Hidden Tuscany: Walk and talk

With the arrival of spring, many communities have run/walk events to raise money for good causes or just to have fun. You can see the flyers posted all over, like this one:

These events are mostly non-competitive, great for all ages and a wonderful way to see the surrounding areas of Tuscany. Each is very different, some well organized and others well, not so much! A recent walk in the center of Capanori had people walking around every which way, most with no idea where they were supposed to go! But not to worry, everyone had fun, enjoyed the conversation and the walk and the benefits of the event went to local Lions Clubs throughout the region.

For those who do organized walks or run in the United States, be prepared: These aren’t quite as serious as the ones in the United States. But the good news is they don’t cost near as much either! Typically they are about €3. Just walk up, find a table of local volunteers and get a sticker. You’re in!

The other thing that is very different is true Italian culture is evident throughout. The vendors with booths at the party after the walk include local products from honey to prosciutto or even wine! You won’t find many “energy bars” offered here. Snacks along the way often include lemons, chocolate even fried bread. One event offered a nice bean soup for participants when they finished. The bags for walkers at the end don’t include fancy products. Instead, I’ve seen gifts of pasta and even toilet paper! Yes, very different from America, I’d imagine.

This past Saturday, on a gorgeous Spring day, more than a 1,000 people arrived in Marlia (just 6 KM north of Lucca) for a walk of either 3km, 8 km, or 11 km, that wandered through the villas in the hilly region. Look at these beautiful views and the amazing villas.


These walks are a great way to enjoy the local community. You can practice your Italian by listening to the lively conversation. You can experience the mix of generations and enjoy seeing parts of the region that aren’t the normal tourist experience.

And for those interested in seeing the same villas as this walk, should come to Lucca on April 28 for a marvelous annual event repeats this walk with so much more. It’s called the Marcia delle Ville and it will include thousands of people walking the hills of this region. All the Villas offer free admission inside and walkers can go as short as 7km and as long as 28km to tour these amazing structures of historic Lucchese culture.

Whenever you come to Lucca, check out the flyers, find a walk and experience the community like a local! You’ll not be disappointed.

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!

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!

Festivity of Corpus Domini for all of Italy

If you happen to be in Italy during the latter part of May and the beginning of June (this year the festival is June 3) you may be lucky enough to experience the Catholic Festivity of Corpus Domini.

The story of this festival started many centuries ago, back in the 13th century. During the year 1263, a bohemian priest on his pilgrimage to Rome stopped to say mass in Bolsena (a province of Viterbo). While he was distributing the host (the communion bread, which is the body of Christ in Catholic ceremonies), he saw a few drops of blood, which came from the bread itself. Pope Urbano came to know of this and instituted the festivity in honour of the “Body of Christ,” or Corpus Domani.

The festival is so important that it is now celebrated all over Italy in the Catholic churches. It begins with a religious procession along a route covered with fresh flowers. Once it is finished, the local parish priest, dressed in the festive clothes of the Catholic Church and holding the chalice containing the holy Eucharist, will walk on the flowers.

When I was a little girl, these local processions were very simply decorated with spring flowers from the fields that we children used to pick and put in big wooden baskets. Then, the adults would spread them along the route. It is a beautiful tradition, that still exists to this day. Almost all parish churches will create their “fiorita” (flower procession).


It is work done by town volunteers who often work overnight to have it ready for the afternoon procession. Some are simple and some are very intricate and sophisticated, but always with religious themes as the subject.

One of the most important traditions in Lucca is within the city of Camaiore. Here, the fiorita is designed with fresh flowers, sawdust, sand and other materials. Each year marks a different design but always with a religious theme.  


Catholic or not, if you experience the beauty, art and pageantry of this Festivity, I think you will agree with me that it is something not to miss!