LOCAL PLACES OF INTEREST

JEWEL OF A THEATRE

Teatrino di Vetriano                                               

A tiny theatre created in the remote Tuscan village of Vetriano more than a century ago and has been restored, and is once again staging plays and concerts.

In 1889, villagers created an enchanting playhouse that, at 71 sq m, that would later enter the records as the smallest historical theatre in the world.

Vetriano, directly north of Lucca is neatly sandwiched between the Garfagnana and the craggy, marble-laden Apuan Alps.

Heart and soul were poured into renovating the hayloft as a performance centre by the villagers.  Two tiers of wooden balconies were built and lovingly decorated with garlanded floral themes.  Hand painted vertical panels for the 6 metre wide stage pulled out,  as curtains between acts.  Seating was something you brought from home.

The pint-sized playhouse, which they called simply ‘Il Teatrino’ soldiered on for over 70 years, until the place simply wore out: the roof began to leak, paintwork peeled, earth tremors etched cracks in the walls and the descendants of the original association members migrated, often to foreign lands.  Tastes changed too with TV wooing residents away from the little stage.  The site became a storage depot and eventually the doors closed to any further entertainment.

But in 2002, finally,  after years  of hard work, the Teatrino di Vetriano held its formal opening ceremony.  With that, the little theatre was once again up and running and can be viewed by the public on a private tour.

EREMO DI CALOMINI

Opening times July – September                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

9.30am – 12.30 and 15.30 – 18.30 NO ENTRY CHARGE

An unusual monastery with an 7th  Century facade, situated at the base of an overhanging rock face, conceals a series of underground rooms which accommodate 2 churches, most of the monk’s quarters and an ancient kitchen with larder.  These underground rooms have been hand chiselled in the rock by the monks and the parishioners starting from the 7th century.

There is an Agriturismo Ristorante  Antica Trattoria dell’Eremita where you can have fresh ‘yellow’ trout from the Trout Farm below.

You can  buy fresh Trout from the Farm on the main road.

LA GROTTA DEL VENTO www.grottadelvento.com

Open to the public in 1967, it is the only European show cave that offers the possibility to choose from 3 different tours of varying challenge which correspond to 3 completely different areas,  each one having characteristics that clearly distinguish it from the other.  It is an underground world of galleries, chambers and shafts where there are splendid limestone formations that are still growing,  forms of erosion and underground rivers and lakes.  It is said that after rain is when best to see the river.

PONTE SOSPESO

This is one of the longest suspension footbridges in the world and is 220 metres long and about 1 metre wide with a height of 40 metres at the point of greatest height.  Today the bridge represents an important tourist attraction, but originally it was an important shortcut for the workers living on each side of the valley.  Under  a hour away from Celle, this is a lovely day out.  There are open spaces for picnics or recreation,  and for those of you who enjoy fishing, also a lake with a cafe.

CERTOSA DI PISA

A Carthusian monastry located in Calci, a village half-way between Pisa and Lucca, beautifully positioned in a valley of olive trees and cypresses.  It isn’t just a boring Monastry because there is an amazing museum of natural science for the delight of children and adults alike.  In the tactile room you can touch animals and a new area is dedicated to the evolution of Man.

VINCI – HOME OF LEONARDI DI VINCI

Deep in the Tuscan countryside lays the remote gem of Vinci.  These small Tuscan towns seem shrouded in mystery and romance rising from the valleys.  Vinci is no exception.

This hilltop village offers a castle, a great museum, narrow twisting alleyways and all the ambiance in the world.   It is also the birthplace of the master Leonardo di Vinci. After visiting Vinci you understand what inspired him.

Park on the outskirts of town and explore on foot.  The first glimpse of Leonardo, a large wooden sculpture of the Vitruvian man welcomes you to town.  The square, overlooking the steep valley below, provides a spectacular view. Vinci’s origins go all the back to the Etruscans.

The castle, originally built in the Middle Ages, fell to Florence in 1254 and Vinci became a borough of the superpower.  It was the site of many battles between Florence and their enemies to the west such as Pisa.  Today Vinci looks almost the same as it did in the days of the Medici, but the 14,000 people living in Vinci and its surrounding hills enjoy a peaceful life.

The castle, known as “The Ship’s Castle” because of its shape, houses the fantastic museum Il Museo Leonardiano Di Vinci.   This truly unique museum focuses on Leonardo’s mechanical, scientific and engineering inventions.  The exhibits display Leonardo’s work through models constructed according to the original dimensions.

The pieces, displayed over two floors, are explained in a variety of languages including English.  Computers in every room give visitors a chance to view short video presentations, play interactive games or just read more information.

The models cover everything from constructing a domed building, to cars and planes, to underwater suits. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of this museum is Leonardo’s own notes and drawings are displayed showing his ideas from paper to reality.   For those who can’t get enough of the details of Leonardo’s work, across the street is the Leonardo Library which houses a complete collection of his notes and essays.  These museums allow visitors to glimpse the depth of Di Vinci’s genius.

The castle is the gateway to this great little village.  Near the museum stands the church of Santa Croce.  It is here local legend has it that Leonardo was baptized.  The Romanesque church modified several times over the years still retains its old world charm.  As with many Tuscan towns, simply exploring the tiny streets, stairways and alleyways is an attraction in and of itself.

Vinci is one town that should not be missed.

WINE TASTING

There are many places to experience wine tasting, and only a few kilometres from Lucca lies the FATTORIA DI FUBBIANO.  The Fubbiano farm boasts a panoramic view of its 45 hectares of vineyards, olive groves and woodland.  The estate produces 6 Colline Lucceshi D.O.C. certified wines along with a renowned ‘Supertuscan’.

For 3 generations, skilled growers have helped retain the secrets of the traditional art of winemaking, using their passion and expertise to give the Fubbiano wines their distintive character and refined quality.

Other than wine, the Fubbiana estate produces a very high quality extra virgin olive oil, which is not only known as one of the best in Tuscany and Italy, but also throughout the world.  www.fattoriadifubbiano.it

The Fattorria warmly invites guests to participate in wine and oil tastings, and, of course a knowledgeable guided tour of its wine cellars.  The tour take between 2-2 1/2 hours and samples the local salami and cheeses to compliment the different wines and oils.

The cost per person is 15 Euros (2011) and from previous guests reports have highly recommended the experience as being one the best they have had!