Nature and Trekking

Garfagnana Trekking: the great crossing!
DFrom the Apennines to the Apuan Alps

Introduction - From the Apennines to the Apuan Alps

In the spring of 2020 we created this itinerary with the  need to get back to walking soon. We know that many of us dream of a summer on unfrequented trails, not far away. We all dream of spending nights in the embrace of nature, free from anxiety and fears. That’s why, by taking part in this trek, first suspended between Tuscany and Emilia and then through the most evocative corners of the Apuan Alps, you can bring your own tent, your own mattresses and your own sleeping bag. Alternatively, you can use one of the tents that we will provide you.  We will take care of transporting your luggage and equipment between the various stages. You will be able to walk lightly, accompanied by a guide and carrying in your backpack only what you will need  for your day in the open air.

The itinerary we propose to you partly follows the classic Great Apennine Excursion and stitches together, in an exciting route, unusual and little frequented places and paths that cross places of great beauty and charm. Then, having reached the slopes of the Apuan Alps, we will cross them, touching on some of the most beautiful peaks but using an unusual route that offers unusual views, a different approach and a unique experience. We will start from the medieval village of Sillico and end the journey on foot in Fornovolasco, another of our favourite places. On the last day we will complete our loop using a fun and environmentally friendly means of transport: the electric mountain bike.

The route combines medieval villages, old mule tracks, ancient transhumance paths, ridges and panoramic stretches of the most beautiful Apuan peaks.

  • Duration: 12 days/11 nights.
  • Type: Trekking itinerary with luggage transport.
  • Accommodation: Hotels/holiday homes, refuges, tents and village houses.
  • Difficulty / Commitment: 6 (on a scale of 1 to 12). Route involving 5 to 7 hours of walking per day. Alternating between demanding days with moderate differences in height and easier days. Non-demanding terrain on paths that do not present any major technical difficulties in the Apennines, sometimes demanding terrain on paths that may present short stretches with technical difficulties in the Apuans.

Our route between the Apennines and the Apuan Alps offers a travel experience along unusual routes through medieval villages and mountain views that you would not expect in Tuscany.

Programme

Arrival in the village and accommodation in some small apartments in the village. The village of Sillico is without doubt one of the most interesting in the valley, preserving the charm of the its ancient cobbled streets and homes. Offering one of the widest views, the panorama embraces the Apuan Alps and Garfagnana in a picture of rare beauty. Experiencing the emotion of the sunset walking along the ancient alleys discovering ancient stories hidden among the stones will surely be a good start to this holiday in the loneliest mountains of Tuscany.

INCLUDED: Dinner

It will be a long climb from Sillico to Lame di Capraia, on the Apennine watershed. But fortunately shady. A short distance from Sillico we come across an ancient hermitage, the Eremo di Capraia, and not far from the hermitage a small village of shepherds, Capraia. And a couple of shepherds still live higher up, their house overlooking the valley and the small stable a little lower down among the trees. Here we can fill our bottles with fresh water and perhaps have a word with Quinta and Carlo, one of the last shepherds on this mountain.

The medieval stone-paved mule track continues from here, wide and well preserved. From time to time, we come out through large beech woods to enjoy beautiful views from sunny clearings and reach Lame di Capraia at about 1600 metres above sea level. Here we can stop to rest and eat our packed lunch, sitting in the shade of the beech trees and surrounded by green meadows.

In the afternoon, we follow the route along the ridge. The path invites us to follow the edge of the ridge. Through open spaces, winding between small, among small twisted beechesgrown on the edge that joins together the two regions: Tuscany and Emilia. In a pleasant succession of undulating slopes and often changing pace between short ascents and descents, we reach the ridge location known as “Il giro del Diavolo” ( The Devil Tour ) . Wander aroud  these piles of stones piled up by the devotion of pilgrims over the centuries, a legend that reminds us,take us back to the small village of  San Pellegrino, our destination. We reach the village from here in a short time, following a peaceful and comfortable path through the beech forest.

