Under the shade of the oak trees atop the Guinigi Tower, Lucca is already in the distance. Get ready to leave behind the Renaissance walls as you head into the Garfagnana. By the time you shift into second gear, you’ll be driving along the Serchio River, enjoying the gentle banks as you take the road towards Ponte a Moriano.
You’ll come across an intersection with via Ludovica, which runs parallel and is easier to navigate, but all good road trips call for a bit of effort, so take the Brennero road instead, known as a thrilling ride for bikers. In Borgo a Mozzano, cross over the Devil's Bridge, as fascinating and mysterious as its famous legend. The Catene Bridge over the Lima is much “kinder” so to speak, designed by Nottolini and linking the hamlets of Fornoli and Cifenti.
From here, you’ll hop on the SS/SR445, but not before making a quick stop in Bagni di Lucca, where the thermal spa and the Circolo dei Forestieri are always interesting to see. From here, you have two options: if you head to the right, you’ll pass by Tereglio and the wild Orrido di Botri canyon, Ghivizzano with its food festivals and castle, Pian di Coreglia and the nearby Coreglia Anterminelli (classified as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy), and Fornaci di Barga and via Bellavista, which climbs towards Loppia all the way to Barga, a triumph of Romanesque architecture. Now you’ll merge back onto the SR445 and via Castelvecchio Pascoli (named after the namesake village where Giovanni Pascoli was born).
If you take the left, on the other hand, in the direction of Fabbriche of Vallico, you’ll find a loop of narrow, curvy roads that connect the mountain towns that sit in the shadow of the Apuan Alps. Near Vergemoli, take the road to the Grotta del Vento: a beautiful, underground setting, among the most important in Europe. The road then returns towards Gallicano. You’ll have to be careful of the gravel on the paved road, but trust us: this next dive into nature is worth the challenge.
The SR445 allows you to continue on towards Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, an intellectual and historic town on the edge of the Serchio and Turrite Secca rivers. Some things worth visiting here are the cathedral, the Rocca Ariosteca and the Mont’Alfonso Fortress. The route continues alongside the man-made Lake Pontecosi, before arriving in Poggio, where you’ll feel the desire to conquer the Apuan Alps yet again. The turn off, which is very well marked, indicates the road for Lake Valgi and Campo Catino (with the Monastery of San Viviano). These areas have hiking paths for those who enjoy trekking.
Following the SR445, you’ll come to Camporgiano, where you can visit the Este Fortress and the Museum of Ceramics. But now it’s time for some curves: from Piazza al Serchio, get ready for a windy road boasting lovely views and a mountain pass (Passo dei Carpinelli – 842 meters above sea level). The charming town of Pugliano offers a short break before reaching Casole in the Lunigiana. Surrounded by medieval and Renaissance architecture, you’ll merge with the SS63 from the Cerreto pass, from where you can see Aulla, a very fitting end to our journey.