Ghost towns of Tuscany: Scenic splendor frozen in time

Aug 08, 2018 436

BY: Eliot Stein

It’s easy to miss the ancient Tuscan town of Sommocolonia. Perched on the spine of a high ridge amid a wild expanse of canyons, ravines and chestnut forests 38 miles north of Pisa, there are no restaurants, inns or cafes there. Nor are there any banks, grocery stores, pharmacies or things that really make a town a town. The stone settlement isn’t included on most local maps, and from a distance, it looks as if it might tumble down the mountainside and vanish into the misty Serchio Valley below.

Wandering through the pint-sized village is a surreal experience. On a recent Saturday afternoon, Sommocolonia’s three cobblestone streets were completely deserted, but flowering bougainvillea burst out of clay pots and freshly lit candles flickered in its empty Gothic church. Evidence of modern life is hard to find, yet traces of Sommocolonia’s proud past are everywhere. A crumbling castle crowns the hill, medieval walls top earlier Roman fortifications, and a 12th-century bell tower faces the snowcapped peaks of the Apennine mountains.

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