Saturday, October 17, 2009

Up and over the Apennines to Lucca

Another beautiful autumn day dawned for our trip down to Lucca in Tuscany. After half freezing to death a couple of days previously, I put on my lovely silk and cashmere thermal top. That would keep me warm and toasty for sure. Well, it didn't help that before we'd even set out, I'd run up and down the stairs four times getting things I'd left in the house. When we set off I was already sweaty under my numerous layers, and as that sweat cooled and did its job of cooling me down, I was once more frozen stiff on the back of the bike.
To reach Lucca, you have to cross the Apennines, and since we wanted to go the pretty way, this meant a steep climb to 1500m, where it was really cold. Still, the trip up scenery-wise was just stunning. The trees are still quite green and the mixed forest of pine and mostly oak, with the odd chestnut was beautiful. Little villages fragrant with wood smoke coming from the chimneys of cosy houses, windy roads, sweeping landscapes, you couldn't want for more on a bike trip. Descending down into Tuscany after Abetone, the forest changed a bit. The colours were a little more autumnal this side, and the oak had given way largely to beech.
Just outside Lucca, we passed through the picturesque town of Borgo a Mozzano which lies on the Serchio river and is home to a really interesting bridge called Ponte della Maddalena, but also known as the Ponte del Diavolo, or "Devil's Bridge". Can't imagine why... On our quest for lunch, we took a detour up into the surrounding hills, heading for an agriturismo we'd seen signposted. The place was beautiful, but they were closed for lunch. The place was called Borgo Giusto.

So, back down we went, and happened on a very peculiar restaurant that brewed its own beer. I had a delicious thick soup and bread, and Claudio had a steak and chips. I fancied hot chocolate and apple pie to finish, but that would have to wait. Recharged, we headed into Lucca. After negotiating the ring road and less than adequate road signs (as per in Italy), we parked up just inside the Porta Santa Maria, Lucca being a walled town. The town itself is quite charming and the setting really pretty.

This is the Basilica di San Frediano
These are pictures of San Michele in Foro

This is Torre delle Ore
This is the Piazza Anfiteatro where I finally got my hot chocolate and apple pie!

Since it was getting a bit late and rather chilly, we opted to return via the motorway. Obviously not as picturesque and fun, but we still got a good view of the Tuscan countryside with its iconic cypresses.

A gorgeous day out, but I really do need to sort out some warmer clothes. I felt like Ötzi the iceman.

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