When it comes to Tuscany, holidays can be a little overwhelming with so much to see and do. There are so many ways to explore the region, experience the cuisine and generally soak up the unique atmosphere that is can be hard to decide how to spend your precious time to get the most out of your stay.
Hiking the Peaceful Garfagnana Valley
One great idea, which is both healthy and good fun is a walking or rambling holiday. The Garfagnana Valley is a perfect place to walk, as it is not too demanding and the mountain scenery is simply spectacular. If you're looking for a queter part of Tuscany, holidays spending hiking in this part of the region are a good option, as it looks, so far, to have escaped the effects of mass tourism.
An Unspoilt Gem
The Garfagnana Valley is in the region of Lucca, and lies between the Apennines and the Apuan Alps with the beautiful Serchio River running through it. The flora and fauna of this region are very diverse, and it is home to golden eagles and wolves – although it is highly undesirable you'll see any wolves as they are so shy and distrustful of humans. It is, however, more than likely you'll see a golden eagle while you are walking in this beautiful and unspoilt area of Tuscany. Holidays here can also take you to the nearby Ligurian coast (about an hour and a half by car), to traverse the famous route and see the picturesque, brightly colored homes of the Cinque Terre (The Five Villages), which are built on and into the rugged cliff edges.
Along the trekking routes in the Garfagnana are small medieval villas dotted through the valley, complete with lovely Romanesque churches. One beautiful example of this is Barga, which dates back to before 1000 AD. Originally, the town grows up around an ancient castle; of its original surrounding walls, only two gates have survived. Surprisingly, this historical town has links with Scotland, as many locals emigrated there in the early 1900s looking for work. (These immigrants were responsible for Glasgow's flourishing ice-cream trade, but that is another story.) Barga has a stunning 12th century cathedral perched at the top of the town with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
Grottos and caves
The Apennines comprise mainly limestone and there are many caves throughout the area. These have been created over millennia and worn away by the elements. The most famous of these is the Grotta del Vento (Cave of the Wind). This cave is really quite spectacular and well worth a visit. It has an array of impressive stalactites and stalagmites, underground rivers and its naturally occurring phenomena of intense airflow. As warm air rises in the winter and falls in the summer, a strong wind is created – for which it gets its name.
If you explore this beautiful and tranquil part of Tuscany, holidays on foot can create very special memories of this magnificent part of the world.