At San Pellegrino in Alpe we will set up our camp for our first night in the Apennines. We will use a structure located in an enchanted place. In front of us the sunset and the entire skyline of the Apuan Alps.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/Pack Lunch/Dinner

We have a long day’s walk ahead of us, that reserves us wonderful surprises of views and silence. Very early in the morning, we leave behind us the shady beech trees and take one last step out onto the long to continue forward in the path of  “Great Apennine Excursion” throws itself forward. And now your gaze can finally reach the peak of Mount Cusna (2121 m.) and Lama Lite, Monte Vecchio and further on Monte Prado, which at 2054 metres proudly shows the emblem of Tuscany’s highest peak.

Tuscany, which stretches down to our left. While the region Emilia appears below on our right, almost hiding in the summer haze the iconic rocky heel of the most famous Bismantova Stone. We will find a place of peace and silence to enjoy these views while eating our picnic lunch, and rest body and soul cradled by the breezes of the ridge. We reach the “roof of the ridge” and rest body and soul, lulled by the breezes of the ridge. We will reach the “roof of Tuscany” and then begin a long descent that will take us from 2054 metres to 1200 metres, in the heart of the Orecchiella Park. Here, at the foot of the Pania di Corfino, lies the soft meadow of the Rifugio Isera.                     

The Refuge, run by our friends Francesca and Davide, will be a pleasant location for us to enjoy the following day as well. Our programme includes two nights in this welcoming place.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/Breakfast/Dinner

Of course you can choose to spend this day reading a book and resting in the shade of the beech trees, perhaps by the cool stream that runs nearby. But you are also welcome to join the group and follow the guide to the Botanical Garden. This is where the steep path over stones and rocks begins, leading to the summit of Pania di Corfino, ( PS TOGLIERE TUTTO QUELLO SOTTOLINEATO  1600 metres is not an altitude worthy of great consideration in mountain literature, but this small peak nonetheless majestically dominates the Garfagnana, offering a truly impressive sequence of views to those who enjoy the immense panorama from the summit. We turn around and if the weather is with us, clear and limpid, we will be able to move  our gaze up to Liguria, to the heights that separate Lucca from Pisa and, above all, follow with our eyes from below the entire ridge that we pass through the previous day .

We will then descend to the alpine pasture of Campaiana to return to our camp, following mule tracks and shepherds’ paths.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/dinner

Today we enter the thick, silent woods of the Orecchiella reserve. Small streams and clear waters cross our path, small sunny glades separate the shade that accompanies and helps us on the climb to save strenght and energy. Through these woods and late in the morning, we abandon every path and trail to venture through a completely wild area to come across a disused stable which testifies to the attendance of shepherds until recent times.

The Soraggio valley was in fact the cradle of dense transhumant flocks that would disappear in winter and then return to their summer pastures at the beginning of summer. One last climb awaits us before we can enjoy some well-deserved refreshment. But when we finally emerge from the woods, we will be surprised by the view of the Apennine ridge at the top and the peace of the La Foce refuge, where we will stop for lunch. And we will climb the ridge after the break, riding its undulating forms and enjoying priceless views. We let the logical line of the ridge decide our direction and happily follow the path around it. The last few kilometres of today’s walk mostly follow a small dirt road, which we gladly abandon whenever we can choose to cross gentle grassy slopes and then return to it a little further down. The Passo di Pradarena, between Lucca and Reggio Emilia, suddenly opens up before us as we leave the last wooded passage of this beautiful day. And here we will spend the night.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/Breakfast/Dinner

We will not spend much time in the shade of the forest this morning. A steep climb will soon be left behind and the path will continue through the green grass following the sinuous curves of this side ridge that points straight of Monte Tondo. Further on, it is easily distinguishable in the distance. The Apuan chain is in front of us, we walk suspended between Garfagnana and Lunigiana, on the beautiful track that makes us deviate from the Apennine ridge to lead us step by step back to Garfagnana. From Monte Tondo, on clear days, the city of La Spezia stands out… This is probably one of the most surprising viewpoints in the area. And it will not surprise us to discover, at the summit, numerous votive cups carved into the rock by the hand of the ancient inhabitants, among the first frequenters of these summits that still today leave us breathless for the peace and silence that they know how to dispense.

