Tuscany Driving, Part I

by Andrew Stein

Lucca is our home base for exploring Tuscany.  As a gift to my parents while traveling, I ordered Frommer’s “25 Great Drives in Tuscany and Umbria” from Amazon to be sent home, and in doing so, I unknowingly signed myself up for much driving.  The book is nice in that outlines possible routes to take by car and what to look for at the various locations; however, places always have a tendency of looking closer together on a map.  In preparation for these drives, my parents also brought a Garmin navigation system.  The sentiment was good, but without the built in navigation system in the car, the Garmin may have caused us some trouble.  We used the Garmin for only the first couple days after which we start realizing that the routes it is providing us with are not very direct.  We feel that we are spending too much time in fields of grains or sunflowers making small, confusing turns on narrow roads.  And each time we would miss a turn, we would get the grumpy reminder that the Garmin had to recalculate.  However, once we started using the built in navigation, we put grumpy Garmin to rest.

Bridge near Lucca

For our first drive, we roughly follow Frommer’s Tour 3: Garfagnana and the Apuan Alps.  Although our main stops throughout the day include Bagni di Lucca and its famous nearby bridge, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, and Pietrasanta, the roads between the stops are the biggest highlight.  Never being a stretch of flat terrain, we are constantly alternating between bridge, tunnel, bridge, tunnel.  It reminds me of the drives in Sicily.  The bridges and tunnels aren’t small either.  The only places where the tunnels turned to switchbacks is near the marble deposits, and here the famous white Carrera Marble surrounds us.  From the mountains to the sea, today, we had a chance to experience small town Italy and explore the countryside between our meals and gelato breaks.

Marina di Pietrasanta