Montecarlo, a castle between Lucca and the Valdinievole
Montecarlo di Lucca is a real gem nestled in the hills of Lucca, which is about fifteen kilometers away. The village rises in a panoramic position in a very beautiful area, between the Lucca area and the Valdinievole, well known for the production of wine (the local specialties are the “Montecarlo bianco” and the “Rosso di Montecarlo”).
Like many other towns in Tuscany, Montecarlo also had an important strategic role in the past from a military point of view. Originally the village was located at the foot of the hill but, after it was devastated by the Florentines in 1331, it was rebuilt around a fortress callded Cerruglio on the summit of the homonymous hill. From that moment the village took the name of Montecarlo in honor of Charles IV, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1355 to 1378, who had helped the Lucca against the Pisans.
As we said, Montecarlo rises in a strategic position and the Fortezza del Cerruglio was very important during the wars between Lucca, Pisa and Florence of the XIV century. The fortress was also used as a base by Castruccio Castracani, Lord of Lucca, on the occasion of the victorious battle of Altopascio in 1325.
Best places to visit in Montecarlo
With its historic center, well preserved and still protected by the medieval walls, Montecarlo di Lucca obtained in 2018 the important recognition of the “Bandiera arancione” by the Touring Club Italiano; let’s see together why and what are the main things to see in Montecarlo.
The walls of Montecarlo
The imposing walls that protect the historic center of Montecarlo are undoubtedly one of the most fascinating monuments of this hamlet. Still well preserved today, the walls of Montecarlo are equipped with some city gates dating back to the fourteenth century: the Porta Fiorentina towards Florence, the Porticciola towards Lucca and the Porta Nuova which dates back to the sixteenth century.
Chiesa di Sant’Andrea
The Chiesa di Sant’Andrea is the main place of worship of the village and dates back to the period in which the castle of Montecarlo was founded (14th century). Of the original building only part of the façade, made of large blocks of sandstone, and the beautiful fourteenth-century portal remain today. Inside the Chapel of the Madonna del Rosario are preserved some valuable works of art such as the table with the Madonna Enthroned with Child by Francesco Anguilla and the statue of Saint Anthony Abbot by Francesco di Valdambrino (both works date back to the first half of the fifteenth century).
Teatro dei Rassicurati
Another of the main things to see in Montecarlo is the Teatro dell’Accademia dei Rassicurati. This small theater (less than 200 seats) dates back to the end of the XVIII century and behind it a long tradition in opera so much that it was also frequented by the great Giacomo Puccini. If you are passionate about theater, you will be interested to know that the Teatro dei Rassicurati is in business with a program of shows organized by the Fondazione Toscana Spettacolo Onlus in collaboration with the Municipality of Montecarlo and the association And Or Margini Creativi.
Fortezza del Cerruglio
The visit to the historic center of Montecarlo can only end with the Fortezza del Cerruglio, a true symbol of the town. Well positioned at the highest point of the hill, the fortress was built in the 14th century and then expanded over the next two centuries. The fortress has a triangular shape and is composed of an older part consisting of an imposing semi-circular tower and two square-plan towers, called Torre dell’Apparizione and Torre di Santa Barbara, and a part of the Medici period with a semicircular tower and two curtain walls. Between the oldest part of the fortress and the Medici structures there was a vast parade ground that was later transformed into an elegant Italian garden.
In 1775, the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo decided to sell the fortress not considering it more useful from a military point of view. Since then the fortress has been privately owned but is open to visitors and today is also used as an exhibition center and venue for events and shows.
Things to do around Montecarlo di Lucca
Around Montecarlo there are many things to do and some interesting places to see. First of all I suggest you to visit the Pieve di San Piero in Campo; it is one of the oldest monuments in the area given that the first news about it date back to the year 846 even though the current building was probably built during the twelfth century (though I would say rather old!). The bell tower of this church, then, should date back to the early Middle Ages.
For nature lovers, I recommend a walk in the area of San Martino in Colle in the direction of the so-called “Quercia delle Streghe“, a huge old oak tree so called because, according to tradition, witches used to meet here to perform their rituals.
How to get to Montecarlo
By car: Montecarlo is more or less halfway between Lucca and Montecatini Terme and can be easily reached from the A11 Firenze-Mare motorway by taking the Chiesina Uzzanese exit; from there just follow the signs for the village which is about 6 kilometers away. Coming from Lucca (18 km) you can reach Montecarlo both by motorway and provincial roads.
By bus: from Lucca it takes about an hour with the E8 line of CTT NORD (VAIBUS LUCCA).