Hidden Tuscany: Baratti and Populonia

Not only does Tuscany have beautiful and important medieval and renaissance cities but it has a majestic coastline. One of my favorite areas of the coast is about 120 km south of Lucca in the Province of Livorno known as Baratti/Populonia. Baratti is the beach area and Populonia is the Etruscan town just 3 km above Baratti along a winding scenic road. Many remains of the Etruscan tombs have been uncovered in the area.

The winter may not seem like the time to post about the beach, but even in winter the sea is beautiful. If planning a trip in the spring or summer, allow yourself a day to travel here and enjoy the Italian coast at its finest.

The beach in Baratti is a gulf of about 5 km. It has a beach with darker sand than that you find in Viareggio, for example.  The reason for this is because the Etruscans worked the iron collected from Isola d’Elba. The water is crystal clear and so inviting for a nice long swim. The natural beauty is mostly undisturbed by very few buildings, only farmhouses that have been around for decades. There are many, many pine trees.

Populonia is a small village on the hill above the gulf. If you go, it might be hard to leave the beautiful sea, but take a trek up to visit the castle of Populonia and of course relish in the views of the area and the Gulf of Baratti.  This is really worth a day trip and maybe even more!

Hidden Tuscany: The views of Garfagnana

Recently we were asked by good friends if we would go with them to Garfagnana to see Parco dell’Orecchiella, a wonderful regional park. We have visited it many times and we always enjoy beautiful views. The park is located high in the mountains north of Lucca, about a one hour drive. Going past the many medieval towns and villages we reached our destination just in time for lunch. I had made a reservation at La Greppia, a very well-known restaurant located just outside the park. We had a wonderful lunch and then walked around the park to enjoy the magnificent views, the trees, a small lake, and some of Garfagnana’s tallest peaks.  It’s also a hikers paradise with the many marked trails all around.

On our way back to Lucca, I told my friends about Il Castello delle Verrucole. They had never been to this wonderful gem. Even though they realized that there would be a bit of a steep hike up to the Castle, they decided it was worth it. Upon entering the castle (not really your typical castle but a defense system of the 11th century) a guide will take you through the what was the living quarters of the structure and describe the history in a very fun and interesting way. Of course, the views from here are spectacular too. The tour lasts about one hour and it’s interesting for both young and old. Our friends told me that the steep walk was worth every step!

Hidden Tuscany: Let us be your guide

Maybe you’ve heard Tuscany is a very popular tourist destination!?

Of course, you have. Because the magic of Tuscany never disappoints. While it may be popular for tourist websites and publications to talk about the “next” Tuscany or some new place for adventurous tourists, Tuscany remains for many the trip of a lifetime. And many of my clients keep coming back because why not have the “trip of a lifetime” more than once!

Over the next few weeks, we will help stir your spirit of adventure with many posts about #hiddentuscany that include our favorite spots for day trips and more. Come along with us and read about these gems of Toscana and if they inspire ideas, perhaps we can help with a consultation for your next visit. Just click here to get started.

We have many stories to tell you, starting with the beauty of the hilltop town of Montecarlo that welcomes visitors with many local restaurants, several significant historical places to see and magnificent views of the Lucchesia.

Montecarlo played a critical role in the defense of Lucca during the perilous medieval era of rival nation-states, Florence and Pisa in particular. In 1325, Lucca’s famous commander Castruccio Castracani used the strategic position of Montecarlo to direct the army and win the battle of Altopascio against the Florentine army.

According to VisitTuscany.com,  “Montecarlo’s top sights worth seeing include the Collegiate Church of Saint Andrew (Chiesa Collegiata di Sant’Andrea), the not-to-be-missed parish church Pieve di San Piero in Campo, dating back to 846, and the tiny but enchanting theater Teatro dei Rassicurati, which was frequented by the composer Puccini.”

Montecarlo is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves with local products that celebrate the bounty of the region. The city often hosts events that bring local people for a night of leisure and beauty. Be sure to visit around sunset!

Do you have a favorite memory of Hidden Tuscany? Comment here or send me a note. Maybe, you’ll inspire an article here!


Rainy days can still be fun days

Not all our walking tours are always under the Tuscan sun!  Tuscan rain happens here, especially in Lucca. Lucca has a wonderful Meditteranean climate.  However, Lucca can also be very rainy.  I think the reason for our rainy days is a combination of being close to the mountains to the north, but still close to the sea. Whatever the reason, we benefit from the rainfall and it doesn’t do much to dampen the city’s charm. Our city is so green all year round and we have plenty of sun to enjoy as well.

I try to keep an eye on the weather forecast so that I am ready in case of any rain.  I keep my little umbrella buried in my purse, just in case.  And it has happened a few times that I got caught without one as the rains came down. My hair gets spoiled, my shoes are soaked, and I feel the dampness all over while doing a tour! That is not as pleasant as it should for both me or the guests that are on my tour.

Take a look at the photo. It was a wet rainy day, but we prepared ourselves for the rain.  The photo is of myself and the tour escort. You can see from our smiling faces that taking a tour even on a rainy day that Lucca is still beautiful! In fact, it can be a great day for a tour because we will get you out of the rain into our amazing churches, museums and shops. There is no reason to let a little rain spoil a great vacation!

Take a stroll to authentic Tuscany

“You don’t need to go far from Lucca’s historic center to find the beautiful countryside that comes to mind when first think of Tuscany. Olive groves, vineyards, cypress trees, soft rolling hills, and magnificent villas surround the city.  With a very short drive, or a long pleasant stroll beyond the city and you can be in the middle of this country paradise. But be careful. It’s true that many fall in love at first sight!

Tuscany’s hillsides are home to wonderful vineyards and olive groves. Many places welcome visitors for tastings, just as many roadside trattorias offer wonderful local food. This is place to experience Tuscany!


If you would like help arranging a tour, please contact me. I’d love to help you travel like a local! And after you’ve fallen in love with Tuscany, you may want to rent or buy a place of your own. We can help with that, too!

I look forward to meeting you the next time you visit. Be sure to take a little side trip to Lucca’ss most beautiful countryside.  You too will feel like I do!