The Serchio valley is like the main corridor in a giant natural palace off which side “passages” (or smaller valleys) lead off into very differently furnished rooms. One can choose which “room” to explore depending on one’s mood: for expansiveness the Valdottavo, for secretiveness the Turrite valley and there are many more on either side of the Serchio to choose from.
I decided last week on the Turrite valley which starts near Bolognana and digs deep into the Apuan range. The first part skirts an artificial lake and the narrow roads darts into some very dark tunnels.
At the other end of the lake is the restaurant described by Debra Kolkka in her blog athttp://bellabagnidilucca.com/2014/03/06/al-larghetto-the-food-is-good/ .
On this occasion I enjoyed a very good grilled chicken and veg. chosen from the Italian menu since the same menu written in English appeared to have higher prices for some of the dishes!
I then passed an old mill which is being recovered from the ruin it used to be. An explanatory sign showed that it dated back to the fourteenth century.
The Turrite valley indeed prides itself on harnessing the natural powers of water and wind to drive its industries and there is still at least one working mill in its purlieus.
The valley’s main town is Fabbriche di Vallico. Fabbro means “Smith” and the little town was once an important iron-smelting centre using the ore from local quarries. It was founded by iron-smiths coming from the Bergamo region in the fourteenth century. They must have been prosperous times too as some of Fabbriche’s buildings look very palatial.
Fabbriche di Vallico was its own Comune with 526 inhabitants until 1 January 2014 when it merged with Vergemoli to form the new municipality of Fabbriche-Vergemoli. It had more than 2,000 people in the nineteenth century
One of the lovely features of this valley is the number of old pack-horse bridges which survive in various states of maintenance. The one in Fabbriche is particularly delightful and once marked the customs border between the Duchy of Modena and the Republic of Lucca. I look forwards to it being graced again with geraniums soon.
From Fabbriche a road leads to Vallico di Sotto and Vallico di Sopra – two further Vallicos one placed above the other. Both villages are worth exploring and Vallico di Sopra’s church dedicated to San Michele has a wonderful view from its blind-arcaded Romanesque façade.
From Vallico di Sopra it’s possible to walk to an enchanted place – San Luigi. This is an alpeggio, or high pasture, where goats and sheep are tended for their milk which is made into delicious cheese. I’d first discovered this place some years back and was delighted when the shepherd who also runs the local dairy not only recognised me but also knew where I lived and remembered a walking companion I’d bought with me along then.
I was equally delighted to find that the old chapel which stands at this place’s crossroads, and which was in a very dilapidated state, had been beautifully restored thanks to EU funding and was now used as a shelter in case of wet weather. The chapel must be very old and has a fine curved apse,
I’ve done several walks from this spot. Two of the best are to the top of Monte Palodina and to the cross surmounting Monte Penna to the right.
It’s also possible to visit an amazing cave (Castelvenere) which was used for fertility ceremonies in Neolithic times and in which tiny statuettes have been found now on display in the archaeological museum at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.
I wonder which mood will take me next time and which side room of the grand Serchio Palace corridor I’ll decide to visit?