“Tuscany without the crowds”

When I read this article I thought of one of our properties. Perched high in the Apuan Alps, above Camaiore and Pietrasanta, Argentone looks out over stunning views of the Mediterranean sea, all the way to Corsica. It is set in a fold above the village of S.Anna di Stazzema, a famous centre of Partisan resistance during the second world war, the story recently told in a film by Spike Lee.

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In Lucca, Tuscany without the crowds

By Joan Charlotte MatelliGlobe Correspondent / February 27, 2011

LUCCA — When it feels like the popular Tuscan destinations are more crowded with English speakers than Italian, it’s time to head to Lucca. Nestled in the foothills of the Apennines, only a short detour from the tourist magnets of Pisa and Florence, Lucca is an authentic, immersive Tuscan experience.

The historic center of the city is surrounded by the original, intact, Renaissance-era defensive walls. Enter from Porta Santa Maria, the northern gate to the old city, and you arrive in a bustling piazza with cafes and a few bike shops. If you want wheels, it is best to rent a bike. It is almost impossible to get around by car within the walls, as car traffic is prohibited on most streets for all but residents.

A former two-lane road atop the walls has been converted into a bike path and promenade, accessible by steps or ramps at several points. This perch is a great way to survey the old city and its tile roofs, medieval churches and towers, and Roman-era amphitheater before you explore at street level. As you walk along, peek into the villas and courtyards below. One of the loveliest is Palazzo Pfanner, which was built for a family of silk merchants. The lush, formal gardens have been the setting of several films, including Jane Campion’s “Portrait of a Lady.’’ The grounds and residence are open for tours from April through October.

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