Galileo Galilei first raised his telescope to the sky over Padua more than 400 years ago. Nowa- days Italians take out their telescopes in mid-August, celebrating the Night of Shooting Stars, also called the Night of San Lorenzo, on 10 August.
But star-gazing is excellent throughout the summer.
The best places to go are far from artificial lights and towns. In our region this means the Parco Naturale dell'Orecchiella high in the Garfagnana mountains, or Lake Massaciuccoli, between Massarosa and Torre del Lago. On 10 and 11 August, beginning at 6pm, Il Parco delle Stelle takes place at Massaciuccoli's Lipu Riserve del Chiarone, with star-gazing ac- companied by music, food and dancing. Reservations are obligatory (tel. 0584 975567 or email
On 12 August the party in the Park continues with Arte in Volo, an evening of art, music and nature, be- ginning at 7pm. Farther north, 1200 meters high in the beau- tiful Orecchiella Park (one of the best sites in Tuscany for astronomical observations), Lucca's astronomy group the Unione Astrofili Lucchesi will bring their telescopes and knowledge on the weekends of 17-18 August and 24-25 August.
You can bring a tent or stay at Rifigio Isera, where meals are served. Since June, the Rifugio has been under new manage- ment by the association Tra Terra e Cielo.
Their advice is: Cosa portarsi dietro? Libri, idee, giochi da condividere. Cosa lasciare a casa? L'iPad, iPod, i pregiudizi e la paura di sbagliare.
In una frase: Porta te stesso, così come sei. (What should you bring here? Books, ideas, games to share. What should you leave at home? iPad, iPod, prejudices and the fear of making mistakes. In short, bring yourself, as you are.) Welcoming words in any language. For those city folk who find nature too fore- boding or too distant, little Montecarlo, 20 minutes east of Lucca, offers Stelle e DOC (Stars and local wines) in Piazza F. Carrara, Saturday 11 August from 9pm to 11.30pm. Along with music and conviviality (wines and tastings courtesy of the AIS di Lucca and FISAR di Montecarlo somelliers), the UAL star-gazing experts promise to focus on the ringed planet Saturn.