On the bottom of Lake Vagli there’s a town. Yes, a ghost town, inhabited by aquatic plants and animals, conserving the memory of the past. The town is called Fabbriche di Careggine and it was flooded by an artificial reservoir. Everything ended below the water: the stone houses, cemetery, three-arched bridge and the Romanesque Church of San Teodoro, which, with its bell tower, is the tallest part of this mini Atlantis.
The story begins in 1946, when the waters of River Edron were blocked by a dam built to produce hydroelectric energy, gradually flooding the town of Fabbriche, which had 31 houses and 146 inhabitants. The process took a few years, finishing in 1953. The residents were moved to their new houses in Vagli Sotto, built to look exactly like the evacuated medieval village. Since then, the lake is emptied when maintenance work is carried out on the dam. The medieval village re-emerges and attracts thousands of visitors to Ponte Morandi, which stretches across the lake. This extraordinary event, which was originally expected to happen every 10 years, has only taken place four times, in 1958, 1974, 1983 and 1994.
The submerged village isn’t the only attraction in Vagli di Sotto, the town in the province of Lucca, in the Garfagnana, but it’s certainly the most famous. VagliPark was opened to attract tourism, offering all kinds of attractions around the lake. That’s right: on the banks of a lake created for entirely practical reasons, visitors can find a world of entertainment. Tourists can test their nerves by crossing over the suspended bridge that stretches across the lake, known as the Tibetan Bridge, or on the ZipLine. The more courageous can ride in a helicopter above the lake. For those who prefer something lighter and more ironic, there’s the Park of Honor and Dishonor, which vaunts a series of marble statues of famous people of past and present. One of the figures representing “dishonor,” for example, is Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia, while representing “honor,” we have the police dog Diesel, who was killed by terrorists in France.
For lovers of hiking and legends, a visit to the San Viano Hermitage is definitely worth it. Perhaps Scottish in origin, Viano was a pilgrim on the way to the Holy Land in the 7th century. After a terrible fight with his wife, he moved to Capocatino, where it’s said he began communicating with animals. Legend has it that he made water flow from Monte Roccandagia and fully-formed cabbages grow out of the ground. The hermitage is nestled in the rockface overlooking Valle di Arnetola, and can be reached via the Natura di Campocatino trail, taking a steep mule track.