The Apuane Alps are a remote area of northern Tuscany - a world away from the towns and rolling hills of the south. There are few other walkers and the villagers make you feel truly welcome. This walk has many attractive ingredients, from wide mountain vistas, to remote hamlets surrounded by forest and mountain scenery. From the small unassuming town of Fornaci di Barga you'll enter the Apuane forests, climbing up through chestnut woods and dropping down through vineyards to the ancient village of Verni, home to an impressive series of limestone massifs rising up to 2000m. The Apuanes are famous for their scenery of white marble towers, abysses and the largest cave system in Italy. During the walk you'll explore remote chapels, climb Monte Forato (1223m) and visit the 'Grotta del Vento' with its subterranean lakes. You'll also have the option to ascend Pania della Croce (1860m) before visiting the hermitage at Calomini.
This trip is graded moderate to challenging.This self-guided tour traverses rugged and remote terrrain and is therefore not available to solo travelers for safety reasons. Clients should be in reasonable condition and be able to walk between 10-24kms/ 6-15 miles, 3-7 hours per day. The maximum altitude is 1860m and clients should be prepared to ascend in excess of 1100m in one day. If you take the option to climb Pania della Croce (1860m), there is a 1400m difference in altitude. This walk is 9 hours (but some people have found it up to 11 hours).
Make your own way by train from Pisa to Fornaci di Barga meaning “The cave of clay”. The small town derived its name from the solitary brick kiln, which existed in the area before 1915. From here catch views of Monte Penna, Gragno and Cardoso. Today the town is more famous for its copper works.
Accommodation: Stay in a friendly modern 3 star hotel, centrally located, about 15 minutes walk away from the train station. All rooms are ensuite and are decorated with paintings and tapestries chosen to highlight traditional handicrafts of the town.
An early morning start for your walk today, which will take you mostly through woods from Fornaci to Verni. Passing the River Serchio, you ascend to Cardoso, a medieval hamlet with a beautiful Roman church. As the footpath climbs, the vegetation changes from oaks to chestnuts. Just after the grotto of Casteltendine there is a superior vantage point from a rock with a cross, which affords a wonderful view of the highest summits of the Apennines, including Giovo, Rondinaio and Tre Potenze. Passing a little shepherd's hamlet, you make your way to Verni (732m) a very charming and picturesque hilltop home to a mere 80 inhabitants, who are spoilt for choice with no less than four churches and many little chapels, which bear testimony to its rich past. Overnight near Verni. Perhaps visit the old ruins of a castle from where there are splendid views. There are some authentically intact old streets. Ascent 1005m / Descent 648m.
Accommodation: This is spent in a lovely family run farm house near Verni, with apartments with their own bathroom. There is a swimming pool, a sauna and a patio or balcony with amazing views. The food is delicious.
This is a beautiful walk, taking in the historic hilltop town of Trassilico where you can admire the views from the castle walls across the valley and down to Verni. Having descended through the village, and perhaps having an ice cream, pick up the undulating trail that strikes along the hillsides past abandoned farms, eventually leading to the mountain village of San Pellegrinetto; a great place for a picnic. You overnight in the typical Apuane village of Fornovolasco where you have three nights. Ascent 600m / Descent 650m.
Accommodation: A typical small hotel. 2 bathrooms are shared by the 5 rooms. The very friendly owner serves delicious food in his welcoming little restaurant.
Today’s walk is a long climb up to Monte Forato (1223m) and its amazing views of the Versilia region and towards the Mediterranean, the woods and Apuane villages below. There are two options from here: either an easy ascent or a longer footpath to Monte Forato, a splendid natural arch. There is a great view of Procinto with its perpendicular rock-face and Monte Nona from here. Continue until just under the Pania, which from below is rather breathtaking, then descend along a footpath by abandoned houses to Fornovolasco. Ascent 974m / Descent 956m.
Begin the day with a short walk around Fornovolasco, then onward to visit the famous Grotta del Vento, with its internal lakes, stalagmites and stalactites. After lunch you could use the maps to follow an easy strada bianca offering gorgeous views of the Turrite river, and Trassilico. Return to Fornovolasco. Distance varies depending on where you go, but it is meant to be an easy day because tomorrow is the hardest day.
If the weather is good and you are up for a hard day we recommend the ascent of Pania della Croce (1860m), with a 1400m difference in altitude. This 9-11 hour walk involves a reasonably tough ascent, but the reward is definitely worth the effort in the view over the sea, the marble quarries, the Apennines and the Apuanes. This view is yours only if you reach the summit (and the weather is kind)! The way winds up on a good footpath with sometimes stunning views; it makes its way up through pleasant woods to Piglionico, which has a chapel dedicated to the Partisans who fell in the area during World War 2. A footpath takes you to the beech forest boundary, where, in a basin between the two summits, Pania Secca and Pania della Croce, you find Rifugio Rossi. Another hour’s walk will take you to either of the two summits, but the view from Pania della Croce is much more pleasing. Descent to Rifugio Rossi and onto the 11th century hermitage of Eremo di Calomini, with its community of monks. Ascent 1663m / Descent 1789m. As part of the route up and down is the same this day can readily be shortened especially if the weather is closing in. There is also a shorter alternative today following the Valley of the Turrite River, once again with good views.
Accommodation: Tonight is spent in an Agriturismo 100m from the monastery.The comfortable rooms are ensuite. A tasteful dinner is served in the restaurant which boasts panoramic views.
You will pass through Gallicano, although perhaps not as attractive as the other villages on the route there is, a neo-gothic aqueduct and a beautiful Roman church - worth a visit. Some people have taken bus from Gallicano to the attractive town of Barga and then walked back to Fornaci di Barga. (approx 6 km extra). Or they have taken the bus from Gallicano to Fornaci de Barga. Options are provided with your route notes.
Accommodation: Return to the same hotel used at the beginning of the tour.
After breakfast make your way to the train station for your onward journey.
If you are extending to Lucca, make your way to the train station with your luggage and catch the train via Pisa to Lucca.
We really enjoyed the walk. Beautiful scenery and interesting things to see enroute.
S. Gilsenan, Galway, Ireland, 05 Sep 2016
Per Person, Twin Share