Surroundings

Art cities like Lucca, Pisa, Pietrasanta and Sarzana; the Gulf of Poets with Lerici, Portovenere, Tellaro and the beautiful Cinque Terre; the Apuan Apls’ nature and Lunigiana’s castles: Villa Gilda is just in the middle of a territory rich in history, nature, art and culture.

Those who visit lucca for the first time are always astonished by this image: a perfectly intact wall, that surrounds one of the best preserved historic city centre of our bel paese. Lucca is renowned for its particular atmosphere, its timeless charm and an artistic and architectural patrimony to be discovered on foot.
We advise you to start your visit exploring the Renaissance walls that have been turned into an urban park since the nineteenth century; in the summer days, there is nothing better than a walk – or a bike ride – in the shade of those age-old trees that rise above Lucca’s majestic towers.
The historic city centre will surprise you with its narrow stone streets, its sixteenth-century buildings, the churches and the towers. Take the time to relax sitting at the table of one of the many cafes you find in the elliptical Piazza Anfiteatro, built by architect Nottolini on the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater. You must not forget to try a slice of “buccellato”, an old sweet bread, stuffed with raisins, usually eaten by pilgrims who passed through Lucca in the Middle age. In facts, Lucca was and still is a stop-over town on the Via Francigena. You must absolutely admire the bas-relief of the labyrinth situated on the façade of Saint Martin Cathedral, which is identical to the one on the floor of Chartres cathedral in France. Next stop, the church of San Michele in Foro, in the homonymous square, that is characterized by an elegant white marble façade with Corinthian columns and capitals, and the Basilica di San Frediano, one of the town’s oldest religious buildings and the fulcrum of the Holy Cross procession that takes place on September, the 13th.
To enjoy a breathtaking view of the city, you should go up to the Guinigi Tower, which has on its top a hanging garden with ancient holm oaks. And for those who love shopping and good food? We advise you to take a walk along via Fillungo, full of fashionable and craft shops and then have a dinner in one of the many taverns that are somehow hidden in the nearby narrow alleys.


Lunigiana is region of solitary hamlets that rise on the hills of northern Tuscany and southern Liguria, in the the bright green colour of nature and the gray of sandstones. Known also as the “land of a hundred castles”, Lunigana is a territory that is sometimes harsh, but extremely suggestive, filled with impressive buildings, archaic and mysterious ruins, churches and thousand-year old parish churches. Lungianese culture has survived over the centuries, with its dialects, in customs, traditions and cuisine: you’ll be surprised by its typical recipes, its simple and tasty dishes, such as testaroli, panigacci or the nourishing torta d’erbi (chard pie).
Anyway, visiting such a vast area can be somehow complicated. Here you find some tips that could help you in its discovery.
First stop: Pontremoli (Alta Lunigiana), where you find Piagnaro castle with its Museum of the Statue Stele. Those statues represent Lunigiana’s most ancient and mysterious heritage, as well as its main symbol. An abstract series of male and female human figures, carved in the sandstone by the populations who lived there between the fourth and first millennium BC.
Above Massa you find Mulazzo, an ancient village which once was an imperial feud belonging to the Malaspina family. That is where Dante was hosted during his exile from Florence, in the famous tower that still bears his name. In the province of Massa you also find the village of Filattiera with its Romanesque Pieve di Sorano (a very ancient parish church) and Filattiera’s castle. Currently surrounded by a large garden, it once had high walls and a moat. The interior of the castle can still be visited.
The historic centre of Bagnone is something you cannot absolutely miss. Still perfectly preserved, Bagnone is crossed by the homonymous torrent and dominated by the homonymous castle.
In Aulla, you also find Saint Caprasio Abbey and Lunigiana’s Museum of Natural History, housed at Brunella’s Fortress. Going back towards the sea, you find Fivizzano, also known as Lunigiana’s Florence, where you can admire the central square with its Medici’s fountain, the Museum of Printing (Museo della Stampa) and the ancient walls.
In Fosdinovo, the last Tuscan outpost before entering Liguria, you can visit the castle, still owned by the Malaspina family; you should also visit Saint Remigio’s church, and the Oratorio dei Bianchi.


Pietrasanta, Versilia’s capital town, is a neuralgic centre of contemporary sculpture and a town devoted to culture. Pietrasanta is also known as the “Little Athens”, not only for its century-old tradition in marble manufacturing , but also for its recent capability of attracting artists from all over the world: Ferdinando Botero and Igor Mitoraj have even decided to settle down there.
Over the years, this historic town, situated not far away from Versilia’s golden beaches, has become the ideal destination for a refined and cultured tourism and for all art lovers. Pietrasanta is an open-air museum: every street, every square, every corner, garden or courtyard hosts a sculpture. And as a testimony to the intimate bond between Pietrasanta and the white stone, so dear to Michelangelo, you can admire the refined decorations on the façades of its churches. First of all the elegant Saint Martin Cathedral in the main square, nearby the majestic bell tower, characterized by an incredible internal spiral staircase. The deconsecrated Sant Agustin church – today the site of exhibitions and events – with its beautiful cloister also deserves to be visited.
To discover Pietrasanta’s secrets, you should walk along its street, filled with elegant art galleries, old artisan workshops, trendy boutiques, inns and restaurants. Summer is the best time to visit the town, when many exhibitions, festivals and shows takes place.


