Isola Santa is a partly abandoned village in the Garfagnana, about 30 minutes drive from Bagni di Lucca, on the road between Castelnuovo and Forte dei Marmi.
The village was built around a small hospice, probably established in the 13th century. The hospice provided shelter for the sick and poor and for pilgrims and travellers between Garfagnana and Versilia. Salt smugglers were also known to drop in for a rest.
The hospice was disbanded in 1575 and used as a storage facility. It was restored in 1608 and rebuilt as the church of St Jacopo, which still stands. The detached bell tower was built quite recently in 1899.
A small village built up around the hospice. In 1950 a dam was built and part of the hamlet, including the old bridge and a mill were flooded. A new village was built higher up the mountain and Isola Santa now has just a few inhabitants.
In summer people come to picnic by the lake created by the dam.
There is some lovely accommodation available and a couple of restaurants are open in the warmer months.
The narrow streets are filled with delightful things to observe.
The village was very quiet when we were there. We did spot 3 cats enjoying the afternoon sun.
We will have to return on a weekend when the restaurant is open. The setting is delightful.