Anyone whose visions of Tuscan countryside revolve solely around the undeniably romantic idea of hilltop villas with cypress lined driveways snaking up through the vines, poppies or sunflowers has probably not made it up north to the Garfagnana. The region proper starts about half an hour north of Lucca, its main centre being Castelnuovo di Garfagana with the Apennines and the Apuan Alps rising dramatically to either side and it’s absolutely worth a trip if you have a few days spare.
I’ve just got back from one of my frequent visits – a photographer’s treat to go in autumn when the chestnut and oak trees that blanket the hillsides are are starting to turn, the whiff of woodsmoke is everywhere while each morning, low, single clouds hang over the valley. I wish I was an expert in fungi as there were mushrooms everywhere – our friend Giovanna told me that her children are already experts having learnt from their grandfather but I ended up buying my porcini from a roadside stall. One highlight this time was visiting the tiny village of Sillico where a lovely man insisted we go and see his museum – a crazy mix of scenes from yesteryear complete with spooky models and a dazzling display of – alarm clocks! I should have taken some pics but really, you had to be there….