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Tuscany

Day trip from Lucca: Parco Avventura

The Parco Avventura can provide you with a fun day trip from Lucca.

The parc itself is located in a forest in the Mediavale (the middle Serchio valley). It offers 3 percourses made of various rope bridges, between the trees.

You will find Parco Avventura 1h30mn North of Lucca, in San Romano en Garfagnaga. To get there you need to take the road toward Castelnuovo en Garfagnana (if Castelnuovo is not signaled, follow signs to Abetone), then after Castelnuovo go towards San Romano (you will turn left soon after Castelnuovo), there are signs to the parc right after passing the village of San Romano, to your right. See map.

The main attraction of the park are the 3 percourses in the trees, 2 for adults and 1 for kids (1m and above if I remember correctly, our son was less than 6 when he did it the first time). You rent a harness and a helmet, go through a simple session on what to do in the trees (pay attention though, if you don't follow the directions properly you will have to do it again) and voilà! You're off to the trees. You climb on the first platform, and from then on you go from one tree to the next using all sorts of different rope bridges. Instructors are always around, to help you if you need, or to remind you to follow the safety instructions. Kids are always supervised by an instructor.

The park also offers a nice (and shaded!) picnic area, with wooden tables, so when it's really hot in Lucca, it is still a nice place to spend the day even for those who'd like to stay closer to the ground.

And once you've enjoyed the trees, you can take a short (30mn) walk from the park to the 11th century Fortezza delle Verrucole, ask the instructors in the park for directions, it's fairly easy and you really can't get lost.

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posted by michel, 2008-06-13

[Tuscany] [Kids] [Day Trip] [Outdoors] []


The Lido di Camaiore Ice Rink

So what do we do in the off-season, when there are no weddings in Lucca? Seasonal activities include picking olives in November, skiing, the closest ski resort is Abetone, about an hour North-West of Lucca, and ice skating.

In December there is usually an open-air ice rink in Lucca, in Piazza Grande. Then there is at least one open year round in Cerreto Laghi, an hour and a half North. In January and February though, the closest one is a small ice rink under a tent in Lido di Camaiore, 30 minutes away, by the beach.

It's fairly small, but we found it not too crowded on a Saturday afternoon, so we thought it very pleasant. This year it is open until February 25th, and charges €6 an hour, including the rental of the ice skates.

If the weather is nice, after you're done, you can then enjoy a nice stroll on the boardwalk. All in all a great day trip, especially for kids.

Links

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posted by michel, 2008-02-10

[Tuscany] [Kids] [Day Trip] [Sports] []


Elba Island

It's raining now in Lucca, so it's time to write about the beach: mid-September, right after school started here, we went to the Island of Elba.

From Lucca you take the highway towards Pisa Nord, then towards Livorno, go on South until you get to Piombino, where you head towards the harbor. There you take a ferry, which takes about an hour to get to Portoferraio, the main port on the island. 2 companies offer trips to the Island: Moby and Toremar. You can book your trip online, there are departures more or less every hour.

So Elba is a little far for a day trip, but certainly very convenient for a weekend.

Elba is quite small, 25 km by 20 km, so you're always less than an hour away from any place you want to go (the roads are narrow and winding, so you won't drive fast though). With over 140 km of coast line, it offers plenty of beaches. We found a little booklet at the news stand that listed all of them, with a description, pictures, and a summary of ammenities, that helped us a lot. Note that the German version of the book was much more prominently displayed in the store, which probably gives you a good hint about where most of the tourists come from ;--)

We stayed in Pareti, right on the beach, on the South coast, near the beautiful town of Capoliveri. We got a mini appartment (tiny, but which could sleep up to 5 people) at Hotel Villamare for €65 a night. A great deal (remember this was off-season). The weather was still quite warm, and we sure enjoyed the warn Mediterranean waters.

Other highlights of the trip:

  • the food at La Taverna dei Poeti (The Poets Tavern) in Capoliveri, where the fish was really, really fresh (there are plenty of other restaurants in Capoliveri by the way!),
  • feeding the pigeons and the fish in Porto Azzuro with an old man that reminisced about the good old days when bordellos were cheap (really!),
  • the old open-air iron mine Rio Marina: a little train takes you up the hill, the guide is very knowledgeable, and you can pick shiny rocks from the earth, our son loved it,
  • the opera crazy barber in Rio Marina and his singing brother, where else than in Italy can you spend an hour discussing the merits of various opera singers with your barber?
  • the Caribean-looking beach in Campo All'Aia, complete with palm trees and cruise ship anchored in the bay.

Overall an great weekend, the island wasn't too crowded, although I supposed it would be different in the high season, and it offered a great mix of beach, mountain landscapes, good food and unusual activities. We will certainly go back there.

And finally a message from our son Tonio, which he typed himself (in Italian): ci sono tante foto (there are so many photos), as he took lots and lots of them during that weekend.

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posted by michel, 2007-11-24

[Tuscany] [Further Away] [Beach] []


Day Trip from Lucca: Lerici and Porto Venere

This weekend, we went to Lerici, a little village along the Ligurian coast, about an hour from Lucca.

