Today’s midday temperatures in Lucca are due to surpass thirty-five degrees centigrade. I was in the city this morning and it was getting hot, hot, hot. What to do? I decided my return home would be via the Pizzorne, a mountain table to the north of Lucca reaching above 4000 feet. The average drop in temperature for every 100 metres one rises is (on average) about half a degree. So could I expect the Pizzorne temperature to be around twenty degrees below Lucca? Well not quite, as heat radiates from the ground and Lucca is not yet at sea level.
However, reaching the Pizzorne via Matraia the temperature was around ten degrees less than Lucca, which made it feel very comfortable!
From le Pizzorne it’s possible to do some great off-road biking or even land-rovering. Starting from the little church near the Aldebaran restaurant by the fountain in the centre of the Pizzorne meadows, if one goes right one ends up at Lugliano and if one goes left one finishes up at Corsena, both of which are villages near to Bagni di Lucca.
I’ve often done both roads but this time, because of heavy winter rains, they were more than usually deeply rutted and I had to be very careful about where my wheels were going. All the same, I made it to Corsena within an hour.
The first part of the route takes one on a track to the right of a stream which, not surprisingly, is called Pizzorne. At a particular point the track crosses over a cement bridge to the left side and continues alongside the stream.
The road then diverges and sweeps through some wonderful chestnut forests with good views over both the Val di Lima and the Serchio valley.
There are various landmarks to look out for.
Then one spots Corsena’s houses and very soon one’s ass is saved from becoming too sore with the bumpy ride by the miraculous appearance of tarmac. Three cheers for macadam!
The route can also be happily done by mountain bike or even walked. It’s very pleasant whatever transport one use.
One spot of advice – don’t hazard it in winter. The Aldebaran restaurant is usually closed and the road can become as muddy as a rugger field.
There are no restrictions about off-roading this route except as far as hunting and mushroom collecting off ifrom it are concerned. It’s important to know about restrictions. Off-roading in the Prato Fiorito road from Albereta requires a special forestry commission pass and if one is caught without it fines can be tough.
Looking at the maps it’s difficult to know what is a tarmacked and what isn’t a tarmacked road. I’ve been caught out in several occasions because Italian detailed maps are so unreliable and one map often contradicts another. My definition of heaven would be Italy covered by Ordnance Survey maps but, alas, this is still some miles (forgive the pun) away.
What’s the best route to take? Corsena or Lugliano? Sometimes the Lugliano route is easier going than the Corsena one. This happened a couple of years ago when the Corsena route had a lot more landslides and rock falls. For sheer interest the Lugliano is better as one passes the Hermitage of Saint Bartholomew. One can also cut across to Boveglio at one stage and pass by the sanctuary of the Madonna of the snow.
Whatever one decides to do it’s better to go with someone who knows the route, either because they live in the area or because they’ve learnt it from (sometimes) bitter experience.
One of my favourite rides is to go from Lugliano to the Pizzorne and then returned via Corsena as a loop.
It’s much more fun than doing the standard boring Serchio valley routes to Lucca, especially if one’s not in a hurry and wants to stop and have a great cool picnic in the shade of centuries old chestnut trees. But beware; it’s not for the standard saloon car!