Definitely a long and demanding stage, with an important difference in height due to the continuous ups and downs, along the peaks of the ridge (Monte Aquila, Paitino, Sillara), and an important final climb after the dam of the great Paduli Lake.
However, the route is very beautiful thanks to the long panoramic passages and the very varied scenarios that we go through: from the many lakes below to the green woods of Lunigiana.
The stage is long and tiring, to be faced entirely only if well trained. It is however possible to break it at Prato Spilla.
Given the long distance on the aerial ridge, the stage is to be avoided with adverse weather conditions: the wind can blow very strongly. The long stretch from Monte dell'Aquila to Passo Giovarello has several exposed sections, where caution must be used.
The only water points are just before Passo di Fugicchia and in Prato Spilla.
We skirt the lake and start the climb (approximately 200 m height difference). Once at the Passo dell'Aquila, we resume the 00 path and, shortly after, we reach the top of Monte Aquila (1,775 m): to the north, we admire the steep western wall of Roccabiasca (1,730 m). We continue along the ridge to the Passo delle Guadine (1,687 m), from which we circumvent the summit of Monte Brusa from the north (entering the woods) and proceed in ups and downs along the hillside, towards the Passo di Fugicchia (1,680 m), just below Monte Scala.
After overcoming the pass, we ascend (about 100 m height difference) towards the eastern crest of Monte Matto and then reach Monte Paitino (1,814 m). Below us, on the Emilian side, we spot the two Lagoni. We continue briskly on the crest, aerial and panoramic. With continuous ups and downs, we reach the top of Sillara (1,859 m), of Losanna and Bragalata (1,856 m), from which, just below, we admire the beautiful lakes Verde and Ballano to the north.
Shortly after we are at Passo Giovarello: we temporarily leave the 00 path and take the one on the left, rapidly losing altitude, to reach the ski slopes that lead us to the Prato Spilla ski resort (those who are tired can take advantage of the mountain lodge to break the stage, still long).
Crosswise, we skirt the Verdarolo and Scuro lakes. We face a steep climb uphill, in the beech forest, to reach a pass near which we find the 00 path. An easy descent (approximately 300 m drop) takes us to the north end of the great Paduli Lake. We catch our breath: a last, demanding climb awaits us (approx. 400 m height difference). After crossing the large Lagastrello dam on a road, we take the path that soon enters the woods. Constantly uphill and without sudden climbs, we arrive at the beautiful Rifugio Sarzana, near the Monte Acuto Lake.
In the Middle Ages, the Passo di Lagastrello was an alternative to the Via Francigena, often infested with ill-intentioned people. However, if you think that the ancient name of the pass was "Malpasso" (bad pass), you sense how difficult the route was and you understand how important it was to be welcomed in a safe and hospitable place: for this reason, near the pass stood the Ospedale dei Linari (the etymology of "hospital" refers to hospitality), very active between the year 1000 and the year 1300. In a document of 1466, it was described its total state of abandonment: today remain only a few ruins.
The hospital was cared for by the Knights of the Tau, a chivalric religious order (the oldest in Europe, founded in the Lucca town of Altopascio) devoted to San Giacomo, who assisted pilgrims and took care of road maintenance. Their name derived from the particular cross depicted on their cloak, in the shape of the Greek letter tau.
From the ridge, towards the east, we spot (although far away) the Pietra di Bismantova, an isolated mountain that suddenly rises 300 m on the plateau that forms its base: a tooth of rock characterized by vertical walls (which make it one of the most popular climbing rocks of Emilia-Romagna), whose flat top is covered by dense woods. It was also mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy.
The paleontological findings (fish teeth, mollusk shells, calcareous algae) show that the formation started in a shallow marine environment, in a phase of tropical climate, about 15 million years ago.
Anyone who has the opportunity to do it (highly recommended!) should visit the wonderful Benedictine hermitage, built in 1617 at the foot of the cliff, wedged between the steep walls: a cultural and natural monument of the Reggio Apennines.
In Lunigiana, the chestnut was so important that it was called "the bread tree", as for centuries it had been a fundamental food resource for the local population.
Today Lunigiana chestnut flour has become a DOP food. It is produced according to the criteria of the ancient supply chain that starts from the care of the chestnut groves, passes through the hand-harvesting of the fruits, and finally through the traditional drying of 25 days in stone structures, thanks to a slow fire, strictly fed with chestnut firewood. Finally, after the chestnuts have been peeled, they are stone-ground, and finally, the flour is ready to be used in many typical recipes: chestnut polenta, pasta, pattona, castagnaccio...
Small curiosity: it was Matilde di Canossa who favored the spread of chestnut in the Apennines.
The Grand Duchess of Tuscany (feudal lady of the 11th century, so powerful that she was buried in San Pietro) had in fact sensed the extreme importance of chestnut cultivation for the food survival of mountain populations, which is why she promulgated a series of regulations aimed at improving the productivity of the chestnut groves - still today the "sesto d'impianto matildico", a criterion for the arrangement of chestnut trees, can be seen in the woods.
In case of sudden bad weather, there are numerous bivouacs and mountain lodges on the northern (Emilian) side of the ridge: Bivacco Capanne di Badignana (under Monte Brusa), Rifugio Capanna di Lago Scuro (under Monte Matto), Bivacco Cagnin (under the Pass Giovarello).
Albergo Prato Spilla, in the ski resort of the same name. Tel. +39 3469758557 - +39 3391326501 - +39 0521890194
Rifugio Città di Sarzana, on the shores of Lake Monte Acuto. Tel. +39 339 224 5117
Starting point NOT reachable by car.
The nearest location reachable by car is Lagdei.
Departure point NOT reachable by bus.
The nearest locality reachable by bus is Bosco, starting from the city of Parma with a change in Langhirano.
Here the LINK to check the timetables.
Starting point NOT reachable by train.
Va' Sentiero is a grassroot project, thanks to the spontaneous contribution oft housands of people.
Even the most complicated dream, a 7,000km uphill dream,
can be achieved... together.