Only half an hour’s drive away from Forte dei Marmi, just where Italy’s “boot” turns gently to west, you find a wide and deep bay, known throughout the world as the Gulf of Poets. This evocative name is due to the fact that, over the centuries, this strip of land that stands on Liguria’s blue sea, has attracted and welcomed artists and writers from all over the world, such as Percy and Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Eugenio Montale, who wrote there his poetry collection Ossi di Seppia (“Cuttlefish Bones”) and even the great Petrarch.
It is a jagged coastline that goes from Lerici to Portovenere, sheltered by two promontories dominating small beaches and enchanted brightly coloured villages: Tellaro, San Terenzo, Fezzano, Le Grazie. And then you have Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto islands. Those who visit the place for the first time can’t help just being astonished by its wild and unique nature. No surprise then that this Gulf, Portovenere, its islands as well as nearby more famous (and more touristic) Cinque Terre are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The best way to experience this wonderful place is from the sea, by boat. We advise you to start in the morning visiting Lerici and its famous Castle built from year 1152 onwards. You can reach the main square, on the top, by lift or walking on a comfortable rise; you can enjoy from there an incomparable view of the ancient seaside village and on the whole coast. Take a walk along the narrow streets of the centre and stop to taste the delicious Liguria’s fish of in one of the many restaurants or trattorias; take the boat and reach Portovenere in half an hour. From the ferryboat, you can admire the typical high and narrow coloured houses along the seafront; your attention will be captured by the ancient Gothic Church of Saint Peter, built around year 1200, right on the rocks overlooking the sea and the grandiose Doria Castle, the defensive thirteenth century fortress which dominates the whole country.


Coming from Tuscany, Sarzana is the first town you find when you reach Liguria. It is situated right in the heart of Lunigiana, on the site of the ancient Roman Luni and has an almost intact sixteenth-century historical centre. An urban redevelopment plan, entirety pedestrianized the city centre, making it very pleasant to walk along. The town still has parts of its ancient walls, four towers, and two perfectly preserved castles you can visit: Firmafede and Sarzanello Fortresses. Firmafede Fortress has Pisan origins and today it is the location of events, exhibitions, festivals and shows. Sarzanello Fortress is an ancient Episcopal residence, situated on the hill over the town.
The historical center develops around the two roads that connect Porta Romana to Porta Parma; it once was a fundamental part of the Via Francigena. Along this road, you find many prestigious buildings such as the Teatro degli Impavidi that was recently reopened after a careful restoration, Palazzo Remedi, Palazzo Podestà Lucciardi, the Town Hall. You also have churches, such as the majestic Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral that together with the Episcopal Palace, was once of the seat of the Luni’s Diocese, or the Romanesque Pieve di Sant’Andrea, the oldest religious building in the city, dating back to the end of the 10th century. The city administration organizes many events all over the year, but especially during summer. Every Mid August you have Soffitta in Strada, the ideal place for modernism and antiques lovers and the Festival della Mente that takes place between August and September and is one of the most important cultural events in Italy.


I cipressi che a Bolgheri alti e schietti. Van da San Guido in duplice filar…”, (The cypresses that tall and straight go from San Guido to Bolgheri in a double line … ) This is the beginning of Davanti a San Guido ( In front of San Guido), Giosuè Carducci’s poem that made famous all over the world this small town, situated in the hinterland of the Etruscan Coast. You get there driving along the five kilometers cypress boulevard that connects Aurelia state road to the town. The first thing you notice when visiting Bolgheri for the first time, is the perfectly preserved red brick castle that hides and shelters the historic center behind its fairy-tale walls.
Enjoy a quiet walk along the stone streets, brick houses, flowered terraces, craft shops, taverns and restaurants, maybe at sunset, when the atmosphere is
somehow suspended and time expands in that dimension that everybody calls “Tuscany Slow Living”.When getting to know the territory, you should also visit one of its famous cellars; Bolgheri and its surrounding area are the undisputed homeland of the Super Tuscan wines, those red wines that are valued and sought-after all over the world, such as the very famous (and rather expensive) Sassicaia produced by Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri Superiore, Bolgheri Rosso, Ornellaia. You also have excellent white wines such as Vermentino and Bolgheri Bianco. More than thirty companies in the area gathered in the Bolgheri DOC Consortium that guarantees the absolute quality of the products.


Situated right at the base of the apuan alps, carrara has always been recognized as the world capital of marble, as the stone has been extracted from its caves since the roman empire age. All the most important and famous monuments in the world, from the Pantheon of Rome to the Grande Arche de la Défense in Paris, as all the statues and sculptures, from the famous Michelangelo’s David to Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, all of them were made with this precious and unique white stone.
The historic town centre is definitely worth a visit. You must absolutely see the beautiful Piazza Alberica, characterized by the impressive marble pavement. You can reach then the magnificent SaInt Andrew Cathedral, built from the XI century onwards, on whose marble façade stands out a large rose window.
You really should visit the three marble basins of Torano, Fantiscritti and Colonnata. To reach them, you have to drive along the former Ferrovia Marmifera (Marble Railway), a spectacular road among bridges on the Vara River and narrow tunnels dug inside the rock. Many caves are still operative, but some have been opened to the public. First of all the Fantiscritti cave, a huge amphitheater in the heart of the mountain of marble, that has now become a museum, then the Cava della Piana; according to the tradition, that cave inspired Dante Alighieri some of his most impressive visions of Hell. Finally, the marble basin of Colonnata, which is famous not only for it has some of the most important quarries, but also (and above all) for its lard, a unique gastronomic excellence loved by gourmets from all continents.