Tuscany for all the family – Part 2

CelleAfter our great adventure through France and Switzerland we finally arrived at the tiny hamlet of Celle Dei Puccini, perched on the mountainside a few miles from Lucca. Its claim to fame is as the ancestral home of the composer Giocomo Puccini and the village boasts a small museum and hosts summer concerts in his honour.

Owners Ken & Gill Clay have brought this small hamlet back to life. They came across their first dilapidated property whilst on holiday in the area. They couldn’t resist the temptation of living in such a beautiful spot, and decided then and there to renovate and move in.

As other houses became available, all needing a huge amount of love and attention, they slowly expanded, adding landscaped gardens, a croquet lawn and a heated swimming pool, and building up a self-catering holiday home business.

They now have 5 individual dwellings, all tastefully restored and extremely comfortable. Each one has amazing views across the mountains, and each is a little different. Designed with families in mind, cots are available and some properties have built in stair gates.

CelleCelle offers great walking opportunities with trails leading directly from the village. The hills of Lucca, Pescaglia and the Garfagnana region are all on the doorstep. It is a sleepy place and away from the road that winds up the mountain, so a safe haven for children to run around and explore.

Lucca is half an hour away by car and is a pretty town with a good selection of bars, restaurants and shops. With children in tow we found an excellent way of seeing the city was to hire bikes and cycle around the city walls. An hours hire is €5-6 and in an hour you may be able to do 2 circuits – if you are fit enough!

This is definitely Puccini country and in Lucca concerts are often held, particularly in summer months, and not all classical, as Elton John and Paul McCartney have been known to perform in the past.

Further afield is Pisa, half an hour by train, taking the train is the best way to visit as it saves worrying about parking. Everyone loves having their photo taken beside the tower and you will jostle for the best position with hundreds of others.

A full day excursion would be to Florence, about 1-½ hours by train and guaranteed to be an unforgettable day out. There is so much to see that it is worth planning in advance. Avoid going on a Monday as many museums are closed. Be prepared for crowds and queues at all the major sites, but this is a small price to pay for a visit to such an amazing city.

An important tip for Italian train journeys – once you have your ticket you MUST validate it in the machine by the platform, otherwise you may incur an on the spot fine.

LuccaFinally one thing the Italians love is to eat and in this part of Italy the food is memorable.

We all enjoyed a Sunday lunch in a remote hilltop restaurant which lasted all afternoon and consisted of 7 courses for just €21 per person including drinks, coffee and obligatory Grappa.

Small family run restaurants are hidden away, but well known to the locals and to Gill & Ken, who can give you many recommendations and delicious pizzas, costing about €7, are available everywhere.

Celle is a definite recommendation for any age,  as we proved – from 5 to 80.

•  Read Part 1: Planning

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Sally Dowling

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