Lari is one of those "hidden" gems in Tuscany, a medieval hill town with a castle on top surrounded by a little borgo. Lari offers the tourist some interesting attractions--and it's not far from larger and better known towns like Pisa.
While there is good tourist infrastructure in Lari, there are no hotels in town. Your best bet if you're not doing Lari as a day trip from Pisa is to look for a hotel in one of the larger cities nearby: Casciana Terme Hotels.
Lari is in the Tuscan province of Pisa. If you have a car, you can "do" Lari on a day trip from Florence, Pisa, or nearby Casciano Terme. Notice that all around the outer walls there are parking lots.
Lari Castle, Castello dei Vicari was first mentioned in a document of 1061. You can visit inside to see some of the 16th century cells men slept in, the court room and the Torture room. There are also some recently uncovered frescoes. The walls of the courtyard are lined with the Vicar's coats of arms, as you can see in the picture below. The castle of Lari is has recently undergone some restoration. See our review of the castle tour: Lari, a Castle Town in Tuscany Revisited.
Palace of the Podestà, the Vicar, or Podestà was the chief magistrate or governor; and this was the administration building since the time of the Pisan Republic. It remains today in this function, and you can get tourist infomation here. There is a good view of the surrounding countryside from the little piazza in front.
Martelli Pasta Factory in the Ex Oratory of S. Martino and S. Bona - You can take a short, free, tour to get the facts on how Martelli's artisan pasta is better than factory pasta.
The Volterrana Gate doesn't exist these days, but it was once the drawbridged gate to Lari. Today it marks the center of commerce of Lari. Drop into the bar/store marked by the sign "Guido Meini" and get a coffee or buy some of that Martelli Pasta. There is also local wine and biscotti available.
Lari is small, and the factory's color is no shrinking violet, so you should have no trouble as you wander through the concentric circles of the village.
In the old town of Lari, inside the Castle, stands a large yellow building. It is the small pasta factory Pastificio Famiglia Martelli: artisan in spirit, traditional in substance. This is where the heirs of the ancient Pisan white art carry out their work. Here, between slow gestures and vintage machinery, a semolina pasta is created fully by hand.--Pasta Martelli
The machine cranks out pasta slowly. The operation isn't much faster than a restaurant might use.
Why is artisan pasta like Martelli more expensive and yet quite a bit better tasting than the industrial pasta from large factories? Here are the 2 big factors:
1. The pasta, as you can see, is fairly white with a matte texture. After it's formed, it dries at a low temperature for a long time. Industrial production "cooks" the pasta by applying high heat, producing a very beige pasta.
2. The matte finish is from using expensive bronze dies rather than Teflon. It makes the sauce or condiment stick better to the pasta.
Antica Osteria al Castello Located in the piazza just outside the Market Portico, this restaurant serves very interesting, seasonal and traditional Tuscan cuisine. The link goes to our review. Highly recommended.
La Locanda di Angy is located just outside of the medieval center of Lari on Via Belvedere 1. Unreviewed. Closed Monday.
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