Located between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines, the Serchio
River Valley starts in Castelnuovo Garfagnana and descends through
alluvial terrain passing Gallicano, Coreglia, Barga, Bagni di
Lucca and Borgo a Mozzano before ending at its opening at Ponte
a Moriano, which is inside the commune of Lucca.
It is a wide valley with an open rolling floor, surrounded by
a series of smaller valley which cross each other and became steeper
and steeper, on the Apennines and on the left towards the white
peaks of the Apuan Apls, This landscape is an environmental paradise,
with sharp mountainous forms sitting next to gentler hills.
It ranges from 150 to 2000 meters in elevation and is home to
different crops, forests, and towns and villages which create
a single environment.
All the streams run towards the Serchio, the centre of the Basin,
flanked by the convenient Railway Line and Provincial Road.
This geographic-economic community does not, however, correspond
to a similar historical community. It is almost as if there were
two: the Este Garfagnana and the Lower Serchio River Valley which
includes the Val di Lima.
This distinction is still felt today by the local population,
and enriches life in the small town and fortified villages, with
different dialects, customs, folklore and art. The two "historical"
capitals are very near to each other, almost opposite each other
on the river: Barga and Castelnuovo.
After 1429 the Communes of the upper valley where in fact taken
from Lucca and occupied by the Este family. The Este rulers had
their seat in Castelnuovo Garfagnana, the most famous of these,
Ludovico Ariosto, was a guest of this city.
The lower part of the valley, with its centre in Barga was also
known as Barghiano, On this side of the valley the hilly areas
around the valley floor, fluvial terraces and better-exposed slopes
are more populated.
Barga is situated at an altitude of 410 meters in the middle
of the valley, on an inclined alluvial fan, cut across the lower
side by the path of the Serchio.
It is a very old city, after the year 1000 it was one of the strongest
and most contested castles of Lucca.
This lasted until the middle of the fourteenth century when it
fell under the rule of Florence.
The upper part houses the old city center, still intact, with
the famous Romanesque cathedral rising above it.
The lower part is home to Fornaci di Barga, a growing industrial
and shopping area. Castelnuovo
Garfagnana is also of medieval origin, and is situated at an altitude
of 270 meters, below the spot where the Serchio runs into the
Turrite, its tributary. It is the center which connects and encloses
all of the beautiful towns and castles of the upper valley like
Castiglione, San Romano, Camporgiano, Piazza al Serchio....
Under the Apuan Alps, at the feet of the quarrymen's town of Vagli,
submerged to generate electricity has become an attraction and
censer for sports during the summer season. The Val di Lima is
also part of the Serchio basin, but in many ways is a region in
itself. Deep and excavated, in the lower part between the straits
of Popiglio and the confluence with the Serchio, within the province
of Lucca, it is particularly eroded and embedded, enclosed between
counterforts which plummet to the curving valley floor. Harsh
and bare, the upper part is still dominated by enormous chestnut
The main center is Bagni di Lucca, situated 150 meters above sea
level: its territory is the same as the old Vicarship of Val di
Lima, part of the former Republic of Lucca. It started out as
a small group of villages located by the alkaline hot springs,
used for "baths" and "water cures" until the twelfth century.
After a long period of decline, the baths in Bagni di Lucca returned
to popularity thanks to Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon's sister, and
then Maria Louisa Bourbon, who used it as their summer residence.
It became a place for spa treatments and vacations, the beautiful
scenery of the area, the cool air in summer, have helped maintain
its popularity as a holiday spot, particularly for well-known