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Fortezza di Montecarlo

Villages in the Lucca hills

A tour of towns, churches and noble villas

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Are you stuck in the city and dreaming of the idea of a relaxing nature and culture-focused trip? We’ve got the perfect solution for you: a brief trip through the Luccan hills. Passing through in your car and taking little stops in the different villages of this area is a fantastic way to get to know an area whose towns are rich in history and culture. This area will amaze you with its calm feel, and each town will convince you that the next one is surely worth a stop, too. 

In 1331 the Florentines destroyed the town of Vivinja. The town was promptly rebuilt and fortified and dedicated to Carlo IV of Bohemia, a supporter of the city of Lucca. The town, which was given a Luccan defence system, takes its name from him. Today, the town’s quiet streets are the ideal place for a stroll. Visitors might enjoy a concert at the minuscule eighteenth century Rassicurati Theatre, or take in the marvellous view from the hilltop surrounded by the local vineyards which produce excellent wines.

The church of San Gennaro is the first, the largest and the most elaborate of the many churches which line the Pizzorne route. It was rebuilt in the twelfth century on top of a pre-existing structure. The pulpit in the right nave dates back to 1162 and is attributed to the maestro Filippo. The terracotta angel is recognised as being by Leonardo da Vinci.

Villa Basilica
This villa has Roman origins and was once known for the excellent blades which were produced here. The area around the villa was fought over for many years by the four surrounding provinces, until the city of Lucca finally got a definitive hold on the area in sixteenth century. The basilica dell’Assunta is in the airy main square of the town. Much of the Romanesque pulpit inside is still intact with scenes from the bible. There is also a Berlinghieri crucifix.

There is much to see in and around Carmignano. For example, there is the Baroque Villa di Carmignano which is decorated with silk from Lucca, or the garden of Villa Mansi which has a beautiful fish pond. There is also the elegant Villa Oliva with its terraced garden, the exotic arboretum of Villa Grabau and Villa Reale which was home to the Baciocchi princes and which has a small theatre where Paganini played.

Ponte a Moriano

In the ninth century, Ponte a Moriano was looked after by an association which also ran the pilgrims’ hostel and an inn for travellers. This narrow entrance to the Serchio Valley has been inhabited since Etruscan and Roman times. In fact, many ancient artefacts have been unearthed locally near the church of San Gimignano. From this town its possible to see right down into the valley and across the plain, making this quite a strategic location in the past. The sun shines on the town from the south and thanks to the river, this was once an important place for communication between the mountains and the towns.

San Pancrazio
The white mass of Villa della Specola is clearly visible on the hilltop from afar. The villa was destined to become an astronomical observatory, but an unfortunate series of events meant that the architect, Nottolini, had to abandon the original plans and instead convert the building into a noble villa in a Neo-Classical style.

How to get to Ponte a Moriano from Montecarlo
Go down the hill from Montecarlo towards Lucca. Go straight on at the Fontanuova crossroads, following for Gragnano. After the church, follow the signs for the ‘strada del vino’ or Wine Trail until you reach Moriano.
Explore the area
The Lucca Area boasts a landscape that’s been shaped by the bends of the Serchio River and dotted with medieval towns. The heart of this elegant territory is Lucca, famous for its perfectly-preserved defense walls and for its “100 churches”. ...
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