In the summer of 1903 while he was in the process of writing Madama Butterfly , Giacomo Puccini spent part of the summer in the quiet mountain village of Boscolungo
( 1 km from Abetone), about 45 miles ( 70 km ) north of Lucca. He had purchased a small villa there, which he owned until 1909, and frequently sought the peace and quiet offered by the area. Because of the beautiful forests in these Lucchese hills, Boscolungo was always a popular hiking destination, and the unequalled hiking remains a major attraction throughout most of the year. Today, berry farming has become a major concern of the area, as the valley yeilds a bumper crop annually. Because its altitude of almost 1,400 meters (over 3,000 feet ) provides bountiful snowfall, Abetone has also developed its skiing and other winter sports during a season that begins in December and continues until April. The region's highest peak, Mt, Cimone, reaches 2,165 meters ( 4,600 ft ) and provides spectacular views. Boscolungo's beautiful church, St. Leopoldo , was built in 1784 in homage to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. At the entrance to the town is the Abetone Botanic Gardens
, covering an area of about 14,000 square meters , comprising vegetation typical of the alpine forest, in which can be found a variety of interesting species, many of which are close to extinction. Beautiful pathways thread through the park, which also features a rock garden, a small lake surrounded by marshes, and an enormous boulder covered with a variety of mosses and lichens. Abetone is a charming village, reminiscent of those in the Alps because of its preponderance of sloping rooves. The main street boasts several wonderful trattorias and enotecas, as well as some world-class hotels that have little impact on the quaint atmosphere of the town. To contemplate the journey up narrow winding roads in Puccini's day defies the imagination, however, today the road to Abetone is very good, and one passes through several mountain villages that appear to have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. The road from Lucca curves through rolling Tuscan hills that gradually give rise to those more majestic closer to Abetone, and the splendid vistas from the town, and its cool air, make the trip well worth the drive. Take the SS1 north from Lucca to Abetone/Modena.