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Via Francigena in Tuscany: Pontremoli to Lucca  The Natural Adventure 33

Via Francigena in Tuscany: Pontremoli to Lucca

Overview

The Northern Tuscany section of Via Francigena crosses a beautiful and little known part of Tuscany. It starts in Pontremoli, in the heart of the Lunigiana, the land of the Moon, home of the “stele statues”, a very green land dotted with old castles, before descending to the sea in Versilia. Here you will walk for hours along the sandy beach, and during the summer you will be able to have a swim before continuing towards the hills of the inland. You will be able to visit the artists’ workshops Pietrasanta, the Italian Athens, resting at the foot of the Apuan Alps, where the most famous marble in the world is extracted. Finally, you will reach Lucca with its beautiful gardens and villas and amazing old town.

Highlights

  • The spectacular views from the hills around Sarzana
  • Pontremoli museum with its Stele Statues
  • The beautiful Tuscany countryside dotted with small charming villages and imposing castles
  • The Duomo in Lucca
  • Delicious Tuscan culinary specialities

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Pontremoli

Pontremoli is a jewel in the heart of the Lunigiana. You will be able to get lost among its sandstone tower-houses, admire stone warriors and goddesses in the museum of the stele statues; if you like reading, the town of travelling booksellers will offer you places where there is a free exchange of books and benches decorated with literary quotations. And to enjoy the journey from day one, try a very thick slice of herb pie.

  • Accommodation: B&B Chiosi or similar in Pontremoli

Day 2: Pontremoli to Mocrone | 15 km

During the first day of your hike, you will be surrounded by a splendid area which alternates very green countryside with little medieval villages. Here you can admire the tower-houses of Ponticello, the ancient hospice of San Jacopo at Filattiera, and above all the ancient Pieve di Sorano, which has been home for centuries to the stele statues of Celtic warriors. Villafranca is a very beautiful medieval village: you can climb the hill up to the walled village of Malgrate, with its castle, or through the trees look at the ruins of the old castle of Malnido, the residence of the Malaspina family.

  • Walking for the day: 15 km, 5-6 hrs
  • Accommodation: Locanda Gavarini or similar in Mocrone

Day 3: Mocrone to Aulla | 18 km

Today you will head for Aulla, crossing a thick forest and walking along sections of an ancient Roman road, towards Terrarossa castle. The last section of the route is over the tracks of the old railway, intelligently transformed into a cycle path. If you are keen on ancient history, you will appreciate the muse of the Abbey of San Caprasio, which contains archaeological finds from the medieval period. Do not miss a walk along the ancient walls of the Fortezza della Brunella, pretending to be medieval sentries, before taking a walk through the old town centre. And if you are hungry, there is nothing better than the tasty little local focaccias, to be enjoyed still hot accompanied by charcuterie and cheeses.

  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 5-6 hrs
  • Accommodation: Hotel Demy or similar in Aulla

Day 4: Aulla to Sarzana | 17 km

From Aulla you will travel along the first section of the journey over demanding but gratifying paths: from here you will glimpse the sea for the first time. Along the road, you will pass through very green countryside and medieval villages. You can visit the ruins of the castle of la Brina, reconstructing with your imagination its impressive walls, while at Sarzana you will be amazed by the Baroque interior of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and you will admire the Gothic facade of the Pieve di Sant’Andrea, the oldest building in the town. You can get lost in the old town centre among the alleyways that open into large squares, where you can stop for a typical dinner: discover the taste of the torta scema, and get one of the locals to explain the meaning of its name.

  • Walking for the day: 17 km, 5 hrs
  • Accommodation: B&B In Piazzetta or similar in Sarzana

Day 5: Sarzana to Massa | 27 km

Today your journey will be along flat paths, following in the footsteps of the ancient pilgrims who from the Roman port of Luni used to embark on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Do not miss a visit to the archaeological area, with the ancient amphitheatre and the museum which is home to a splendid mosaic dedicated to the God Neptune. Following paths that give you views of the sea and the Apuan Alps, you will finally arrive at Massa.

  • Walking for the day: 27 km, 6-7 hrs (you can shorten the section to 18 km if you use local buses)
  • Accommodation: B&B Il Cuore or similar in Massa

Day 6: Massa to Camaiore | 20-25 km

Today Pietrasanta awaits you, with its splendid old town centre. Before browsing among its art galleries and shops we recommend a visit of the town’s Duomo, to walk among its marble columns and to admire its frescoed vaults. Finally, you will arrive in Camaiore, with its old town centre and ancient Badia di San Pietro, and a rice-based chocolate cake that will reward you for the efforts of the day.

  • Walking for the day: 25 km, 6 hrs (20 km if you use local bus)
  • Accommodation: Hotel Locanda Le Monache or similar in Camaiore

Day 7: Camaiore to Lucca | 25 km

From Camaiore, you will continue up and down among the hills of Lucca, before descending to the valley of the Contesola torrent and crossing the river Serchio. Lucca is the final aim of your journey; enter through the walls and submerge in its old town centre, where many attractions await you. You will admire the decorated façade of San Frediano, browse in the little shops of the circular piazza to buy spelt and local biscuits, climb the Guinigi tower and admire the town from up high in its hanging garden.

  • Walking for the day: 25 km, 7 hrs
  • Accommodation: Hotel Rex or similar in Lucca

Day 8: Departure

Departure on your own or extra nights in Lucca upon request.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in selected 3-star hotels and B&Bs. All rooms have en-suite facilities. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. One accommodation has a swimming pool.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included every day. Packed lunches can be pre-ordered at the accommodations or you can buy products from local shops. For dinner, you will usually have plenty of options in the villages you are staying in.

Difficulty & terrain

The route is relatively easy and accessible due to low elevation gains. A good level of fitness is required for enjoying the walks to the maximum (read more about difficulty grades). The whole itinerary is mostly on paths and gravel roads (strade bianche), even if you will find some sections on asphalted roads. Some walks are quite long but can be optionally shortened using local transport or private transfers. The whole itinerary is well marked by the Official signs of the Via Francigena – white-red markings and a yellow sign with the Pilgrim symbol on it. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime.

When to go

You can start your holiday every day between the beginning of April and the end of October. Spring and autumn months are a preferred travel period if you want to avoid the summer heat of July and August when temperatures hit 30°C and more. In September – October, you will enjoy pleasant temperatures and might also be able to catch the regional wine harvest.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival airports for this holiday are Florence, Pisa, Bologna and Genoa. Other Italian airports are also well connected to the area.

By train or bus
  • Arrival in Pontremoli: From any airport, reach the closest railway station, from where you can get to Pontremoli by train. Trains are direct from Pisa, whereas you need to change if travelling from Florence, Bologna, Genova and Milan.
  • Departure from Lucca: There are direct trains from Lucca to Pisa and Florence. And the trains to Bologna, Genova and Milan are with a change on the way.
  • Train timetables are available on www.trenitalia.com

Inclusions

Included

  • 7 nights in selected 3-star hotels and B&Bs, private en-suite rooms
  • 7 breakfasts
  • Luggage transfers on all walking days (1 pc per person up to 15 kg; each additional paid should be paid)
  • APP with the route description to follow on the smartphone, the maps, the practical organization day-by-day, the Pilgrim’s passport and the QR code (no paper documents will be provided)
  • 24/7 phone support by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches and dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Local tourist tax & entry fees (payable on the spot)
  • Personal expenses
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘Included’ in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights

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