2012: # 3 OF A SERIES:
Viareggio to Bagni di Lucca
The Tuscan sun was up early casting its warming glow over the seaside city of Viareggio. From the balcony of our hotel room we enjoyed a view over the city and up to the mountains of the Garfagnana which were soon to become part of our day's trip as we travelled "from one meal to the next". First however, it was time for breakfast and a final review of our travel plans for the day; an adventurous ride across the mountains of the Garfagnana, lunch in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, a visit to the two tiered aqueduct in Barga and completing our day's travel at the Albergo Corona in Bagni di Lucca.
As we departed Viareggio our route took us through side streets of the city and past a number of marble works whose yards contained some of the most enormous pieces of marble we have ever seen. Beyond these huge blocks of marble, rising to the sky, stood our challenge, the mountains of the Garfagnana . Slowly, the road narrowed and soon we realized that there was no more straight road. We were headed into a section of mountain roads filled with "S-turns" and "switchbacks". Coming out of one of the turns, we looked up to the mountain peak and were treated to a magnificent view of a wide swath of white cascading down the mountainside. Our first reaction was, "Oh wow, were going over a snow covered mountain!" A few more "S turns" closer and we realized, the "cascading white" was a vein of marble
which was being quarried. How the quarry workers were able to move all the cranes and cutting equipment to the top of the mountain is something we still have not figured out. Nor, have we been able to figure out how they get the marble down off of the mountain!
As we approached the top of the mountain we entered a tunnel. One and a half kilometers later, we came out the other side of the mountain and began our descent to the village of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, our chosen place for lunch. Just to the left of the main gate of the village, we located L'Aio di Piero, a delicatessen of sorts. Once inside the shop we were treated to a visual feast
of meats, cheeses, sauces, preserves and pastas
To the left side of the shop was a small room with stone walls, wooden beams and small rustic tables and chairs. There was a pleasant excitement about the room as people visited and shared the joy of good food and wine. We were seated at one of the last remaining tables and after ordering a carafe of the "house red" we began to study the menu. In short order, we decided to order a platter of prodotti tipici. Soon, we were enjoying a feast fit for a king, including: caprino, scamorza and pecorino fresco (all tasty cheeses), salumi, prosciutto, capicola, bresaola (cured Tuscan beef), slivered radicchio, olivi, pickled cipolla rossa, calamari wrapped anchovi, bruschetta with red pepper pesto, stuffed peppers, fried fiori di zucca con ricotta (squash blossoms with ricotta) and fried zucchini.
Following a relaxed time over lunch, we enjoyed a walk through the narrow medieval streets of this beautiful little walled village. Our next stop...the village of Barga and a search for a Roman aqueduct. Arriving in Barga, we stopped for an espresso and a visit to the tourist office for a map and some help with directions. With their help, we were able to locate a bit of Roman history without difficulty.
Marveling that it still stands today, we could not help but think what a proud testament it is to Roman engineering.
As the sun began to set, we headed to Bagni di Lucca and the Albergo Corona, our home for the next two nights. Settling in for the evening, we could not help but to begin to anticipate the next eating adventure. Suffice it to say, it involves wild mushrooms and a visit to the Ponte Sospeso.
Dave and Edie www.fototoscana.com