Ponte del Diavolo at Borgo a Mozzano
 
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Lucca - Diecimo - Bagni di Lucca - Collodi - Lucca

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Piazza Anfiteatro San Frediano

I woke on Sunday morning to the sound of heavy rain bouncing off the cobblestones outside our apartment. As I slowly ate breakfast the rain eased and I decided to risk exploring the hills north of Lucca.

Porta Santa Maria

I splashed through the puddles in Piazza Anfiteatro and rode down Via Fillungo past San Frediano to Porta Santa Maria.

Wet roads and sign for Pieve Santo Stefano

After I passed under the walls the rain started again.

Before crossing the Fiume Serchio I sheltered under a tree to let the worst of the storm pass over. When I set off again the roads were streaming with water.

More wet roads
Strada del Vino - the Wine Road View near Mutigliano

The route crossed the river and headed for the hills along the Strada del Vino Colline Lucchesi e Montecarlo - the Wine Road of the Lucchesi Hills and Montecarlo - although during my trip water was evident in much greater quantities than wine.

Still on the Strada del Vino

This road loops around a series of vineyards to the north of Lucca and allows visitors to sample the best local wines and olive oils.

Gran Fondo painted on the road

At a couple of the junctions Gran Fondo directional signs were painted on the road.

Cars of worshipers outside San Martino in Vignale

Gran Fondo events are cycling competitions roughly equivalent to Sportives where riders are timed over a route of around 160-220 kilometers. Often the routes are over challenging terrain ... as this one appeared to be.

Clouds clearing from Monte Serra

Several different Gran Fondo events are run in this area ... one being organised by former world champion Michele Bartoli.

A little further on in Vignale worshipers were rushing to 11 o'clock mass at the church of San Martino. Cars filled the small car park and others were lined up on the verges around the church.

It seems that bikes are allowed Vipore Restaurant Roadside shrine

After leaving the village I passed the Vipore restaurant. This is where Cesare Casella perfected his craft ... and earned a Michelin star ... before moving to New York.

'In my local dialect Vipore means viper. According to a local legend, Vipore was the nickname of the owner of my family's trattoria in the 18th century. It's also the name of the place where the trattoria is located. It was on a back road, used by bandits to avoid tolls, which connected Florence - a day's ride on horseback - to the sea. The owner supposedly behaved like a viper. He never attacked unless attacked first' - Cesare Casella.
Tower of Pieve Santo Stefano Unused door

Fortunately I didn't meet any bandits ... or perhaps cyclists aren't worth robbing.

Nor did I meet any vipers ... which are quite common in this part of Tuscany.

The road continued to climb ... although now less steeply ... past Pieve Santo Stefano.

Orchard with spring flowers
Road zig-zagging past a lone cyprus Spring flowers

Beyond Santo Stefano the road carved gently around the flank of Monte Castellaccio.

The sky slowly began to lighten ... but water was still streaming off the hillsides forming puddles in the road.

Undulating road A touch of blue sky?
Swooping turns Swooping turns
Farmhouse on the flank of Monte Castellaccio Turn off  for Vecoli
Farmhouse We want to follow the road to Castagnori

Amongst the trees the road forks.

The left fork continues to climb on up to Vecoli ... whilst the right turn descends to Castagnori and on down into the Freddana Valley beyond.

The road narrows before descending into the Freddana Valley
Farmhouse again Stable?

On passing the col the views to the south over to the mountains between Lucca and Pisa were left behind - and new vistas opened up to the Alpi Apuane to the north.

Beginning the descent
Start of the bends ... ... more bends
diving into the trees yet more bends
a sharper bend View down over San Martino
... even more bends ... Closer view of San Martino

The road loops around a series of U-turns descending some 200 metres into the valley.

Part way down the village of San Martino appears ... and at the bottom the road crosses the Torrente Freddana and arrives in the village.

San Martino at last

The route follows the main road a short distance and picks up the road heading towards Torcigliano, Loppeglia and Fiano.

We want Torcigliano, Loppeglia and Fiano

About one kilometre out of San Martino I came across a small museum of old farm equipment alongside the road. Beyond the museum the road started to climb again.

