I have just returned from four days in Tuscany. We managed to pack so much into four days, yet it just did not feel enough to truly appreciate this region, steeped in history and blessed with outstanding beauty, it is a place to return to for more.
We visited Pisa one afternoon, a full day in Florence and an afternoon in Lucca, while we were based in the picturesque Casoli di Lucca, 13km from Bagni di Lucca, the closest town. I’d love to return to spend at least several more days in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some fantastic art collections and museums. One day just isn’t enough to appreciate this amazing city. I would also consider visits to Siena and San Gimignano. Still, there is still so much more of Italy I have not yet discovered, having only been to Rome and the Vatican during a school trip in 2010. Herculaneum, Pompeii, Venice, the Cinque Terre and Sardinia are up there for me.
Casoli is an isolated Tuscan village situated at the top of a very large hill, accessible only by car, turning off the main road onto a narrow stone bridge over the river, and then up a tight, steep winding road, I pray to never have to drive up myself; each time you turn a corner you are holding your breath in the fear that a car may be coming round the corner towards you, very fast (Italian drivers know no fear). The road is so narrow in places that it is impossible to pass safely. If this were to happen, which I am sure does happen occasionally, a very challenging and awkward session of reversing up or down several corners on the hill would ensue – the possibility of falling off a cliff to your doom or banging into jutting out rocks when doing this is very high. It is just too scary to contemplate!
Upon arriving into the village, you have to park your car in the small parking area before then walking towards your house higher up the hill, as the pathways are too small for vehicles to pass. The village boasts two churches (one small, one large), one restaurant (where we ate two fantastic meals), a hundred or so feral cats (you can look but you can’t touch) and amazing vistas over the Tuscan countryside. It’s the perfect place for some peace and quiet, but beware that if you run out of milk, the nearest supermarket is a 30 minute drive!
The place we stayed in had the most beautiful views looking over the Tuscan hills from its rooms, including the garden. It’s the ideal retreat to sit and read for hours on end undisturbed.
Also in the area, 3km from Bagni di Lucca, you come across the Ponte Maddelena on the Serchio river, also known as ‘Devil’s Bridge’. It is impossible not to notice it’s steep arches from the roadside.
The bridge served as an important river crossing on the Via Francigena, a medieval road to Rome from France, built around 1080-1100. There is a small car parking area next to the bridge, and it was a nice stop along the way to Lucca on the Friday afternoon to take pictures and walk across it.
Legend of this bridge is the reason why it has been given the name ‘Devil’s Bridge.’ According to the story, the architect hired by the council to build the bridge made a deal with the devil. The devil agreed to help the architect finish the bridge in exchange for the first soul who crossed the bridge from the village. When the bridge was complete, the townspeople tricked the devil by sending over a dog instead of a person. Poor dog.