From Monte Tondo we descend through beech woods and clearings to reach the road leading down to Passo Tea. This is a very important pass where we will discover the recently unearthed ruins of an ancient pilgrims’ hospital along what has been christened the “Via del Volto Santo”.

From here, the asphalt road will lead us. But in a few kilometres we will have the joy of enjoying the hospitality offered to us at Passo dei Carpinelli by our friend Stefano, owner of this quiet hotel whose terrace stretches so far in front of Monte Pisanino, the highest of the Apuan Alps, that we almost feel we can reach it with our hands.

At the hotel we can enjoy a comfortable and easy overnight stay.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/Backpack Lunch/Dinner

After descending from the Apennine ridges, we now take the mid-coast and valley floor paths that join together the villages of Garfagnana like pearls, offering our journey the experience of crossing woods and cultivated fields, entering the small villages through the original entrance, like ancient pilgrims. From Giuncugnano to San Michele we lose altitude and then, thanks to ancient medieval bridges still in use, cross the Garfagnana valley and take routes through chestnut woods and from village to village to reach our destination. At the quiet village of Casciana we stop for lunch. We then continue on to Cascianella and Casatico and take the last stretch of the route: an easy little road through silent chestnut woods that leads us to our last stop. The beautiful village of Roggio will suddenly appear before us, revealing its presence, which had been kept hidden during the previous days’ walk. This is how today’s route will end, as we walk, tired but happy, along the narrow lanes of a village that seems to have been forgotten in the woods, dominated by the mass of Mount Tambura and embraced on all sides by the green chestnut trees.

It will be possible to spend the night in tents on private land or, depending on availability, in rooms or flats in the village. Toilets and showers are available.

In the evening we will taste Gemma’s dishes at the restaurant La Capannina, accompanying the recipes of Garfagnana with a good bottle of wine recommended by our host Andrea.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/Breakfast/Dinner

We take an ancient path that is now at the edge of the village and soon we are surrounded only by acres and acres of green woods. In ancient times, this part of the itinerary was used by flocks of sheep and shepherds who used it to climb up to high-altitude pastures. We find evidence of this when we cross, after about 45 minutes of walking, a well-preserved Majesty (small votive chapel).

From here we follow the dirt road that takes us to the ancient alpine pasture of Campocatino. The itinerary now points decisively towards the Apuan bastions of Monte Tambura, but after a stretch of adventurous, little-used path, we cross a marble road. We follow it downhill and then take the old road known as the “Todt” road, named after the German forced labour company that during the Second World War used local labour to carry out works to support the deployment of the Alemannic forces. The old road has been eroded by the weather in several places, but its structure is still visible and, above all, it is possible to walk along it.

Coming out of the forest, we are surprised by the bare, extensive grassy slopes that overlook the Passo Sella, a mighty mountain ridge swept by the wind in every season. Following the changing contours, we head towards one of the most beautiful ridge paths in the Apuan Alps, a thin path that takes us out of the way by skilfully manoeuvring around boulders and exposed places. Always offering priceless views and panoramas.                                                                          

Just below the summit of Monte Sumbra, we reach a wide rocky saddle that invites us to take a relaxing break in a grandiose setting. From here we gain the summit by ascending a short stretch of path equipped with a metal cable. The descent along the opposite side of Monte Sumbra is fun and rewarding. Between rocky steps and stretches of ridge, small beech trees twisted by the wind on the edge of the high walls and other majestic trees a little lower down, we cross different areas and landscapes and then take the last stretch of path that leads to the small village of Capanne di Careggine. And even this last stretch is at the same level, giving us splendid views and unusual passages between rocky walls.

In Capanne di Careggine, welcomed by our friend Marco, we stay in comfortable flats with views of the Panie group and Monte Corchia, the mountains towards which we are heading.

