Originally written Oct 14

Rusty writes:

During his visit, Pino discovered a hilltop town near Ghivizzano. He raved about Lucignana and included a few pictures. Naturally, it aroused Pepper’s curiosity, so he included it on his list of villages to visit. The name nagged at me, and it seems somehow familiar.

One afternoon was free of obligations. It was perfect day. The sun shone in a clear blue sky and the hills were still dark green, with the occasional brush stroke of red hinting at the arrival of autumn. As we were returning home from lunch, I spotted the sign-post for Lucignana and turned off the main highway. We found ourselves climbing steeply, first in a long curve around the hill and then in a series of sharp switchbacks. Framed by a gap in the trees was a hilltop village in the distance. Further up, we entered a shadowy tunnel of trees, thick and humid enough for ferns to grow. Finally we arrived at in the tiny village of Lucignana. It is on a high mound that protrudes from the higher mountain and overlooks the Serchio Valley. It is set back further than Barga and Coreglia, so you can see the eastern face of western mountains, but not the down into the valley itself.

 We parked the car – no easy feat, as the parking spaces are arranged single file abutting the town itself and the road is just wide enough for the parked car and one passing vehicle. Like many of the villages in the valley, Lucignana seems from afar to be open and welcoming until you arrive at its outer perimeter. It presents the visitor with blank walls, with here and there an entrance. It is easy to imagine arriving in ancient times to siege the town and finding the entrances sealed shut with heavy wooden doors.

 We strolled the walkways of the town, a series of footpaths paved in the gray stone of the mountains. There wasn’t a flat one in the whole place. Some had gentle slopes, but others were very steep. None can truly be called ‘stairs’, but the steeper paths had a series of stones placed at regular intervals on which to place your foot so you don’t slip. Those ingenious Italians!

When we arrived at the high point of the town, we didn’t find the typical church tower or fortress. Instead, there was a lovely vineyard abutting a large house. And suddenly I realized why ‘Lucignana’ rang a bell. In July 2007, I visited this very house with a realtor. It was large enough for a B&B. But it was a multi-level structure, and I recall that each bedroom was on a different level. Yes, the vineyard almost made it worth the price, as it was one of the only open spaces inside the town walls. And on such a lovely day, with the sun shimmering on the grape leaves and revealing the hidden purple-black clusters of overripe grapes, I could easily have been convinced that this was the house for us.

Descending from the summit, we spotted the church below us. From our vantage point, we were level with the top of the bell tower and overlooking the expansive gardens. The sun had descended behind the mountains, so it seemed almost sad and lonely, the vast expanses of green completely devoid of any living creature. Meanwhile, on the paths around us, a group of children were in lively play, chasing a dog or running after a fast-rolling, downward-destined soccer ball.