Lucca Hills - Garfagnana

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04/06/2010 - 17:50

Our previous idea for a property to buy has now fallen through. So we are trying again. We have seen a few we might be interested in labelled as Lucca Hills or Garfagnana. We are looking for a reasonable amount of land with a property to restore or rebuild. But we have come across a point we had not expected. My wife wants to grow soft fruit and some fruit trees as well, but one of the properties is about 900m. asl. That sounds too high to me. The photos show a magnificent vine, but they may be more hardy.  Searching the weather forecasts, and the past averages, Lucca appears to be a couple of degrees warmer than Arezzo, and wetter. But is there much snow in winter? Any advice, would be very welcome. Many thanks.



With altitude, you will have some limitations regarding the type of fruit you can grow. Also, generally speaking, the trees and the fruit are smaller in size than in lower altitudes. Then, there are other factors, such as microclimates, which occur in the area. I know that in Bagni di Lucca we have a microclimate that creates milder summer and winters. Fruits that should still grow in that altitude may include cherries, apples and a variety of nuts, mainly chestnuts. Certain varieties of vine can also be grown. The best thing would be to ask around the area and check which kind of trees and plants the neighbours grow. Good luck!

We have a place in that location and yes it does snow in winter, down to below 300m asl. This year was particularly bad but don't let that put you off. Regarding fruit trees it will depend on if the land is exposed or sheltered and also what varieties you plan to plant. Ask or look at your neighbours  trees to get an idea of what grows best, I'm sure they will be only too pleased to offer advice knowing Italians. I know Kiwi fruit grows around here at nearly 600m.

The difficulty with growing apples and pears in much of Italy is that the winter is not severe enough - so being a bit higher is useful! (I don't know whether this 'cold winter' requirement is about avoiding using pesticides/fungicides, because there are loads of apple growers at 'low' altitudes, but they don't half spray - to the extent that warning notices are posted on adjacent roads...or if it something else.) Raspberries are rarely grown, but this is probably a cultural thing. I have a friend who grows them (at about 300m slm) and he laments the amount of irrigation they need. But, aside from fruit growing considerations - could you cope? 900slm can be pretty restrictive November through February: think snow chains or complete isolation. Before you take the plunge make sure you live there for at least a month in the 'brutta stagione'.

"But, aside from fruit growing considerations - could you cope? 900slm can be pretty restrictive November through February: think snow chains or complete isolation. Before you take the plunge make sure you live there for at least a month in the 'brutta stagione'." Now that is what I call good advice. I recently spent a couple of days snowed in at my holiday place in northern Piedmonte [at about 650m] - loved every minute of it - so relaxing  BUT my Italian neighbours were  bemoaning the weather and how disruptive it was,  You do need a different mindset when living there, as opposed to holidaying

I knew, from past experience, that I could trust some of you to come up with really good answers. When google maps are magnified enough they show bus stops. If we have understood it correctly, we can expect tarmac road up to that point, which is about 1 to 1.5 kms short of the property. We have looked carefully at the question of micro-climate there. It faces south west and has a circle of hills above it to the north and north east, which may help. The land is steep, actually terraced, but until we can visit we can not be really sure what that means - though gives a lot of info about height. So we have been able to get an idea about the general lie of the land. As for being snowed in, I am a bit concerned, and will be checking the roads carefully with that in mind. We intend to be capable of coping with whatever the weather throws at us, which does mean being well stocked in advance. And with a decent mobile signal we can still stay in touch. (We walked one site trying different mobile operators to see which gave us the best signal.) My wife did know that fruit trees do need several days below 7 degrees C in order to fruit well the next Summer. Our Rosemary, here in England, survived until March and then was killed by the last lot of bad weather. Kiwi fruit was not on our list of possibles, but it will be now, though I believe they do not ripen until quite late. Some we saw in Pont St Esprit last October were not then ripe enough. Again, Many thanks.  

My husband and I are at odds at present about where to start looking for a property. We both want to be in Tuscany, but can't afford the more expensive areas. I'm keen on looking in the north, around Pontremoli but he wants to look in the south towards lago di Bolsena, which I know, is in Lazio! Would anyone like to fight the corner for either of these areas. We're planning on coming to Italy in September for about a month on a first real reccie. 

Northern Tuscany is beautiful and the prices are not as high as the southern area. It is also greener, has some beautiful mountains and rivers and it has excellent communications. Pisa airport is very handy and the location is great. But you need to spend some time there and see for yourself. We fell in love with Bagni di Lucca and we still are. Your heart will tell you which is the right spot for you. It is what the French call "coup de coeur".