Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 16, 2013

Isola Santa…Holy Island


Isola Santa is a partly abandoned village in the Garfagnana, about 30 minutes drive from Bagni di Lucca, on the road between Castelnuovo and Forte dei Marmi.

The village was built around a small hospice, probably established in the 13th century. The hospice provided shelter for the sick and poor and for pilgrims and travellers between Garfagnana and Versilia. Salt smugglers were also known to drop in for a rest.



The hospice was disbanded in 1575 and used as a storage facility. It was restored in 1608 and rebuilt as the church of St Jacopo, which still stands. The detached bell tower was built quite recently in 1899.



A small village built up around the hospice. In 1950 a dam was built and part of the hamlet, including the old bridge and a mill were flooded. A new village was built higher up the mountain and Isola Santa now has just a few inhabitants.

In summer people come to picnic by the lake created by the dam.





There is some lovely accommodation available and a couple of restaurants are open in the warmer months.




The narrow streets are filled with delightful things to observe.

The village was very quiet when we were there.  We did spot 3 cats enjoying the afternoon sun.

We will have to return on a weekend when the restaurant is open. The setting is delightful.


  1. NİCE!

  2. What a lovely place. I the lake is especially inviting. And it’s interesting to know a bit of the history.

    Hope your week is going well!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • It is a beautiful place. I have driven past it a few times and finally stopped there for a while.

  3. What a fascinating history this beautiful place has! Great photos, Debra, and I love those sweet kitty faces. 🙂

    • There are always a few cats around enjoying the sun.

  4. Thank you so much for the article and photos, just beautiful!! For 46 years I’ve “collected” such villages and hamlets in the Italian north, some of them found only by footpaths which once entered one is seemingly transported to the 1700s with even the inhabitants dressed as in times of old, though when needed do dress in “city clothing”. Non of the townships have restaurants though there can sometimes be found women who will cook up a very traditional meal if one is lucky.

    • This is a lovely little place…so peaceful.

  5. Please book me in!!!! x

    • On your next visit.

  6. You can almost feel the tranquility of the village through these pictures, thanks!

    • It was very still and quiet when we were there.

  7. Summer or winter this is a great stop to have a stroll around. The little restaurant near the water specialises in trout when it is open.

    • I will have to go back when the restaurant is open.

  8. Pretty village.

    • One of many in the area.

  9. It is a beautiful area. Let’s hope that it will never become an abandoned village.

    • There are a few people living there. I hope they stay too.

  10. I can imagine myself there right now drinking coffee at one of those little tables! Lovely photos.

  11. What a delight. Hard to believe that such a beautiful place is partially abandoned. Thanks for the outstanding tour!!!!

    PS: I think you missed the recent special edition of Satire Bits. Hmmmmm …..

    • I have just had a look. I am a bit behind on reading posts…I have been a bit busy.

  12. Looks delightful indeed and a nice place to stay… if you are looking for quiet spots.

    • It is a good place for gentle walks and a bit of reading.

  13. Beautiful places again and shots… But especially cats, so beautiful and lovely, Thank you dear Debra, love, nia

  14. Looks idyllic…quiet, fascinating, and with somewhere to stay as well! And the best draw for me is the ‘partially abandoned’. I have a feeling I might already have heard of this place through another blog. One day, perhaps I’ll get there. Oh, and thanks for your visit to my blog! I’m just off for a wander around some more of yours 🙂

    • Isola Santa is a lovely place to wander, and perhaps stay a while.

  15. Looks so peaceful. I wonder what the dam was all about? They have thing for dams here! Lovely photographs that make me yearn for summer walks again.

    • I’m sure the dams are necessary to provide water, but it does seem a shame to drown villages.

  16. Love,love,love your blog!! Thank you!

    • Thank you for visiting!

  17. Captivating photos – it’s peaceful just to look at them.

  18. I have happy memories visiting this place with you. Such a charming little place in an idyllic setting. Can imagine the pilgrims finding shelter, rest and calmness in these surroundings long ago.

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