Skip to content

Lucca Lore

Just north of Lucca lies an unexplored corner of Tuscany, hideout and holdout of traditional artisans, old-school craftsmen, unreconstructed farmers, folksy flavours, and all-round fulsome fascination.

Squeezed between the Serchio River valley and the Apuan Alps, the Garfagnana region is way off the beaten track despite being well within striking range of both Lucca city and the Cinque Terre coast. It’s often overlooked, since at first glance it lacks any obvious major tourist draws. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll discover that what it does have is a treasure-trove of unsung minor geniuses, all chipping away at their artisanal masterpieces — the guardians of Lucca’s age-old local crafts and culture.

On a recent trip we were shown around by our friend and local guide Erica, who can unlock the doors to a host of amazing Garfagnana artisan experiences. We met a handloom weaver at work on traditional Lucchese patterns in his DIY attic studio; spent a morning baking and breaking bread with a farro farmer (an ancient form of wheat even older than spelt); watched a miller calibrating his millstones so as to grind different qualities of chestnut flour; and stood in gob-smacked awe as a blacksmith forged iron by hand in his Dantesque workshop, ensconced atop a hill up a dirt track. His infernal forges and iron-pounding contraptions are entirely water-powered — and powerful and scary as hell.

South of the artisanal outliers of the Garfagnana is the stunning city of Lucca itself — one of the most pristine and charming old city centres in Italy, girded by its famous medieval walls, still perfectly intact. In trip-planning terms we recommend a two-to-four night stay in Lucca, combining one or two full days in the Garfagnana under Erica’s guidance with a couple days exploring Lucca town and its array of Romanesque churches, medieval towers, and foodie hangouts. And, in case you oenophiles were starting to wonder: the hills around Lucca sport their very own wine DOC denomination, “Colline Lucchesi”. We suggest starting your wine-tasting at Tenuta di Valgiano, a biodynamic estate producing top-notch Lucchese libations.

Rudston Steward is on a mission to unearth all of Italy’s Vulcans, Ganimedes, Apollos and Ceres, one tiny hidden corner at a time.

Squeezed between the Serchio River valley and the Apuan Alps, the Garfagnana region is way off the beaten track

Destination Details