Farm museum Farm museum Farm museum
More bends ... uphill this time

Just beyond Torcigliano the climbing seemed to become harder and harder ... although the slope didn't seem to be any steeper ... eventually I realised that I had got a p*nct*re.

Oh no ... a p*nct*re

On the positive side the rain had stopped so I was able to patch it up ... and catch my breath ... in the dry.

As I set off again I could see the village of Loppeglia high on the hillside ahead.

Loppeglia on the hillside ahead
Climbing up to Loppeglia ... more bends ...
... road continuing to climb ... Loppeglia at last

The road looped round numerous bends as it climbed slowly towards the village.

On reaching Loppeglia I passed a small piazza with a war memorial.

Looks like the centre of town ahead

A little higher ... in the Da Valentino restaurant families were assembling out on the covered terrace ... preparing for their Sunday lunch.

The only building higher than the restaurant was the Santa Pietro church perched ... together with its campanile ... on a knoll high above the village.

We want the Pescaglia road Loppeglia-Fiano's Santa Pietro church Loppeglia-Fiano's bell tower
Woodyard

Just around the corner from the church was a woodyard.

Great baulks of timber were stacked by the roadside ... and some provided a perch for one thirsty cyclist to stop and take a drink.

View back down over the rooftops of Vetriano to the winding road below View across the Pedogna valley
View down to Piegaio Houses perched on the hillside
We don't want any of these ... where's Diecimo?

After the rest ... the road contoured around the flank of Monte Torretta before descending into the Pedogna valley.

Entering Piegaio

At the bottom of the valley the route joins the minor road which follows the river heading eastward to join the Fiume Serchio at Diecimo.

The gentle descent was in complete contrast to the undulations so far ...

Stockpile of wood

... but was still sufficient to allow me to overtake a tractor towing a load of wood.

Further down the valley first scars of quarrying were apparent on the hillsides.

The slopes between Cune and Diecimo are also a popular site for paragliding ... but on this rather damp day none were in evidence.

Tractor to overtake First signs of quarrying near Pedonga San Maria Assunta at Diecimo
Flowers??

The valley opens out as it approaches the Serchio ... and I passed strange flowers growing in marshland alongside the Torrente Pedogna.

The narrow streets of Diecimo

After passing the tower of the 12th Century Santa Maria Assunta I turned north into the village of Diecimo.

Small piazza and tower in Diecimo

This region was subject to intense fighting in the World War II ... the Germans having established their Gothic Line of defence in the widest part of the Serchio valley.

The Lucca to Aulla Rail line covered by avalanche shelters

Fortunately Diecimo is now quiet ... and I wound through its narrow streets before joining the main road up the Serchio Valley.

The Lucca to Aulla rail line runs parallel to the road and river ... and north of Diecimo the track runs through a series of avalanche shelters to protect it from snow and rock fall.

Town Hall - Borgo a Mozzano Clock tower in Borgo a Mozzano ... and the time is right Exiting Borgo a Mozzano via more narrow streets
Ponte della Maddalena or Ponte del Diavolo

After a short stretch of main road I turned off into Borgo a Mozzano. The peaceful streets were welcome after the busy main road.

Ponte della Maddalena or Ponte del Diavolo

Just to the north of the town is one of the regions best known attractions ... the Ponte della Maddalena which is probably better known as the Ponte del Diavolo or the Devil's Bridge

Ponte della Maddalena or Ponte del Diavolo

This elegant five arched 11th Century bridge is reputed to have been built by the Devil in return for the soul of the first person to cross it ... the Devil was outfoxed by the villagers who sent a dog across first.

Ponte delle Catene at Fornoli

The bridge is the start point for the 130 kilometre Gran Fondo del Diavolo which climbs a series of hills called Paradiso, Purgatorio, and Inferno ... (Paradise, Purgatory and Hell) ... I wondered whether I would soon be climbing one of them.

View from the banks of Torrente Lima looking towards Ponte a Serraglio

Soon after passing the bridge I turned into the village of Fornoli which has a notable bridge of its own ... the Ponte delle Catene (Bridge of Chains). This suspension bridge was built in 1842 and some claim that it was Europe's first ever suspension bridge.

