Tuscany’s Hidden Treasures: Isola Santa Atop the Appuan Alps

Isola Santa, Garfagnana, Tuscany

Village of Isola Santa

High in the Appuan Alps National Park region in the area called Garfagnana (in the province of Lucca in northern Tuscany) lies the fairy tale village of Isola Santa.  It is a village of stone houses amidst the lush greenery surrounding a small lake.  A lovely church with a bell tower is silhouetted against the mountains and cliffs that form the Turrite Secca river valley.

Historical records from the 1200s show that this village was a small hospice throughout Medieval times where pilgrims and the sick could find shelter on the road between Garfagnana and Versilia coast. In the 1500s, the hospice was torn apart and later rebuilt as the Church of San Iacopo (in 1608).  The bell tower was added in 1899. The church still stands today.

In 1949, the power company constructed a dam for electricity on the Turrite Secco River that forever changed the makeup of the village: The dam submerged a part of the village buildings, damaged others and created the lake that is now a part of the scenery. More buildings were constructed higher up the mountain and there are still a few inhabitants, a B&B, a Bar/Restaurant and some tourist activity as people come to picnic by the lake in the summer. On many days you can still see the part of the village that lies submerged in the lake like a ghost town. There are walking trails in Isola Santa that will allow you to explore the town and the lake area and also hiking trails throughout the national park area..

How to reach Isola Santa:

  • From Lucca: through Castelnuovo di Garfagnana (58 km
  • From Forte Dei Marmi (about 30 km from the ”Versilia” Toll Road excit
  • From Massa through the “Del Versilio” Pass (about 28 km)

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