If you're staying in Lucca, in Italy, it is difficult to find information on how to visit Bagni di Lucca without a car. You can't even find tour agencies in Lucca that display tourist information and day tours to buy. Its virtually non existent.
There is a small tourist office at the Lucca train station but they don't hold bus or train schedules. They only have one brochure on day tours and you have to pay for the Lucca city map. And don't expect anyone at the bus station to help you either. They are only interested in selling bus tickets. (I later found the official tourist office in Piazzale Verdi and they were helpful).
The one and only bus tour company doesn't offer tours to Bagni di Lucca. However, you can visit a small section of this region yourself either by bus or train. I did the following route and can recommend it.
The bus journey from Lucca to Bagni di Lucca
Buy your bus ticket to Bagni di Lucca at the Vaibus office located at the bus station in Piazzale Verdi – €3.00 each way. You can check the schedules on the Vaibus website. Take your bus at stand #3.
Its about a 50 minute bus ride to Bagni di Lucca – the last stop. It follows along the Lima River. Be sure to sit on the left side of the bus. Then you can view scenic shots of the river, mountains and the unusually shaped Maddalena's Bridge. Opposite the last bus top is a tourist information office (not open on Sundays).
The whole valley is called Bagni di Lucca (Lucca baths) and the last stop is actually the village of La Villa. It seems to be the central hub of the region. Only three river villages are serviced by Vaibus: Fornoli, Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa. To visit the other 22 villages and its surrounds, you definitely need a car – buses are infrequent. Fornoli is also serviced by train but they call the train stop Bagni di Lucca. So bear in mind that you will be in the town of Fornoli and not La Villa.
What to do in Bagni di Lucca
Actually this region is ideally for the adventure enthusiasts. There are so many outdoor activities to choose from. There is canyoning which you can do as a day tour from Lucca, paintball, rafting, caves, quadding, cycling and many hikes. If these activities interest you, it would be best to stay in this region for a few days.
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Walking the Bagni di Lucca route
La Villa to Ponte a Serraglio
While in La Villa, take a pleasant stroll through the main street. Or find a way down to the river and visit the local swimming pool. It has the most picturesque view of the mountains. Or take a small hike.
Alternatively, after eating lunch at one of the many cafes/restaurants, you can start walking back. Follow the way the bus came on the main road to the next village of Ponte a Serraglio. It follows along the river but most times you can't see it – only hear it. It takes about 30-40 minutes, allowing for photo stops.
Ponte a Serraglio is a smaller village than La Villa. In the tiny main piazza you will see a brown sign 'Terma' pointing left. Take the small street up – it's a 15-20 minute walk to Bagni Caldi (hot baths). It is a zig zag road but not steep – the higher you go, the better the views of the surrounding green valley.
Bagni Caldi contains hotels that offer thermal baths and spa centres. If you follow the sign that simply prints 'Terma', it brings you to Antico Albero Termo. Even though a hotel is attached, they accept reservations from outsiders.
It's a large spa centre offering many types of body massages or facials. Plus they have a thermal pool with natural spring water from the mountains. It contains 5 different minerals. Perfect if you wish to revitalise your body. Cost is €12 (€15 on Sundays). Must have flip flops, cap and robe (you can hire the cap and robe for €3.00 and €4.00 respectively). I went for a 30 minute dip. It felt like pure clean rainwater and not so warm but my muscles did feel revitalised afterwards..
Ponte a Serraglio to Fornoli
A 10-15 minute walk back down to Ponte a Serraglio and continue walking along the main road to Fornoli. Most of the way there is no real footpath, so do take care walking along the road. It took 35 minutes to walk from Ponte a Serraglio to Fornoli train station - with a couple of photo stops of course.
There are no signs to the train station. When you reach Fornoli village, you will pass a medieval bridge, a short ‘cafe strip’ and then reach a busy T junction. There will be big blue sign with ‘Lucca’ written on it, pointing left. Turn left and immediately take the first right. It is literally within 5 metres. At the end of the this road is the train station called Bagni di Lucca. There is a ticket machine on the platform to buy your ticket for Lucca. You can only pay by credit card or coins only (no notes) - €3.50 for a 30 minute train ride.
Alternatively you can take the bus back to Lucca. There are two bus stops on the ‘cafe’ strip but you need to be holding a return bus ticket. You can't buy your ticket on the bus.
For an alternative walking route, follow this blog I found; ideal for those who like walking or a little trek.
The third option is to reverse the route. You take the train instead to Fornoli, walk to Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa, and return by bus from La Villa. But I do think taking the bus to Bagni di Lucca (La Villa) first is much more interesting and scenic. The train back to Lucca follows the other side of the river and you see all the back roads.
My insider Bagni tips for you:
- Don't go on a Sunday as most shops and cafes close on this day. Plus the train and bus schedules reduce in frequency. Therefore, if you miss your bus or train it could take up to 2 hours for the next one. I missed the train by 5 minutes and had to wait 2 hours 43 minutes for the next train.
- The tourist office in La Villa closes on Sundays.
- Leave Lucca before 10am to make the most of the day and to return back to Lucca at a reasonable hour.
- The best lighting for photos is from morning to 3pm and then at sunset. In between the distant mountains become a haze.
There you have it - visit Bagni di Lucca without a car for only €6.50. Add your personal tips below and share with friends.