Torrente Lima in Ponte a Serraglio

The bridge crosses the Torrente Lima which I was to follow eastwards towards Bagni di Lucca.

Bridge in ... Viale Casino Municipiale ... Ponte a Serraglio

The fast flowing Lima is chanelled by high stone walls through the village of Ponte a Serraglio.

No through road!

I had hoped to follow the minor road along the north bank of the Lima ... but after unwisely ignoring the signs saying the road was closed ... I found that the way was indeed impassible.

The turn off for Banabbio and Villa Basilica in Bagni di Lucca

I turned around, crossed the river and rode on to Bagni di Lucca.

The town was established on the site of health giving springs and in the 18th and 19th Centuries was an essential stop on the Grand Tour. The town's casino was established in 1835 and is claimed to be where roulette was invented ... times have changed and it is now the local Tourist information centre.

Looking back over Bagni di Lucca

From Bagni di Lucca the route led over the biggest climb of the day.

Torrente Lima following through Bagni di Lucca

I had some trouble finding the small road that climbs southward out of the Lima valley ... but eventually I discovered the sign pointing to Benabbio and Villa Basilica.

The climbing began immediately ... and after half a dozen zig-zags I could look back down on the rooftops of Bagni di Lucca and the silver thread of the Torrente Lima.

Arriving at Benabbio Benabbio's Santa Maria Assunta Benabbio's Santa Maria Assunta
Benabbio's Santa Maria Assunta

Before long I arrived at the village of Benabbio which is strung out along the road.

More climbing ... and rockfalls

I passed the village's Romanesque church of Santa Maria Assunta with its solid stone walls ... and then continued the climb.

Looking back to Benabbio

The road gains some 600 metres in climbing up through the wooded hillsides onto the Pizzorne plateau ...

More climbing

...fortunately after an initial steep section the gradient settles down to a relatively modest 7%.

I passed the turn off for Villa Basilica ... managed to overtake a group of walkers ... and then arrived at the top at an altitude of 750 metres.

Ahead was 20 kilometres of descent ...

Approaching Villa Basilica Approaching the top ... and about to overtake two walkers Dropping down to Boveglio
The road dropping down towards the valley

The road quickly drops down from the pass to the village of Boveglio.

Swooping down through the trees

I stopped briefly for a snack in the small square outside the Cavallino Bianco restaurant as the staff were tidying up after lunch.

Sharp bend ahead in Colognora

Resuming the descent I swooped down between the trees ... and then had to brake sharply to negiotiate the sharp bends in Colognora.

The sun had now reluctantly emerged to provide some warmth.

Another bend in Colognora Fadded door Fadded dooe
Industrial buildings line the banks of the River Pescia

The road drops steadily into the valley of the Torrente Pescia.

Piles of waste paper waiting to be processed

From about halfway down the scenery becomes increasigly industrialised ... with a mixture of disused and new factory buildings lining the banks of the Pescia.

Waste paper ready for recycling

The area has a history of paper making going back to the 15th Century ... with energy from water mills providing the motive power.

Many of the modern factories appeared to be involved in paper re-cycling .... with large bales of waste paper stacked outside awaiting processing.

Mural in Collodi Giardino Garzoni Giardino Garzoni
Pinocchio masks in Collodi Mural in Collodi Mural in Collodi
River Pescia below Collodi

As the valley flattened out I arrived at the touristy village of Collodi.

The busy N 435 Pistoia to Lucca Road

Collodi attracts tourists to the Parco di Pinocchio ... a theme park devoted to the puppet with a long nose ... and also to the Villa Garzoni with its magnificent formal garden.

Bike path through underpass on Viale Castruccio Castracani

I stopped for a cooling drink ... and then set off for the final few kilometres back to Lucca.

Porta Elisa

I followed the direct route along the busy N 435 road ... given more time I would have taken the back roads to the north.

Porta Elisa

Approaching Lucca I joined a bike path which dipped through an underpass and delivered me to the Porta Elisa.

Via del Fosso

On the otherside I the gate I returned to the quiet streets of the city ...

... now all I had to do was select a cafe ...

 

Kirby James

 
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