Around the Sesto Lake basin

Discover the plain around Lucca and its most famous towns

A railway line was opened at Sesto Lake in 1928, at the same place where boats left to cross the water towards Pisa. The railway was sadly short-lived, thanks to the Second World War and the creation of an efficient road network. There are still many signs that there used to be a train track here though, such as the iron bridge which is hidden between the houses near San Leonardo.

On 15th December 1856, workers began to drain the Sesto Lake. The man in charge was the architect Lorenzo Nottolini. By changing the direction of the water flowing from Tuscany’s largest lake, they left an indelible mark on both the landscape and the way of life of the whole area. The work ended the battle against the marsh land and its related illnesses. It also meant the end of transporting goods along the canals which connected several locations in the plain.

The town of Capannori is at the heart of the largest agricultural area in Italy. Capannori consists of a group of houses built around the medieval church of San Quirico which is perfect example of Pisan Romanesque architecture. Two small museums which tell the history of the local area are also in the centre of this small town.

The last two areas of marshy woodland left in the plain are Bottaccio della Visiona and Tanali wood. They are largely made up of bay oak and alder trees. Many different species of animals inhabit these woods, such as porcupines and foxes, as well as numerous kinds of migratory birds. There is a protected natural area which was created by the Capannori town council in 1996 and which is run by the WWF.


The history of the town of Porcari revolves around a hilltop from which its possible to see the nineteenth century Villa Di Poggio and Villa della Pieve di San Giusto. The inhabitants of Porcari were able to rule over a large territory in the twelfth century from the town’s castle and tower, which is no longer standing. At this time, Porcari was strong enough to be independent of both Florence and Lucca. The town’s museum is home to a collection of ancient artifacts which came to light in archaeological digs at Fossanera and Chiarone. Items have been found from Etruscan settlements and Bronze Age villages, as well as the remains of a second century BC Roman building. An archaeological park is currently being planned.


The Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrim’s route, enters the town of Altopascio through the Florentine Gate of Altopascio. In the past, the bell of the San Jacopo church would be rung at sunset to gather together the wayfarers passing through and to offer them food and a place to stay. The town’s doctors and surgeons would also offer their services to anyone in need. Local monks were in charge of the maintenance of the bridges, fords and churches.

There is an ancient rivalry between the towns of Pisa, Lucca and Florence, which has its roots in intricate historical political agreements and military action. In 1325, there was a historic battle in Altopascio between the Luccan soldiers led by Castruccio Castracani and the Florentine army. On this occasion, the Florentines had to make a hasty retreat all the way back to Florence’s city walls. These walls had never been breached and were a symbol of immense pride to the city.

The Sibola Natural Oasis (Oasi di Sibola) is 12,000 square metres of protected parkland situated between the motorway and the railway line, not far from the industrial zone of Altopascio. This natural oasis is one of Tuscany’s most important marshlands. The site has been recognised as a protected natural area since 1996. It is under the protection of the province of Lucca.

How to get to from Castelvecchio di Compito to Montecarlo:
From Castelvecchio di Compito, cross the plain which used to be Sesto Lake towards San Ginese. Turn left at the crossroads, still following for San Ginese and then Porcari. The road goes over the motorway and then under the railway line. After passing under the railway line, turn immediately right towards Badia Pozzeveri and Altopascio. Follow signs for Lucca as you leave the town. The first road on the right goes up towards Montecarlo.

Explore the area
Centuries-old towns to explore, spas perfect for a dose of rejuvenation, 18th-century villas set in magnificent gardens: this is the Lucchesia, a lively landscape modeled on the meanderings of the Serchio river and dotted with medieval hubs. ...
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