Included: Breakfast/Breakfast/Dinner

After a long and adventurous first day, a shorter and more relaxing stage awaits us today. This allows us to enjoy our breakfast in peace and quiet, in the presence of a magnificent panorama of the surrounding mountains. The first part of today’s route takes us down into the valley below, where we cross the dam of the Isola Santa reservoir to catch a glimpse of the small stone village, nestled in a fairytale valley, on the shores of the lake. The green waters and the backdrop of deep chestnut woods emphasise the harmony of these ancient houses that seem to rediscover their origins and community identity in the elegant forms of the finally restored church.

From here the path climbs gently at first, almost as if to allow us a slow, gentle approach, then more decisive and without too many bends to gain significant height in a short distance, passing traces still visible to the attentive eye of the terrible flood that devastated this and other landscapes in the 1990s.

As we climb up through the chestnut trees, we reach the abandoned village of Col di Favilla. One of the last eminent descriptions we have of this place was given to us by a young Fosco Maraini, spend the night there  and face the next day the imperious mass of Pizzo delle Saette, a soaring rocky wall guarding the wooded coastline on which the village lies.

From Col di Favilla to the Alpeggio di Puntato, the path often allows us to catch our breath with pleasant flat intervals in a gentle succession of ups and downs. Near the little stone church of the alpine pasture, you will be surprised by the beech trees neatly arranged in rows on both sides of the path, which now, in the last stretch, are still adorned with green boxwood hedges. At the side of the little church, on the other hand, a wide clearing allows us to rest our eyes on the steep slopes of Monte Freddone, at the foot of which, among the dense woodland, we can make out the grey stone of the Baita Il Robbio, our destination. About a kilometre from here we pick up our luggage, transported from the bottom of the valley to this altitude using an ingenious cable car and take it with us to the Baita where we will spend the night.

Our friend Mauro will be happy to give us useful tips on how to use the facilities available, and then serve us a good meal at the charming hut.

The mountain pasture is a silent place where we are magically given the opportunity to return to breathe in the real scent of nature and things. Capturing the magic of the light breeze through the chestnut leaves, this place evokes a harmony between man and his environment that is more meaningful than any words. That is why spending an afternoon being rocked by the mountain is one of the greatest gifts this experience can give us. And early evening comes when nature enchants us. And with the evening comes the scent of wood and the kitchen from which simple, good dishes arrive on the table. A special evening.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/lunch at the refuge/dinner

From our stop-over point we can now climb two Apuan peaks from which we can admire beautiful landscapes through little-visited and wild places.

Our day begins by tackling the steep ascent of Monte Freddone. At first we follow traces of old charcoal burners’ paths, where they have not been erased or cleverly camouflaged by time, then we abandon all hesitation and cautiously climb the steep slope, among sharp boulders and the scent of savory, and juniper.

Once we reach the crest, we will venture to chasethe escape that leads to the to summit, a modest but surprising elevation from which the Apuan peaks of much higher stature stand out all around us, drawing the mirage of these luminous mountains rising just a stone’s throw from the sea. As if by magic.

The descent challenges us to contain our impetus in order to find safe footing, and through steep woods we suddenly come to the old marble road, which in the past saw the marble blocks extracted on this side of Monte Corchia descend into the valley.

We follow it, appreciating its gradual transformation into a comfortable path over the years, since where trucks use to pass, today only  the shoe treads the ground. Having reached the silent, inactive and abandoned places, we proceed to reach the summit ridge. From there to the summit and from the summit to the descent on the opposite side, the itinerary offers us grandiose views of the Panie group, the Tuscan coast, Garfagnana and the distant Apennine profile.

At Foce di Mosceta we return to the level and comfort of a path that winds its way smoothly between the highest peaks in this area before plunging into the shade of the beech trees and continuing at about the same altitude to the fascinating geometry of the terraces of the Alpeggio di Puntato, conquered over the centuries by man with the work of many summers and many arms.