Lerici is quite similar to the Cinqueterre, in fact it is not that far to the South of the Cinqueterre. It is just easier to access, and thus more crowded, and a little less charming. The main square, near the marina, is very pretty though. It has been recently restaured and most buildings are painted in bright colors, with cute trompe-l'œils. We also enjoyed the walk along the promenade, the 2 sandy beaches, the little train that takes you from the parking lots to downtown and the 11th century fortress, which hosts a museum of... dinosaurs that we did not visit. There was a fair number of tourists in the town, mostly Italians, but it did not feel too crowded.

From Lerici we took a boat to Porto Venere, to the West. In 20-30mn we crossed the bay, admired (not!) the docks of La Spezia to our right, and arrived at the most crowded pier I have ever seen. Really! It was unbelievable. The minuscule sandy beach near the pier was also completely full. Hopefully we managed to walk away from the center to a little rocky beach where we enjoyed the afternoon sun. We then came back downtown it was a little more peaceful, and we walked around the village which is indeed charming, especially the old church and the steep street that leads to it.

All in all it was a very nice day, not too far from Lucca, but with a totally different feel.

How to get to Lerici

The drive from Lucca to Lerici is about an hour:

Take the higway (A11) towards Viareggio, then follow the signs for Genova (A12). Take the exit for Sarzana, and follow the signs for Lerici. Parking can be a problem in the high season, so you should try getting there early in the morning.

map

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posted by michel, 2007-05-05

[Tuscany] [Day Trip] [Outdoors] []


Marina di Vecchiano

Last week, in search of a fun day trip to entertain our 4 year old son, my husband and I took the advice of a Lucchese friend and headed out to Marina di Vecchiano, about a 25 minute drive from Lucca, on the Mediterranean Coast.

Marina di Vecchiano is a long strip of beach that is surrounded by the San Rossore Natural Park, so instead of massive commercial beach stations, restaurants and bars (like what you find in Viareggio), here we found a beautiful, quiet beach, two small restaurants with outdoor and indoor dinning, and a small playground area in front of Il Papiro restaurant for small children. Even better, this seems to be the place where people bring their horses. They simply ride them up the beach to the restaurant, tie them to the post next to the restaurant, and then sit outside on the patio enjoying their lunch while their horses graze in front of them.

My son really loved petting the horses and playing on the playground. My husband and I loved the fact that we could enjoy a quiet meal outdoors, at the beach, and not have to entertain our son the whole time. The food at il Papiro was pretty good too. We had a big platter of Fritto Misto (batter dipped deep fried assorted fish, shrimp and calamari). They had some great white wines as well. Service was a bit slow, but we were not in a hurry.

After our meal we spent the rest of the day on the beach, which was just beautiful as you can see the marble capped Apenine Mountains in the distance. All in all, a great day trip from Lucca. Only problem is that this place is super crowded on the weekends and in the summer, so come early. You may also want to bring your bicycles as there are excellent bicycle paths in the woods that surround the beach.

Directions

From Lucca take the highway entrance Pisa Nord. Follow signs for Pisa Nord till you get to the Pisa Nord exit. After the exit, the road comes to a T. Make a left onto the Aurelia in the direction of Pisa and Livorno. Continue straight until you reach a brown sign for Marina di Vecchiano. Turn right at the sign and follow the road to your first roundabout. Go through the roundabout, exiting at another sign for Marina di Vecchiano. You should be driving for about another 10 minutes through farmland and forest, could be more if you go slowly. The road is not great in places. Do not park at the first parking lot you see, that is the parking for the marina, and not for the beach. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the dunes and two small octagonal restaurants, spaced three blocks apart from each other along the beach. Il Papiro restaurant is not the first, but the second restaurant as you turn right on the road that is parallel to the beach. You'll find it on your left. It has a shaded parking lot for its guests that costs 5,00 euro for the day in the summer. If you go on the weekend, leave early in the morning to make sure you get a good spot. Also, you may want to call a head for reservations if you plan to lunch there.

The address and phone number of Il Papiro is:

Marina di Vecchiano
c/o Oasi Uno
Tel. 050 864147
Website: www.centromarinoilpapiro.it

Sometimes, they don't answer at that number, so if you can't get through, try either:
Andrea: 349 8387768
Edoardo: 333 7348255

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posted by gina, 2006-04-25

[Tuscany] [Day Trip] [Kids] [Outdoors] []


Mushroom Hunting

After that huge meal at Il Tinello we decided we needed a little bit of exercice. Despite the weather being quite menacing, as is often the case in the fall in Tuscany, we thought it would be a good idea to go mushroom hunting.

So we took a little path up the mountains, and soon started to climb up the slopes, in the woods, as good hunter gatherers do.

And mushrooms we found. Lots of them. Invariably inedible ones. After an hour and a half our catch totalled 3 small ones and, and that's what made it all worth it, a huge one (see pictures), found by our friend Luigi, a.k.a. Pupino. I came back with an empty basket, prompting endless taunts of "Loo-oo-ser!" from my son. The problem was probably that we went to a place that had already been searched by mushroom pros (or people who had had a shorter lunch than us!), as this is a very popular fall activity in the region.

It was fun though: we had a good hike in the woods, and we lost some of the extra pounds generated by the feast we had just had. So we will come back

A word of caution: if you want to go mushroom hunting, you need a license, that you can buy for a small fee at the post office. Italians usually get only one for a whole party, and have the holder carry the mushrooms when they get back to the cars, where the police might be waiting (at least theoretically).

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posted by michel, 2005-10-06

[Tuscany] [Day Trip] [Weather] [Outdoors] []


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