VERGEMOLI is in the Garfagnana, a part of North-west Tuscany less well-known than the classic Tuscany of Florence and Siena. You won’t find too many tourists round here, except for Italians, many of whom have summer homes in the area: there are quite a number of these in the upper part of the village.
VERGEMOLI has about 160 full-time inhabitants: it used to have 2000! It is divided into Upper and Lower VERGEMOLI. We are in the lower, older part (dating back to the 17th century). There are now five other ‘foreign’ homes in the village, four owned by Danish couples – all of whom are good friends of ours – and a Welsh family, from the Cardiff area. The one place locally where you will find a lot of tourists, including non-Italians, is the Grotta del Vento (Wind Cave), in the nearby village of Fornovolasco. It is is 6.5km down the road you can see straight opposite you from the terrace (keep straight on when you leave the village instead of turning sharp left for Gallicano).
The Apuani Alps (Alpi Apuane) are the mountains that surround us, the Pania Secca being the mountain which dominates the view from the terrace; the other range you can see to the East, from the lower edge of the village, are the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines (Apennino Tosco-Emiliano).
Places to visit: Pisa (an hour’s drive), Viareggio (the nearest seaside resort, also an hour away), Florence (1 ½ hours), Siena (2+ hours); Genoa, La Spezia, the Cinque Terre (all in Liguria), Milan and Bologna (just a few examples) are all easy day trips.
Nearer home, the Grotta del Vento (mentioned above), Barga (25 minutes away: it has a jazz festival in July and lots of art shops), Lucca (one of the most unspoiled cities in Tuscany, 45 minutes’ drive, about the same by train – see details below), Torre del Lago (near Viareggio – hosts the Puccini Festival in May), and the many villages around the area, are all worth a visit. There is a good picnic area by the river on the road up to Fabbriche di Vallico.
The village is part of the Regional Park (Parco Regionale delle Alpi Apuane), which is a wild-life reserve. There’s good bird-watching to be had, especially in Spring and Autumn, and you’ll be very unlucky not to catch a glimpse of the many wild boar, mufflon (wild goat), badgers, foxes, deer and even lynx, that live in the forests. You should see mufflon on the road to the Grotta del Vento, particularly at nightfall; wild boar are most frequent on the road to Calomini – again, mainly after dark. Because there’s relatively little light pollution in the village, it’s a good place to watch for shooting stars and generally to study the night sky. The whole area is excellent walking country and you’ll find a map of all the local signposted walks on the bookshelf in the house.
Strict planning regulations mean there is no swimming pool in the village, but there are three pools close by, in Gallicano, Barga and Castelnuovo di Garfagnana; and of course there is the Tuscan coast (Livorno, Viareggio…) about one hour away by road.