Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, also known as the “green lung” of Tuscany, is definitely a breathtaking village. Tucked between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines, it contains a really interesting historical center and many iconic cultural spots. From traditional schools and libraries to the majestic Vittorio Alfieri Theater, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana always enchants its travelers.
With a population of 6000 and only 28 miles from the metropolitan Lucca, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is the right place for those who are looking for medieval adventures, outstanding landscapes, and recollection in tranquility. Indeed, this town offers multiple fascinating works of art, overall the Rocca Ariostesca. The latter takes its denomination from the poet Ludovico Ariosto and it is one of the most appreciated monuments in Tuscany.
Continue reading to find out what to visit, and where to stay and eat in the timeless Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.
How to get to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Located just over 1 hour 45 from Florence and about 1 hour 15 from Livorno, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana certainly boasts a strategic position. Previously isolated, this village looks easily reachable by car or public transportation.
- Car: From the north, you drive through A11 highway towards Pisa until Capannori. After that, you take SS12 del Brennero and enter into the SP20. From there on, you will need to pass across Gallicano and follow directions to Castelnuovo. From the south, take the A11 highway, exiting to SS12, and go along SP13 until you arrive at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.
- Train: Castelnuovo di Garfagnana center is very close to its own train station. This is why you can reach your destination by taking a regional train from Lucca or Florence (Firenze Santa Maria Novella). It will take about 2 hours.
5 Things to see in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
1. Fortress of Mont’Alfonso
The Fortress of Mont’Alfonso, built between 1579 and 1586, is a beautiful complex with huge walls. Perfectly restored and open to visitors, this structure – during the Second World War – was used as a refuge for Jewish until the 60s. This one takes its name from Alfonso II d’Este who commissioned its construction. Furthermore, the latter – as legends tell- is connected to the nearby Rocca Ariostesca through a secret underground tunnel, which was projected as a shelter for local people in case of external attacks. By now, you can observe elegant gardens and accessible paths with a wonderful landscape.
2. Rocca Ariostesca
Placed in the heart of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, the famous Rocca Ariostesca is a sublime fortress built during the 11th century. This one takes its name from the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto, who worked as governor of this province from 1522 to 1525.
Often used as a military headquarters in the 1940s, the Rocca Ariostesca currently hosts the Archaeological museum full of leaves dating back to Etruscan and Roman times.
3. Pontecosi Lake
Pontecosi Lake, on the northern side of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, is a worthwhile artificial lake. The latter is immensely appreciated by its tourists and it lies next to a wide park, where you can enjoy a day of nature and relaxation. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed in its waters but you can sport fishing.
4. Cathedral of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Built in the 10th century, the Cathedral of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is an imponent church with Baroque details. Not too far from the Rocca, it hosts artistically relevant works. Indeed, it is impossible not to admire the Pala di S. Giuseppe (produced by Andrea del Verrocchio) or La Madonna con Santi (a painting made by Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio).
5. Path of the Ariosto
The path of the Ariosto, also called “the path of lovers” (from Italian “sentiero degli innamorati”) is an easily walkable route, which allows you to go to the Fortress of Mont’Alfonso fastly.
The journey starts from Via Farini until the bridge on the Turrite Secca with white and red signals. After that, you can see an entrance to the village of Torrite and admire the many ruins of a hot springs complex. You can continue by entering the Fortress or go back by walking through via Debbia. Firmly, a once in a lifetime adventure.
Where to Stay in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, despite its morphological limits, offers multiple accommodation options for any kind of traveler. Here are our top 3 stays.
Renaissance Palace in the Tuscan Countryside
At Villa Bertagni, you can choose between single or couple rooms (completely equipped). Moreover, there is also a flowery garden, a pool, or a patio where you can rest. In the morning, a huge included buffet breakfast will welcome you. Such a perfect place for families, considering its special babysitting service.
Centrally Located Farmhouse
Albergo Antica Lanterna offers you multiple bedroom options, private parking, and an included restaurant. In the morning, you will be able to taste local or international breakfast and it is possible to relax in their garden or rent a bike to reach Abetone or Castelnuovo di Garfagnana in a few minutes.
Super Budget-friendly Studio
Dimitri’s House allows any visitor to visit the center of the city on foot, thanks to its proximity to it. It offers you a 1 bedroom apartment, totally equipped with furniture and commodities. Surely the best choice if you are coming from Pisa airport.
The Best Restaurants in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Il Vecchio Mulino
Just a few steps from the Rocca Ariostesca, Il Vecchio Mulino is definitely a culinary pearl of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. It is, indeed, very famous for its owners’ kind and welcoming attitude but also for its delicious coffee. However, we really advise you to taste their Parma ham, tapas, or chicken soup.
Trattoria Marchetti is a mixture of cultures. This restaurant has an exotic style but it is strictly attached to its Italian roots. We suggest you taste their ragù, well-done beef steaks, or pork meat.
La Bottega del Fattore 2
La Bottega del Fattore 2 is a restaurant equipped with a winery and offers a total Tuscan menù. Here, you have to try their pici al ragù or their homemade polenta.
What to see nearby Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Italy
Located a mere 15 miles from the charming town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, the Apuan Alps beckon with their rugged trails that wind through marble quarries, providing an exhilarating trekking experience. For an optimal adventure, we highly recommend planning your visit between the months of April to October, when the weather is most favorable and the natural beauty of the region is at its peak.
Orecchiella Park, 18 miles from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, is a naturalistic place, which hosts protected beech woods and a nearby library, a museum, and a public area where you can enjoy the silence and the faunistic beauty.
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana Weather
Due to its proximity to the Serchio River and adjacent mountains, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana presents numerous climates depending on the area. In the upper part, you can perceive breezy and cool weather with sporadic snowfalls in winter. However, this is a quite mild area, whose temperatures will allow you to practice trekking and hiking most of the time.