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Florence train station. Platform 16, front Mc Donald
Pick up: 8:45 am
Drop off: 6:00 pm
Consisting of a variety of stunning areas, including Lunigiana, Versilia and Lucchesia, Garfagnana is a must-see for all travellers visiting the north-west area of Tuscany. This striking region lies in Lucca Province, north of Lucca city.
The extraordinarily fertile valleys of the Garfagnana are fed by the Serchio river, which runs the full length of this region. With the Apuan Alps towering high in the west and the Apennines in the east, the mountains and valleys of Garfagnana create a dramatic landscape for visitors and the ideal playground for lovers of the outdoors. Uncover the beauty and charm of picturesque local towns and villages and then walk, mountain bike and hike around Garfagnana to discover the region’s natural splendour. The riches of this area of Tuscany can appear unending, with the mythical Grotta del Vento (Wind Cave), Vagli di Sotto ghost town, beautiful Castelnuovo Garfagnana and fabulous Borgo o Mozzano with its Devil’s Bridge just a few of the delights to be uncovered.
The tour begins at Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station at 8.30 am. From here, we head straight for the Wind Cave where you will discover the unique karst topography of a cave system formed over millennia. The many small tunnels and grottos carved into the mountain have been formed thanks to the flow of acidic water high in carbon dioxide, which melts the soluble rock. Where the tunnels meet, they produce a subterranean river that has deepened over the centuries, finally becoming deep enough for caves to remain open and allow us lucky visitors to appreciate the beauty of the Grotto del Vento. This tour will cover the caves that once formed the river’s original path out of the mountain through the mouth of the cave.
Around 20 millennia ago, when the caverns of the Wind Cave emptied, calcite concretions began to form. Calcium carbonate deposits, taking the form of calcium carbonate’s most stable polymorph calcite crystals, have accumulated since this time to create the astonishing sculptures we will have the pleasure of viewing. The calcium carbonate is carried over the cave walls by the water that permeates the soluble mountain rock in an extremely slow process where 1,000 years is needed to create a single centimetre of growth. These extremely fragile sculptures must be protected, so it is important not to touch the cave walls to avoid breaking the sculptures, stopping their growth or causing black spots to grow on their surface, created by the fats released by our skin. So, we invite you to observe some care as you soak up this gorgeous natural spectacle.
When we have completed our captivating Wind Cave tour, we will make our way to a local trattoria to enjoy a lunch of traditional Tuscan cuisine including grilled eel and homemade pasta with a porcini mushroom sauce. Our stomachs full, our next stop will be Borgo a Mozzano and its Devil’s Bridge before we then move on to visit the historically rich city of Lucca. The Devil’s Bridge is one of only a few dozen such medieval bridges, most of which are found in Europe. It is found on the Serchio river on the road to Abetone and Brennero from Lucca, connecting the two banks at what was once a key spot on the Via Francigena, a road to Rome in ancient times, and was where people travelling from France would cross the river. Later, in medieval times, the crossing was a vital part of a pilgrimage route. It is believed that the Countess Matilda di Canossa of Tuscany commissioned the bridge in 1100 or thereabouts and it is an impressive illustration of the achievements of medieval engineering. In approximately 1300, Castruccio Castracani directed the renovation of the bridge. While it may now be known as the Ponte del Diavolo, in 1500, a statute of Mary Magdalene stood at the base of the bridge on its eastern bank and the bridge was named the Ponte della Maddalena after a small chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene.
The tour will end at 4.00 pm when your driver will return you to Florence and its main station to wish you well for your onward journey.