Garfagnana might be a not-so-well-known region of Italy located between the Apuan Alps and the Apennine Mountains, but it is a place full of medieval history and stone-walled villages worth a visit. In this post, we will take you through Garfagnana‘s rustic charm, local traditions and exquisite cuisine. We’ll guide you to some great trekking trails, and recommend the best places to stay while visiting the province of Lucca in Tuscany.

Join us as we explore the best of Garfagnana.

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Embracing the Rustic Charm of Garfagnana

Garfagnana is an area known for its natural beauty and historical significance. The region lies north of Lucca and remains one of Italy’s best-kept secrets, full of stunning landscapes that range from mountains to lush forests and underground caves.

Apart from being a nature lover’s dream destination, the Garfagnana Valley is full of historical and cultural sites. You can find ancient castles, medieval towns, old fortresses and charming towns. Some of the more significant villages in Garfagnana are Castelnuovo di Garfagnana and Castiglione di Garfagnana.

Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, thought of as the heart of the region, is a town where history and modernity meet. The town has held onto its roots and gives visitors a glimpse through its well-preserved architecture and local festivals. Castiglione di Garfagnana, recognised for its well-preserved medieval walls and ancient fortress is a testament to the deep history of the area.

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Must-Visit Locations in Garfagnana

All the must-see locations in Garfagnana have a blend of medieval history, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural richness. Here are the key highlights of each location:

Castelnuovo di Garfagnana

Rich in medieval origins, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is home to the Rocca Ariostesca fortress which holds great historical importance in the area. The fortress was named after Italian poet, Ludovico Ariosto who lived there, and was vital for the protection of the town as it provided panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Its market square, Piazza Umberto I, is another important landmark in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana that is a needed stop along your tour of the village. Full of restaurants, shops and market stalls, you can spend a few hours strolling along and enjoying a quick bite.

Castiglione di Garfagnana
Most famous for its stoned medieval walls and is known to be one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. But did you know that it dates back to Roman times? Perhaps the most significant landmark in Castiglione di Garfagnana is not a particular monument but rather the historical reenactments that are held throughout the year, with impressive costumes and choreographed movements.

A vibrant artistic hub, full of architecture, museums and local festivals happening throughout the year, this is a must-visit for any art enthusiast. 

It is located relatively close to many hiking trails and the Grotte del Vento, perfect if you need a break from all the museums.

Orecchiella Park
A natural reserve full of wildlife is a great escape for families. The park is in pristine shape due to the large conservation efforts made in the area. 

You can also partake in mountain biking and horseback riding throughout the park’s designated trails.


Trekking Trails: The Best Places to Hike in the Garfagnana Region

Since Garfagnana is located between two mountain ranges, the area is therefore full of incredible places to explore and enjoy a day out in the great outdoors!

The Apuan Alps

A standout hiking experience in Garfagnana is undoubtedly trekking through the Apuan Alps. This mountain range has a variety of different trails, ranging from challenging uphill climbs to even more difficult routes. This is not for anyone who isn’t ready to work hard or in good shape, but we promise, that the reward once you reach the top is worth it. A popular hike is the Pania della Croce, known as the “Queen of the Apuan Alps”, which ends with a panoramic view of north-western Tuscany and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Il Sentiero del Moro

A better option for those looking for a less strenuous hike, it starts from the medieval village of Sillico and takes you through other ancient settlements and along the stream. Various trails are all marked with loop itineraries that vary in difficulty, this way you can pick the level you prefer.

Monte Forato

The hike to Monte Forato is a must-do, widely known for its massive natural stone arch. This hike is moderate in difficulty level, with a total elevation gain of about 800 meters. The route has some challenging sections, that require the use of a metal chain to pull yourself up. The trek is worth the effort as the trail is full of folklore surrounding Saint Pellegrino and the Devil.


Traditional Food and Where to Eat

Garfagnana is a great place for any food lover. Since the region is full of forests, there are great fruits and vegetables available for foraging, especially wild funghi and porcini mushrooms. You can also find chestnuts and a variety of wheat known as farro.

Some great recommendations in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana are Trattoria Bonini, known for its authentic, home-cooked meals, this trattoria’s most popular dish is its wild boar pasta; and, Al Teatro, run by two young chefs who use only locally sourced ingredients. You will find wild garlic, straw syrup, elderberry capers, and mountain ricotta in many of their dishes.

For those looking to explore more local flavours, the Market in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is a must-visit. You can try and purchase regional products, and experience the true taste of Garfagnana’s food culture.


Traditions and Festivals in Garfagnana

Festa del Maggio in Castiglione di Garfagnana is a festival celebrating spring, and it features traditional songs, dances, and food along the streets.

Ghivizzano Medieval Festival is a real step back in time as the entire village transforms with medieval costumes, crafts, and games.

The region of Garfagnana is also home to many workshops where traditional crafts are still practised, including pottery and ironwork, giving visitors a chance to see these ancient skills in action and also take home a unique souvenir.

Garfagnana is waiting for you

When visiting Lucca on holiday, why not try something a little different? The region of Garfagnana is waiting for you to explore, with charming towns, delicious dishes and many natural landmarks to discover.

And, while in Lucca, don’t forget to stay with the best in Tuscan comfort and style with Lucca Apartments and Villas, where you can find many different accommodations for you and your loved ones.