Just north of Pescia in the foothills of the Tuscan appenines is the valley known as Valleriana, one of the most beautiful areas of the Valdinievole. The valley adopted the name ‘Svizzera Pesciatina’, or ‘Swiss Pescia’, in the late 18th century, thanks to the historian and naturalist G. Sismondi who had been exiled to the area, and who said it reminded him of his home in Switzerland. The valley offers beautiful mountain and river valley scenery, along with a collection of medieval villages unspoilt by commerce or tourism, and a trail of old paper mills which have played an important role in the area’s economy since the late fifteenth century.The ‘dieci castella’ (10 castles) refers to 10 small mountain villages dotted around the ridges of the valley, all of which are former fortified villages and in years gone by were fiercly fought over by the cities of Florence, Lucca and Pisa.Pietrabuonais the first and southern most of the dieci castelli, as well as our nearest village - our house overlooks its northern edge. Today, the remains of Pietrabuona’s 12th century church lie next to its contemporary church which houses two valuable wooden sculptures representing S. Matteo and S. Colombano, attributed to the Tuscan School of the early 15th century. Pietrabuona is also home to the Museum of Paper, which covers the history of paper-making in the area, dating back to the 1300s.Medicinais quite a climb, but affords amazing views. It has a 15th century church with a bell tower that was used as a watch tower in years gone by during the fighting that went on in the valley.Fibbialla, the next village along, also affords great views. It is at a similar altitude to Medicina (indeed, you can see across from one to the other). The church has some interesting 17th and 18th century paintings and a 15th century sculpture depicting the Virgin of the Annunciation.Aramois only 1km from the main valley road, so easily reached. There are more great views from this tiny hill top village in its more central location. Aramo suffered badly from looting in past centuries, but still retains its charm, with the church at the centre and highest point of the village.San Quirico is one of the prettiest of the dieci castelli: it sits on the eastern slope of Mount Battifolle and offers stunning views right the way back down the valley to Pescia and the plains beyond. The main square is at the highest point of the village and is home to a large stone fountain. The village is also home to the Museum of Rural Life.Next is Castelvecchio. This medieval town still retains its charm and original layout of narrow streets and archways. Its church, the Oratory of SS. Rosario, is entirely painted with scenes of the Virgin and Christ from the 16th and 17th centuries. There is also a beautiful Romanesque church near to the village which is worth a visit.Stiappa, nestled on the slopes of Mount Battifolle at an altitude of 627 metres, has for centuries marked the border between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Duchy of Lucca - and has been the scene of fighting between the two over the years. From the village you can go down to a mill named Fontanone to locate a walk called the "Way of the mills".Next is Pontito, the highest of the dieci castelli at 749 metres above sea level. This is also the location of the source of the River Pescia. The fortified structure of the village remains intact, with the church of SS. Andrea and Lucia (Romanesque in origin) sitting at the top of the village and the streets laid out in a pyramid formation below. The village has been owned by the city of Lucca since the 9th Century.Sorana, an old village nestled on the slopes of Mount Petritulo, takes its name from a fortress, only the ruins of which remain today, and which was once called "sovereign" for its location overlooking the valley. It has a small square where there is a church dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. The village is most well known for its production of the Sorana bean - a bean of delicate flavour and pale yellow skin. There are two very good restaurants near Sorana: Da Sandrino and Da Carla (which also has a small fishing lake).Returning back to the main road at the bottom of the valley you will notice several paper mills, some of which are still active today. The most famous mill is that of Magnani, a very old mill that until very recently made the absolute highest standard of paper that was sold to and used by the most esteemed of Italian brands.Last but not least is Vellano, which enjoys a scenic location in the valley of the river Pescia, perched majestically on a mountain ridge. The parish church of SS. Sisto and Martino was once attached to an ancient Benedictine abbey. Vellano is home to the only remaining quarry of pietra serena (Tuscan sandstone) operating in the province of Pistoia - and the village’s Museum of the History and Ethnography of Miners and Quarrymen is worth a visit.The real beauty of these villages is not only the views they afford you but how quiet they are and medieval in feel, it really takes only a tiny leap in imagination to feel like you’re wandering around in medieval times.We hope you enjoy exploring this beautifully quiet valley of ours as much as we do.