Il Ciocco is a large hotel-cum-conference-centre-cum-reception-cum-sports-and-spa-resort approached from Castelnuovo Vecchio, the former home of Italy’s great lyric poet Giovanni Pascoli. (The museum in the poet’s villa at Castelvecchio Pascoli is well worth a visit even if you’re not into his poetry as it gives a great idea of rural living at the beginning of the twentieth century).
I found myself at il Ciocco for a few days in May 2006 to direct activities for a group of students from IPSIA technical college at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana who’d done particularly well in their studies and, thus, were rewarded by being selected to stay at il Ciocco for a “working” holiday.
“Il Ciocco” means log of wood and the well-spread out hotel, founded in the early 1990’s, is built around a nucleus of old buildings which may have included a woodcutter’s hut.
There is a good swimming pool at Il Ciocco which has stunning views, and I gathered my students round it for various activities involving the English language which I was teaching them.
Il Ciocco was originally completely built up and owned by an Italian politician but now forms part of the Marriott group of hotels which has assisted in the upgrading of certain of its facilities
Looking though Trip Advisor I note that the visitors’ comments are mostly good to excellent, which is an improvement, since not too long ago there were several complaints centring on poor service.
My advice is that if you are part of a large group, e.g. an organised tour or a delegation, then the Ciocco is your place since it’s practically the only hotel in the whole Garfagnana area to cater for large assemblies. However, if you are just a couple or a very small family then you might find yourself a bit like a fish out of water or feel neglected.
Having said all this, it’s worth taking a look at the place and making up you own mind since the “tourist centre”, as il Ciocco brands itself, has many facilities (e.g. Mountain bike, horse-riding and trail bikes) which would not normally be found in smaller establishments or even agriturismo.
Moreover, there are few hotels in the world with such spectacular locations as Il Ciocco!
The verdict of my students back in 2006: they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and even managed to get some work done as well!
Looking back at these photographs, taken two years before the serious economic crisis that overtook so much of Italy Europe, I hope that at least a few of these faces will still continue smiling and that many of my students will have found themselves steady and satisfactory jobs. I also find it quite nostalgic to think that eight years have passed since the enjoyable stay when I was in my salad days as far as my Italian experience was concerned.