Blog, into Tuscany

Sillico: A surprising hamlet in Garfagnana

uring our recent stay in the Garfagnana region we wanted to taste some local specialties and we asked the owner of the agriturismo (farmhouse) where we were staying if he could recommend a place. Stefano pointed to the small village that was barely visible on the mountain on the other side of the valley. “That’s Sillico, there’s a restaurant where you can eat very well. You must try the maccheroni, that’s a local dish. “When I asked for the address he waved the question away with the words.” You cannot miss it, there’s only one restaurant in the entire hamlet. Should you encounter Mauro perhaps he will show you Palazzo Carli. ”

We headed to Sillico and the higher up the mountain we went the narrower the road became. Most of these mountain roads don’t have guardrails and from the passenger seat you always have the pleasure to look down into an abyss several dozens of meters deep. Road workers were busy in several different places and large amounts of logs were piled up next to the road making the path to the top even narrower. Even before we had reached the village, we had decided that we wanted to be on our way down before nightfall.

The medieval village of Sillico has only 81 inhabitants and is situated at an altitude of 700 meters on a spur of the Apennines. The view over the valley of the river Serchio and the Apuan Alps on the other side is truly breathtaking.

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Arriving in Sillico we immediately spotted the restaurant which also served as a bar and local shop. A monument on the square commemorates the locals who lost their lives during the world wars. During WWII La Garfagnana was the scene of a fierce battle between the Nazis on one side and the Allies and partisans on the other.

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As we walked towards the restaurant we were kindly approached by the previously mentioned Mauro, guide and key holder of Palazzo Carli. We told him that Stefano had sent us and he immediately offered to show us the Palazzo. We walked through the narrow streets and Mauro told us about the medieval festival that is held yearly in the village.

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Palazzo Carli and the church of Sillico

 

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Palazzo Carli is located at the highest point of the village next to the church. A large square building that once was the summer residence of the Count Carli who lived in the region’s capital Castelnuovo, now it serves as an exhibition space and museum. Mauro showed us all the rooms in the three-storey building. The bedroom and the kitchen were furnished in period style, while in other rooms old radios, musical instruments and clocks were exhibited. On the ground floor and the upper floor space was reserved for a photo and painting exhibition.

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Our guide told us about the history of Sillico and in particular about the illustrious outlaw Il Moro who in the 16th century, roamed the area and was frequently mentioned in the letters that Governor Ludovico Ariosto wrote Duchess Matilde. Copies of these letters can be seen in the Palazzo.

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It turned out that Mauro was also key holder of the church and he offered to open the doors for us so we could take a look. The church is much larger than one would expect in such a small village, the decorations are very rich in true Catholic Italian style. The day before a religious fest had taken place and the floor was still decorated with lovely rose petals.

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Back at the Belvedere restaurant, which means “beautiful view”, the owner warmly welcomed us. We enjoyed the delicious antipasti and maccheroni in Garfagnana style. From the terrace we had a beautiful view of the Apuan Alps on the other side of the valley, the sun slowly disappeared behind the mountains and we knew it was time to go.

We told the lady behind the bar that we were not accustomed to driving in the mountains and we wanted to make our way down before it was completely dark. According to her that road provided no problem at all, she drove up and down the mountain several times a day. “But do not ask me to drive in the traffic of Florence, I wouldn’t know what to do!” She added smiling.

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We went down the mountain in the twilight leaving Sillico behind us and talked about the great day we had had. We took another turn and suddenly a life-size wild boar appeared in front of us on the road. For a moment he remained frozen in the headlights before disappearing into the woods.

More pictures of this particular village can be found on the Facebook page of Sillico.

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