Our friend Mauro is waiting for us with the smoking  kitchen, and in the air we anticipate dinner. One more evening in this little paradise in the green. One more night in the embrace of the mountains.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/Backpacking Lunch/Dinner

After breakfast we will reassemble our luggage and take it back to the cable car, from where we will continue our journey to the next stop.

After that, with our small backpack on our shoulders, we will return to the foot of Pania della Croce. This time to climb up the large, steep grassy slope to the crest and via the crest reach the summit and the iconic cross that dominates the Versilia coastline. And it is no coincidence that, reaffirming the title that this peak boasts, we now find ourselves walking among the stones and palaeo of the Queen of the Apuan Alps. Lady of these landscapes and cradle of many young and old, who love to spend the warm summer nights on this peak to admire the spectacle of dawn.

The small village of Fornovolasco lies down there, on the distant valley floor. It will be a long descent to leave behind the 1858 metres of the summit and reach the 480 metres of coolness that the limpid waters of the Turrite di Petrosciana create inside the village, But we are careful not to lose altitude and  soon gain the village.

When we reach the Foce di Valli pass, we give up on the descent and instead follow the fun ridge that allows us to reach the most famous stone acrobatics in the Apuan Alps: the natural arch of Monte Forato, where the rock throws itself into the void to amaze us by tracing an impossible ring. Now, from the ring, we can lose height, and without remorse reach Foce di Petrosciana with splendid views of another bizarre formation: Monte Procinto.

With a cut halfway up the slope under Monte Croce we will reach an almost secret place at the bottom of a canyon where our friend Adolfo has created his little paradise. A different location from the previous ones, in the thick of a forest.

Barbecue and travel stories will enliven the evening.

INCLUDED: Breakfast/Pack Lunch/Dinner

This is the last day of our intense journey in the Apuan Alps. After breakfast we will descend along the canyon carved by the stream, in about an hour’s walk we will find the refreshing waters crossing the small village of Fornovolasco, ancient area of iron mines and furnaces. It is here that our walk will end but not our route.

Hidden high up and around the Panie group we know there are small villages of just a few houses and great charm. Perched on hidden plateaus amidst the greenery among others are the small bell towers of Vergemoli, Calomini and Brucciano. To reach them all and visit them, and deepen our knowledge of this stupendous territory with its bewitching orography, we now have an ingenious means.

We ride our electric bikes up the road through the woods and easily negotiate climbs of up to 10% to quickly gain height, leaving the entrance to the famous Grotta del Vento behind us. It is only a little higher up that this quiet little road catches its breath and allows for flat stretches. Behind the winding curves of this track we discover beautiful views of the landscape and, one after the other, the small villages that still have inhabitants up here, clinging to the future with tenacity.

Few cars drive along this route and the silence of the mountains and of our means of locomotion allow us to fully enjoy the pleasant breeze as we circumnavigate the mountains, stopping to explore each village to capture its magic. After the villages of Eglio and Sassi, a small white church from which you can admire the Garfagnana valley, we take one last descent and finally reach the bottom of the valley, entering Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. It will be the moment in which raising a glass we will toast to the days spent together, hoping to have made you live days of serenity and exciting discoveries.

INCLUDED: Breakfast

Details

Baggage

In the 25/30 litre rucksack that you will take with you along the way:

  • 1 dry T-shirt
  • Waterproof jacket (waterproof trousers if desired) for the rain
  • Sun protection (cream, glasses, hat)
  • Water bottles (enough to hold at least 2 litres on longer walking days)
  • Small plastic container for sandwiches and snacks
  • Lightweight gloves

Climate

Along the route we will experience very different micro-climatic situations. Some places are particularly hot and temperatures can reach 26/28 degrees Celsius. Other places are cooler with very low temperatures, especially in the early hours of the day and at sunset (5/10 degrees). It is also important to remember that the Apennine watershed attracts strong and violent summer storms to its peaks, with thunderstorms and hail accompanied by winds that further lower the perceived and actual temperatures. These can, in the case of strong storms at altitude (1600/1800 m), drop to 0 degrees or slightly more during the event.

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