Nature and Trekking
The Apennines. The sound suspended between Tuscany and Emilia.
In the spring of 2020 we created this itinerary with 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 anxieties and fears. That’s why, if you take part in this trek, suspended like a song of nature, between Tuscany and Emilia, you can bring your own tent, mattresses and 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 ypur backpack (we recommend a 25/30 litre bag) only what you will need for your day in the open air.
The itinerary we propose only partly follows the classic Great Apennine Excursion and combines in an exciting route unusual and little frequented places and paths that cross places of great beauty and charm, even if marginal compared to the paths usually followed by mountain and trekking enthusiasts. We start in Garfagnana and end in Garfagnana. The tour begins in the splendid village of Sillico and ends in the small, peaceful village of Roggio, at the foot of Monte Tambura. The route combines medieval villages, ancient mule tracks along the mountainside, ancient transhumance paths and panoramic high points on the Apennine ridge.
- Duration: 7 days (possible extension of a further 5 days by crossing the Apuan Alps).
- Type: Trekking itinerary with luggage transport.
- Accommodation: Hotels, refuges (San Pellegrino in Alpe), tents and village houses (Roggio).
- Difficulty / Commitment: 4 (on a scale of 1 to 12). Route with 5 to 7 hours of walking per day. Alternating between demanding days with moderate differences in height and easier days. Non-difficult terrain on paths that do not present any major technical difficulties.
Our route between the Apennines and Garfagnana offers a travel experience along unusual routes through medieval villages and mountain views that you would not expect in Tuscany.
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, retaining intact the charm of 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.
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 a packed lunch, sitting in the shade of the beech trees and surrounded by green meadows.
In the afternoon, we follow the path along the ridge. The path invites us to follow the edge of the ridge. Through open spaces, winding between small, among small twisted beeches grown 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’s Tour). Wander around 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.
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 tree 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 will reach the “roof of Tuscany” and then begin a long descent 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.
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, 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.
Today we enter the thick and silent woods of the Orecchiella reserve. Small streams and clear waters cross our path, small sunny glades separte the shade that accompanies and help us on the climb to save strength and energy. Through tlese 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.
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.
Today we descend from the Apennine ridges and take the mid-coast and valley floor paths that join together the villages of Garfagnana 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.
After breakfast we board the bus that will take us back to Sillico from where everyone can return by car. If you have decided to join the adventure in its entirety, it will be time to leave for the second part of the trek, this time dedicated to the Apuan Alps and their world of rock so different from the soft shapes of the Apennines.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! If any of you, not yet tired after a week spent on the paths of the Apennines, would like to continue the journey and complete tour of the great mountain ring that embraces the Garfagnana, then stay in Roggio and prepare your backpack and luggage to continue the adventure.
Let’s welcome the participants arriving in Roggio and get ready to leave.
What to bring
In your 25/30 liter backpack that you will carry 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 liters during the longest days of walking)
- Small plastic container for sandwiches and snacks
- Light gloves
Along the route we will experience very different micro-climatic situations. Some places are particularly hot and the perceived temperatures can rise to 26/28 degrees. 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 ridge 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 high altitudes (1600/1800 m) drop to 0 degrees or slightly more during the event.