really investigated them. Most people asking me questions about the area are looking for holiday rentals.

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  23. […] post called What to do in Bagni di Lucca was number 5. There is lots to see and do in our lovely […]

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