Visit Bagni di Lucca
Bagni di Lucca is now quite a quiet town in the countryside north of Lucca in northern Tuscany but 150 years it was one of the most popular and most visited destinations in Italy. The river Lima flows through the town centre, which is in the attractive Val di Lima.
From the first half of the 19th century, royalty and nobles from across Europe flocked to the town, not just because of the therapeutic powers of the spa waters but also because it had one of the very first casinos to open in Europe. It also attracted many of the great literary and artistic figures of the 19th century such as Shelley, Byron, Puccini and Browning.
It was here in Bagni di Lucca that the game of roulette was invented almost 200 years ago!
Exploring Bagni di Lucca
Although it is now a quiet destination, Bagni is pleasant to visit and to explore along the river and in the alleys of the older part of the town, and the surrounding area is very attractive and easy to access.
It is useful to realise that Bagni di Lucca actually includes the main town and also several small outlying hamlets such as Borgo a Mozzano, Fornoli and Ponte a Serraglio. Much of the natural beauty and most interesting monuments such as ancient churches and bridges are found in and between these small villages and hamlets rather than in the 'town centre'.
Italy This Way comment: while it is enjoyable to explore the centre of Bagni di Lucca it is quite small and we would choose the larger town of Barga as a place to stay for a few days, with a trip to explore the area around Bagni during the visit.
As well as some picturesque bridges and tiny medieval churches the town has a few interesting monuments to see that remain from the period of prosperity here in the 19th century. These include the 19th century English Church that was built here in the Neo-Gothic style in 1839, and the Protestant Cemetery. You will also notice several 19th century villas as you explore Bagni. The section of the town along the river is the most scenic part of a visit.
If you follow the hill above the town you reach the grand Ducal Stables and Bagni alla Villa, the part of the town where the baths were established and where you can see the imposing 19th century villas.
Although spa related activities are still available here, Bagni di Lucca is now better known as a base for outdoor activities in the mountains with hiking, cycling and horse riding among the most popular, or for simply escaping from the crowds and passing a few days in a peaceful and picturesque environment and spending time in the cafes and bars.
About three kilometres from the centre of Bagni di Lucca a particular highlight is the steep and narrow humpbacked bridge across the river at Borgo a Mozzano. This bridge is called the Ponte della Maddalena (also called the Devil's Bridge) and said to date from the 12th century.
After exploring you will find several bars and restaurants in Bagni di Lucca offering reasonable priced meals, and also a Conad supermarket in the centre where you can buy provisions for a picnic (notable because supermarkets are not always close to hand in this quiet part of Tuscany).
To the east of the town you can travel along the Lima Valley towards Abetone, and enjoy the scenery as you enter the mountains. There are several small unspoiled villages hidden away in the hills that are interesting to stroll around including San Cassiano, in a lovely setting surrounded by mountains, and Lucchio, a small village on the steep slopes of a hill and overlooked by a ruined castle.
Another village of particular interest is Montefegatesi which is a small medieval village in a very imposing hilltop position.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Tuscany guide.