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Into the Garfagnana 03/08/2011

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c. 1910

The Valley of the Serchio, in its upperpart, is known as the Garfagnana. It lies between the Apennines and the Apuan Alps (the mountains of Carrara). A line of railway already runs up the valley from Lucca for about fifteen miles to Bagni di Lucca, and it is being continued through the Garfagnana to join the line which connects Spezia with Parma at Aulla in the Val di Magra. This district shares with the Garfagnana the distinction of being the finest of the mountainous parts of Tuscany. The forms of the Apuan Alps are of extraordinary grandeur, while the valleys of the Serchio and its largest affluent, the Lima, no less than the numerous clefts through which mountain torrents join the larger rivers, have the picturesqueness and beauty of a northern type which adds piquancy to the southern life abounding on all sides. The lower slopes of the mountains are covered with forests of chestnuts. Against the sky-line villages are outlined on the mountain ridges in what seem almost impracticable places. On the river level there are factories for cotton and paper making. The district everywhere shows signs of active life and general well-being. The most convenient centre for exploring this part of the country is one or other of the villages that together are known as Bagni di Lucca. The station is at the point where the Lima flows into the Serchio. Less than two miles distant is the village of Ponte a Serraglio, and a mile farther on is the village of Villa. Between these points the river Lima makes a sharp turn round the base of a steep hill upon which stands Bagni Caldi, reached from Ponte a Serraglio by a fine road winding up the face of the hillside, or from Villa by a delightful footpath on the farther side of the same hill. There are baths at each of these places. Bagni Caldi consists mainly of the summer palaces of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, converted into hotels. The views of the Lima Valley and the surrounding mountains are fine. Ponte a Serraglio is situated in a narrow gorge through which the Lima forces its way. The bridge and piazza are picturesque. Villa is the official centre; the valley is more open than at Ponte a Serraglio, and although there are no very distant views the characteristic chestnut forests and the torrent of the Lima give a peculiar charm to the place.