An ideal walk for me is one that is circular so as not to have to return the same route, not too long, plenty of interest, and with refreshment at the end! This walk meets all those criteria, and even better is entirely on foot, no driving to a start point. For me it starts at Villa Rosalena in Ponte a Serraglio of course, but it could be started anywhere in Bagni di Lucca. The walk goes over the hill that divides the two main parts of Bagni di Lucca, taking in the tiny Chiesina Alpini at the top of the hill.
First part of the path is up a stepped path opposite the Villa Demidoff/Global Village to the former Bernabo spa where several paths meet up. Quick pause here to admire the view over Ponte a Serraglio and the River Lima from the terrace.
Up more stepped paths heading left to Bagni Caldi where the only currently open spa is, the Terme Jean Varraud, up the steps beside the terme then left past the church of San Martino (church is being restored, if way is blocked can continue through Bagni Caldi on the road to meet route further on)
Follow the road up through ferny woods, right direction, signpost for Colle. Pass pinkish house on a bend with old stone benches perfect for a quick catch of breath! Follow the curve right, up still, not down yet! You start to get glimpses of the other side now, looking down onto La Villa, pass a former wayside chapel, white building with big porch for shelter, keep going to the right, passing beehives and small vineyard and then on through the hamlet of Colle.
There are always wildflowers along this part of the path. It’s fascinating to see the wild origins of so many that have become familiar garden plants. This spring day I saw muscari, honesty, verbascum, euphorbias and tiny dainty violas amongst others, whilst autumn brings plentiful pink nodding cyclamen. The path becomes steep at the end, but only for a short stretch!
So the mid point is the Chiesina Alpini, now to come back down the other side. Retrace your steps as far as the white chapel with the large porch. just before this there’s path on the right heading down via del Colle. Go down the cobbled path until the 3 path junction. Ignore the one going up! The left down will take you to Corsena and the right downwards to La Villa. Take the right gravel path.
The path emerges at Bagno alla Villa. There’s a split in the path, left takes you to the fantastic public open air swimming pool, opens mid June to mid September and a nice end to the walk in summer. Right takes you through one of the oldest and grandest parts of town. via Monarche has an ecclesiastical air, then straight into Piazza del Bagno where the former baths are being restored, and the house ofthe French writer Michel de Montaigne. Some steps on the right lead to Villa Webb where Lord Byron styed on 1822. Back on via Bagno alla Villa follow the road down, passing the pale green summer palace of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister who was Princess of Lucca, and the beautiful yellow Villa Ada
Near Villa Ada some steps down on the right will take you back to Ponte a Serraglio, or go left to see more of La Villa, the ‘towncentre’ of Bagni di Lucca. If you take the right route you can make a short detour (by the Conad supermarket) following the brown sign for the Elizabeth and Robert Barett Browning pathway left along the river. Or simply carry on along the road back to Ponte a Serraglio.
The passerella or footbridge at Ponte a Serraglio is one of the newest additions to this very old town, opened less than two years ago. My start point, Villa Rosalena, is the white house on the left of the photo, so that closes the circle.
Walking time- I’m a slow walker, especially uphill, and tend to stop for a picnic at the Chiesina Alpini, so I don’t have an accurate time, but probably an hour and half.