We were on our way from Bologna to Lucca in Italy, and had to drive through 114 kilometers of tortuous roads through the Apennine mountains. The scenic heights and the bracing winds made us very hungry. We stopped at a coffee house on one of the peaks to relish Tuscan chocolate truffles and coffee. Then as we proceeded on our drive, an unusual but pretty sight caught our eyes. On a high mountain, we saw quaint, box like houses built into its flanks, resembling a giant inverted triangle. Being suckers for adventure and curious to see who lived up there, we drove up the narrow winding road to the top of the mountain. Vehicles were not allowed beyond a certain point. A board informed us that we were now at a height of 780 meters above sea level.
We had to foot it through this beautiful village. The stone houses in Tuscan design clung to the side of the mountain in terrace fashion. The number of houses gradually tapered down from the top. Each house had a little garden flush with flowers of every hue. The streets were narrow and the entire landscape looked medieval. The essentials for daily living were available in the village. But if one fell ill, it was not easy to drive down the mountain to the nearest hospital. We were told that there were similar small towns built on hills all over Tuscany. But Lucchio was the smallest village in the whole of Italy. Centuries ago, there were 800 inhabitants here. Now there were only 40 or 50. These villages were built at a height to escape from floods, and in past centuries from military attacks.
We came across a ruined fortress, which once upon a time defended the village from invaders. From here we had a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and valleys and even caught a glimpse of Mount Abetone. The village even has a 2-bedroomed holiday home for an occasional tourist.
Clay and limestone are found in these parts. In the 13th century, this village was famous for religious figurines made of Plaster of Paris, which was sold all over Tuscany. At present only one family keeps this occupation alive.
The visit to Lucchio was unforgettable. We came down the mountain wondering what a brave lot these people are, living in isolation far away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. But of course Lucca was only 20 kilometers away, and in case of an emergency could be reached within fifty minutes.
By Eva Bell