From My Tuscan Window

Where to Eat in the Vicinity of Gioviano
One thing that the Serchio Valley is blessed with is a multitude of good restaurants. It is always a challenge to determine where to eat, because the food that we have sampled in so many of the restaurants is so good. Usually meals are not expensive, especially compared to Florence, the Chianti country or other areas heavily impacted by mass tourism.

One of the reasons I have mixed emotions about promoting Lucca, the Media Valle di Serchio, and the Garfagnana is that I don’t want this beautiful and still inexpensive realm to be spoiled by hordes of free-spending tourists. On the other hand, without the economic benefits derived from tourism, many of the monuments will fall into ruin. The fear is that the chambers of commerce and elected officials will feel it necessary to promote heavy industry at the expense of the beauty unless they understand is appreciated by money-spending tourists.

Therefore, come one and all to sample some of the delicious foods that we have enjoyed at the following local restaurants. DISCLAIMER: Keep in mind that great chefs may retire only to be replaced by not-so-great ones or vice versa. Please don’t hesitate to sample the wares of any restaurant that is not on the list but that you feel should be added to the list at

WARNING: Every restaurant is closed one day per week. Most are closed on Mondays after the extra-busy and extra-tiring weekends. Only the Milano, Valle Verde, and Al Cantuccio are open on Mondays, so don’t drive all the way up to Vetriano only to find the restaurant closed and then get mad at me.


Circolo dei Forestieri. Lunch at the elegant Circolo is not a costly affair, and the food is out of this world as is the service. We are always surprised that every table is not jammed. We think it must be because people believe that the restaurant is a private club and that membership is required to eat there. The name is misleading. Everyone is welcome.

Del Sonno. We prefer to sit at the little sidewalk tables in front of the restaurant in nice weather. Both the service and the food are quite good and very reasonable for a tourist center that catered to Napoleon’s mother, his wife and two of his three sisters as well as to Lord Byron, Shelley and much of the nobility of Europe.


Osteria I Macelli. This little osteria is behind the main part of Borgo along a little stream. It is blessed with plenty of parking as well as an a la carte luncheon menu of traditional Luccan dishes.


Eremo di Calomini. Unless you are a mountain climber don’t go to the village of Calomini and think that you can drive down to the restaurant which is suspended on the side of a cliff half way up the mountain. Access is from Gallicano with a steep drive up to the eremo (monastery). The specialty is fresh cooked trout from the hatcheries on the river below. The former cells of the monks have been converted into hotel rooms for those who wish to stay overnight.


Il Molino della Volpe. This is a rather new restaurant that was converted from an ancient mill. Inside, some of the huge stone mill wheels are still in place. There are two outdoor eating areas for dining on the Molino’s first-class cuisine.


La Cantina. When banditry became too great on the Via Clodia (known as the Via Francigena in the 1550’s), the monks and nuns who ran the ancient hospital at Calavorno decided to move it closer to the protection offered by Castruccio’s castle in Ghivizzano. Thus, in 1554, a hospital building was constructed there that now houses both the little inn known as L’Ospedaletto and the restaurant La Cantina. Meals served outside on the garden terrace are especially enjoyable on summer evenings.


Al Cantuccio. It is impossible to beat Giampaolo’s remarkable culinary skills, and we find ourselves eating at the bottom of the hill, just one mile from Casa Giorgio several times a week.

Il Garfagnino. Huge delicious lunches on the patio in front make Il Garfagnino especially delightful. At the bottom of the hill from Gioviano turn left toward Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. The restaurant is on the left after about a mile.


Valle Verde. The Valle Verde is located just a short distance down the highway toward Borgo a Mozzano from Piano di Gioviano. Fabio, who purchased the restaurant from his parents last year when they retired, offers his lunches a la carte which means you aren’t forced to stuff yourselves with a meal that will take a week to work off even if hiking in the mountains all day. In May, 2009, we were sorry to find the restaurant (temporarily?). closed Check for future updates.


Antica Locanda di Sesto. This restaurant, although less famous than La Mora, which is located right next door, is the restaurant that we frequent when returning from shopping trips to Lucca. Although the owners are not the same ones as when the restaurant first opened in 1368, they still carry on the same traditions of excellence as in the 14th century with the addition of tomatoes and potatoes, which in the 16th century made their way into Italian cooking.


Ristorante Hotel Milano. We always try to eat at least once each year at the Milano as we have for a quarter century or so. There is a delightful covered terrace for outdoor dining. If you have eaten too much to be able to waddle back to your car, you can rent a room in the hotel to sleep it off. Socciglia is just across the Serchio River from Borgo a Mozzano on the road to Lucca.


Il Laghetto. We eat here often due to the setting in the flood plain of the Serchio with beautiful views of the Apennines and also because of the good food and reasonable prices. There is plenty of room to park, a playground for children just off the terrace, and a fishing lake.


Il Guerriero. Vetriano is the charming village just over the mountain from Gioviano by helicopter but about 11 miles by car. Armando was so happy to see us this year that he started waving before we had even left the parking lot on the other side of the highway. Of course, he was more interested in the health of my mother than anything else. His wife came running out of the kitchen, kissed me on both cheeks, and told me to take the kisses home to Margherita. The food was out of this world as usual, and the panna cotta (baked pudding) was covered in genuine frutti di bosco (fruit of the forest). Speaking of il bosco, one of the restaurant’s specialties is the sauce made from funghi porcini, huge delicious mushrooms gathered from the surrounding forests.

La Tana. The restaurant is not really in Vetriano, but since there is no town associated with this roadside establishment, just keep going past the turn-off to Vetriano on your right. La Tana will show up on your right in short order. Angelo and family will provide you with excellent fare at very reasonable prices.
Updated December 22, 2009
Copyright 2005-2009 George H. Russell
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