Legends abound about the mossy, curvy, 600-year-old oak tree that holds court in Tuscany, Italy, with its unusually shaped (some might say creepy!) branches reaching outward like giant gnarly tentacles.
Folklore says that witches once danced upon its highest branches, stunting its growth and making it grow horizontally. In fact, Visit Tuscany notes it’s been dubbed Oak of the Witches, and you can search “Oak of the Witches” in Google Maps to get its exact location in Tuscany.
But it’s also known as Quercia di Pinocchio -- Pinocchio’s Oak -- because it’s said to have inspired the description of at least one scene in the novel Adventures of Pinocchio.
Carlos Collodi wrote the dark fairytale that was published in 1883. His real name was Carlo Lorenzini, and he took his pen name from the village of Collodi, just a 15-minute drive from where the oak tree stands today and where the author spent much of his childhood.
Expunged from the 1940 Disney film, there is a scene in the original novel where the deceiving Cat and Fox tried to kill Pinocchio the puppet in a forest. The illustrations in the original novel show Pinocchio hanging precariously from a twisty tree branch that looks much like the old white oak tree known today as Pinocchio’s Oak.
Other sources say that Collodi actually sat under the majestic tree and wrote parts of the famous story there. Who knows if that’s actually true, but it is known that he spent time in the area, as his mother was born in the town of Collodi and his maternal grandmother lived there.
The magnificent tree -- of the Quercus pubescens species -- stands more than 65 feet high and 14 feet in diameter. Want to visit the otherworldly looking tree yourself? It’s about a 75-minute drive from the city of Florence in the Italian Province of Lucca.
And if you’re in the area, and want to further delve into all things Pinocchio, there is another attraction that honors this famous puppet-turned-little-boy. Colorful and whimsical Pinocchio Park in Collodi is a theme park for families that celebrates the story with sculpture, art, interactive play areas, children’s rides, and pretty gardens.
Built in 1956, Pinocchio Park may be in need of some upgrades and renovations according to recent visitors on various review sites, but it may be worth a stop for a slice of history and charm, especially if you’re traveling with young kids. For additional Italian vacation inspiration, consider