I grew up in Ponte a Serraglio, one of the 20 villages included in the larger district of Bagni di Lucca.
I still have family and good friends living there. Then as it is only half an hour’s drive from Lucca, it is quite easy to go back and forth with not much advance planning, as long as you have a car.
Over the years, I have tried to arrange tours there or simply I have received questions about things to see and do.
I have been a little bit hesitant to direct people there for many reasons:
- not easy to navigate on your own
- the spas and some historical buildings do not have not much secure opening hours
- something is in complete disrepair
- and maybe just because I have always had it under my eyes, I am not really seeing the actual beauty.
So in this blog post, I am just giving you an idea of a path you could do by yourself or I can lead the way and tell you more about the history, the architecture of this well-known and very old spa town in Europe.
This Love Hill Loop is just that easy local walk, I have been doing it as far back as I can remember: to take a break from sitting too much while I was a college student, when my aunt is around it is a moment to be together and catch up, to get some inspiration and distraction from remote work and to burn some calories after lunch at my mum’s!
Lately, I have posted some photos on my Fb page and Instagram stories and I have immediately realized that this path could be of some interest to you. Especially now that I have noticed it is better signposted (Via dell’Acqua) and cleaned.
It is about a 4 km loop, connecting the 2 main villages: Ponte and Villa but you will go over a hill and then you will circle back to where you have started.
I will leave you here also a link to my wikiloc route, so you can check it out. There are some detours and shortcuts, but in this way, you will have a general idea.
It is a mixed path on gravel and paved roads, not necessarily for pedestrians, however, you can walk on a sidewalk or just pay attention to a few cars. You do not need hiking boots, trainers are good. Andiamo!
From the central square in Ponte you can have a good cappuccino and pastry by Annalisa at Bar Italia and once you have that boost of energy you can walk towards La Villa simply following the road along the Lima river.
On this sidewalk, there are usually some cars parked, but it is wide enough to squeeze and pass.
At end of the road, you could keep going and wander around the Villa village.
On Wednesday and Saturday, in the morning, there is a great farmers market. Between the Circolo dei Forestieri (the old Foreigner’s club) and the Theatre, you could go down that street to see a small suspension footbridge and then take the Elizabeth and Robert Browning path.
If you skip the village, you will see that there is a cobbled uphill path and you can climb a little bit around a private villa and take a look down at the Anglican Church, now a library.
Then you will end up having this beautiful villa in front of you.
It’s easy to imagine that Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi, and her husband could live here during the summer to enjoy not only the cooler temperatures and the pleasures of the nearby spas.
You are in Bagno alla Villa.
Just behind this Napoleonic residence, there are a bunch of beautiful houses and villas once owned by the wealthy Lucchese families and even more, they were the XIX century Airbnbs for those special guests such as Kings and Emperors and artists like the English poets Shelley and Byron. Exactly, this was the place to be in those days.
I hope that if I make the connection with the Netflix series, Bridgerton is not too extreme, but it recreates that atmosphere.
Especially once you will reach the tiny Bagno square and there you have the building with the pinnacles: the baths.
Despite the Terme being restored some years ago, they are not working or simply opened to see the marble bathtubs and frescoed ceilings.
Anyway, if you will do this walk in summer, you still have a chance to dive at Villa Ada swimming pools.
At one point the paved road ends and it becomes more of a trail in the wood… here, it starts the so-called Lovers walk. Perhaps because it was more secret, private for the couples to hide and flirt.
You will see some nooks and crannies along this winding and short uphill path. Or it could simply be a good halfway point for the locals of the two villages to meet.
At the top of the hill, you could make a detour to a small church dedicated to the Alpine soldiers – the mountain troops of the Italian army or you could start your descent.
You will have to turn a little bit to the left and you will immediately see a bell tower and a church and you will go down to Bagni Caldi – sadly it is almost a ghost village.
There is a hotel completely abandoned and with scaffoldings all around. You could notice, however, a small plate: it is a piece of important historical evidence to remind us what happened here during WWII.
Going down, where the road bends you will find the Bagno San Giovanni, dating back 1307. Originally there were three small baths and a single hot spring (38°) for six bathtubs.
One for the knights, the citizens, the women, the Jewish people, and the servants. The spa was covered in marble by Elisa Baciocchi, and despite a more recent restoration, the Bagno is still closed.
As slowly the path winds down will have a great view over the river and the Ponte village. You have to stop at the terrace in front of the Bernabò spa.
In this case, I am glad to say that at the moment I am writing this blog post this wellness center is open and operative for you to be pampered and massaged. You can soak not only in the water but what I have always been curious to try is the natural Steam Grotto.
I have heard great feedback from this new management and I promise you I will test it, too!
You can decide to go back for a massage and close the loop heading back down to the central square in Ponte or if you can find somewhere near the terrace some stairs.
It is a shortcut to go down to the Casino, so you can walk towards the white footbridge for a photo or as my tradition says you have to drink the hot water at La Cova… for good luck!
So then what do you think of this Love Hill loop?
I would love to hear from you and I really hope we can do it together!