A very quiet stage with modest effort, with a modest, mostly negative, altitude difference.
We move inside the wonderful Casentinesi Forests, Unesco heritage: the pearl of the day is the Camaldoli Hermitage, an oasis of silence that is unique in the world, surrounded by centuries-old beech trees and the scent of incense.
The only water point is at the Camaldoli Hermitage.
We start on the usual 00 path (the track is wide and comfortable) and, immersed in the monumental beechwoods, we gently ascend (approximately 200 m height difference) following the wide ridge. Along the way, there are large sinkholes. After passing the Poggio Pian Tombesi, a short glimpse into the forest opens up and we contemplate the view towards Romagna: we spot the blue waters of the Ridracoli Lake.
Once in Poggio Scali (1,520 m), we begin a gentle descent (approximately 400 m drop). We pass the Passo Porcareccio and continue straight on the 00 (without taking the path on the right), we continue to descend to the Giogo Secchieta. We then leave the 00 path, take the trail on the left, leading us to the complex of the Sacred Camaldoli Hermitage: it is worth stopping and enjoy the atmosphere of this magical place.
We get back on the road and follow briefly the asphalted road to the east to then take the path on the left that climbs sharply (approx. 100 m height difference) to Prato della Penna, where we find the 00 path again and climb a little more (approx. 100 m height difference), but more gently. We circumvent the top of Poggio Tre Confini from the north and reach Passo Fangacci (where it is possible to break the stage, taking advantage of the Rifugio Onorio Mellini).
Instead of continuing on the 00 path, we follow the GEA path which descends (approx. 400 m drop) towards the east through thick woods, skirting the Fosso di Fiume d'Isola stream and crossing the asphalted road on a couple of occasions. We pass a campsite, then the large Rifugio Casanova, and shortly after we arrive in the village of Badia Prataglia.
The National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, a UNESCO heritage site, has a great variety of landscapes, ancient forests, magnificent mountains with very varied flora and fauna, villages, and sanctuaries.
Walter Bonatti compared the Casentinesi Forests to those of the Great North, of Alaska, for their beauty and the perceived sense of wilderness.
The wood from these woods has been renowned and used since the Middle Ages: it was used to build the cathedral of Florence and Brunelleschi's dome. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany, on the other hand, used the enormous silver fir trees of these mountains to build the masts of the naval fleets of Pisa and Livorno.
The village of Badia Prataglia lived from activities related to the wood craftsmanship of the surrounding woods: there are reports from 1837 of 40 inhabitants who moved seasonally.
Camaldoli is a territory within the Casentino forests and the hermitage and the monastery are part of it.
The Hermitage was built by the Benedictine monk Romualdo and his followers in a land given to him by Maldolo, a count from Arezzo (hence the name Camaldoli). They erected five cells and a small oratory that was consecrated in 1027. Slowly the buildings expanded and the oratory was replaced by a church, consecrated in the 13th century by the future Pope Gregory IX. Over the centuries, it underwent various changes, so much so that the interior is clearly from the 17th century, in contrast with everything else.
You can visit the cloisters, the Church, which contains works by Vasari, and finally the Pharmacy, where you can buy the medicinal products of the monks, famous for their apothecary art.
The eremitical area is still present, with the monks' cells (today there are 9) and the cell of St. Romualdo whose visit, in silence and attention, allows you to perceive the atmosphere of a life choice of solitude and prayer.
The raviggiolo is a typical soft, fresh cow's milk cheese or, occasionally, made with sheep and goat’s milk. To prepare it, the rennet is added to the fresh milk, it is left to coagulate for a short time and it is drained, without breaking the curd. It is a Slow Food Presidium.
The first document that gives news of it dates back to 1515 and it regarded a donation to Pope Leo X. In ancient times, it was prepared right after milking, in winter, to preserve it better by exploiting the low temperatures.
The great 19th-century gastronome Pellegrino Artusi included it in his famous work "Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well", recommending to put this cheese in the filling of cappelletti.
Unguarded mountain lodge Onorio Mellini: open by reservation only. Tel. +39 0575 561273
Campeggio Il Capanno, above Badia Prataglia (25 minutes on foot). Tel. +39 366 176 8496
Rifugio Casanova, just before Badia Prataglia (10 minutes on foot). Tel. +39 0575 559897
Albergo La Foresta, in Badia Prataglia. Tel. +39 0575 559009
Pensione Giardino, in Badia Prataglia. Tel. +39 0575 559016
Starting point reachable by car.
Departure point NOT reachable by bus.
The nearest town reachable by bus is Papiano, starting from the city of Florence.
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.