Leg 6: Lucca to Altopascio

Explore ancient forts and medieval churches

This 17.8 kilometer stretch, which begins in Lucca, can be traversed in about 4 hours. Travelers leave Lucca from Porta San Gervasio for a relatively flat and easy route, dotted with numerous buildings of historic and religious interest. Arriving in Capannori you’ll see the famous Romanesque church of San Quirico; then, just after Porcari, with a short 500-meter deviation, you’ll reach Badia di Pozzeveri

You’ll soon arrive at the church of San Jacopo, a place to rest in Altopascio. This area was once covered with bandit-filled forests, and the hospitable nature of the Knights of Tau offered a welcome refuge for weary wanderers.  

Take along plenty of water and food, as the long route includes backroads and sparsely populated areas where you may not have easy access to basic provisions for extended periods – particularly in a stretch of road in Corte Ginori.

Total length (km): 17.8
Accessibility: On foot or with mountain bike
Time on foot (h.min.): 4.00
Climb in ascent (m): 30
Climb in descent (m): 30
Maximum altitude (m): 24
Difficulty: easy
Paved roads: 96%
Unpaved roads and driveways: 1%
Mule-tracks and trails: 3%
Cyclability: 100%
How to get to the departure point: Viareggio-Florence and Aulla-Lucca railway lines, Lucca station

SIGHTS

Lucca - The city of Lucca, a longtime pilgrimage site, prospered largely due to the fact that it was easily reached by travelers coming from the plains and two particular roads: via de Supra and via de Subtus. The former ran through a small town once known as ‘Feliciaio,’ while the latter cut through a Lombardic settlement, then called Tempagnano.

The first stop of most pilgrims who came to Lucca was the San Martino Cathedral, mostly due to a celebrated wooden crucifix called the Volto Santo, or ‘Holy Face.’ It is believed to have been carved by Saint Nicodemus. The most well-known story says that in 1282, a pilgrim named Leobino traveled to the city of the Volto Santo. Upon entering the Duomo and having nothing else to offer, he began to sing. Suddenly, a silver stocking appeared from the right foot of Jesus, for which Leobino was extremely grateful. The museum displays some silver stockings (17th century), alluding to this revelation, along with the garments that adorn the Volto Santo crucifix for the festival days of May 3 and September 14. In the city, many hospitals attached to the main churches helped restore weary pilgrims to health.

A 12th-century relief depicting Saint James is housed in the National Museum of Villa Guinigi. It was once kept in the Altopascio Hospital, another noted stop of many pilgrims. The Christianization of Spain is attributed to Saint James. After his tomb was rediscovered in the ninth century, the stops along the pilgrimage route were filled with images of Saint James in a protective role, holding a scepter and shield, riding through territories of the unfaithful atop his horse.  But the image in the museum depicts a less common scene: the saint, seated on a throne under an archway, holding a scroll that reads: ‘IACOBUS DEI ET DOMINI NOSTRI IESUS XRISTI SERVUS.’ Surely inspired by the sculpture of the fourth century, the work is one of the most intriguing sculptures from Lucca and Pisa in the second half of the 12th century. It was probably once part of an altarpiece, which has been reimagined and reconstructed in the Museum of Lucca.

Segromigno - Here you can admire the church of San Lorenzo, which is a great representation of the evolution of medieval structures.

Capannori - Particularly rich in medieval fortifications and churches, Capannori is also home to the church of San Leonardo in Treponzio, the facade of which is attributed to someone from the Guidetto school. It additionally boasts the church of San Gennaro, which is quite richly decorated. Heading out of Capannori, you’ll end up in Lammari, home to the church of Saint Christopher, which dates back to the twelfth century.

Lunata – In Lunata you’ll find the Hospital of St. Matthew and Pellegrino, once a center for elderly travelers, which formed part of the parish of San Frediano. Some elements of the old church, including the bell tower, remain today.

Rughi - In the small town of Rughi, thought to be of Lombardic origin, the church of Santa Maria is worth a visit. It has undergone radical architectural transformations, particularly when considering the original medieval plan.  Unfortunately, today there are no visible remnants of the 13th century hospital that was once nearby.

Porcari – In the early eleventh century, the churches of St. Mary and St. Michael the Archangel in Porcari were the next stops on the standard pilgrimage route. Today, remnants of the castle include some artistic renderings of the rivalries among the area’s noble families.

Montecarlo – The castle and the church of San Piero in Campo, which dates back to the 12th century and is quite well preserved, are both worth visiting.