Rondinaio, AlpeTre Potenze, Giovo and Cima dell'Omo Romecchio are the peaks that divide the three provinces of Lucca, Pistoia and Modena and the completely different landscapes on either side of the Apennines. In the humid undervalleys of the mountain a diversity of fauna thrives.
In 1818 Maria Luisa of Bourbon, Duchess of Lucca, and Francesco IV, Duke of Modena, decided to create a road that passed through the Apenines and united their two duchies. The road climbed the mountains to a height of 1674 metres at the Foce di Giovo and then descended towards Modena. A spectacular road with stunning views during the warm seasons (in winter the last section is closed to traffic due to snow and ice.)
In 1895 Giovanni Pascoli and his sister moved here and were inspired by the town, the people and the lifestyle to write the “Songs of Castelvecchio” and other songs.
The old city is defended by the city walls from its historic enemies: the Florentines, Modenese and Lucchese. The village has two gates, and inside visitors will find a convent, a 19th century theatre, and steep and narrow streets that lead up to the cathedral at the top of the hill, with views over the town and surrounding valley.
At the foot of the hill is the parish church of Loppia along the Loppora River. The original columns were too slender to support the structure and a new structure was built later for additional support – the original columns can still be glimpsed through opening that were left in this later addition. The facade is in the Pisan Romanesque style, as is the belltower, both well preserved since the 13th century.
The Tower of Ghivizzano is where Castruccio organized the defense of his Vicarate against the Pistoiese and Florentines. The severe architecture is composed of four rooms and crowned with battlements at the corners. A long wall defended the interior piazza and connected the fortress to the Church of Sant'Antonio, where members of the Antelminelli family are buried and which has beautiful anthropomorphic decorations.
The early history of this town is lost in a tangle of local disputes between the Rolandinghi counts and the Alteminelli family which, in the 14th century, built a well-armed fortress. When Castruccio died the town returned to a state of chaos until the 15th century, but it always stayed faithful to Lucca. The Romanesque cathedral occupies a dominant position with the numerous streets which ascend the hill meeting here and creating the structure of an aristocratic fortress.
The museum covers a number of themes including local artistic production in plaster and local emigration.
The last stop on the itinerary is Tereglio.
How to get from Ponte a Gaio to Ponte di Campia:
Take the Strada dei Duchi from Ponte a Gaio to Tereglio, utrning right just before you reach the town and following the road to Coreglia. You ascend the Appennine briefly before descending again towards Tiglio and Barga. From Barga follow the road to Catagnana, Castelvecchio and you'll find yourself on the road at the bottom of the valley, at Ponte di Campia.