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Passo della Cisa > Lago Santo Parmense

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A fantastic but long and demanding stage, with several ups and downs and an important climb that should not be underestimated (from the Passo di Cirone to Monte Orsaro).

The top of Marmagna (1,852 m) gives us great excitement: the view extends from Monte Cusna (2,121 m, the king of the Reggio Apennines) to the sharp Apuan Alps, from Monviso to Corsica. Below shines the sea of the Gulf of La Spezia.

We spend the night at the magical Santo Parmense Lake.

Special Notes

The stretch from the Foce del Fosco to the Santo Parmense Lake represents a variant of the Sentiero Italia (which descends directly from the pass to the mountain lodge), preferred for the extreme panoramic views of the Orsaro, Braiola, and Marmagna peaks: highly recommended.

Shortly after the Bocchetta di Monte Tavola, we face a short equipped stretch, crosswise, very easy.

Absent water points: due to the length of the stage (mostly exposed to the sun), bring good supplies.

when to go
May - October
Suitable for
how to get there
description of the route

From the Passo della Cisa we take the 00 path (which coincides with the Great Apennine Excursion and with the European Path E1) and proceed in ups and downs, first in the woods, to then go around the spur of Groppo del Vescovo. From there, we walk in the open on the area ridge, which separates the Emilian side (gentle, extended) from the Tuscan one (much steeper and precipitous).

With several ups and downs, we progressively gain altitude (approximately 200 m height difference), until we tread on the top of Monte Borgognone (1,401 m), where we clearly distinguish Monte Orsaro, which awaits us in the second part of the stage. We descend nimbly to the Passo di Cirone (1,255 m), returning to the woods.

We overcome the road and the beautiful stone chapel, dedicated to the Madonna dell'Orsaro: we start the climb (approximately 600 m height difference) towards the Orsaro. In the first part, the slope is small and regular. Once past the meadows of Monte Tavola, we return to the woods and reach the small pass of the same name, from where we detach from the 00 path, bypassing Monte Fosco from the east (1,682 m). After a short and very easy equipped stretch, we regain the ridge and the 00 path and climb decisively, out of the woods, to the top of Monte Orsaro (1,830 m).

Paying attention not to miss the trail, which is a little misleading, we continue on the ridge, descending (approx. 150 m drop) to Bocchetta dell'Orsaro (those who are tired can continue on the GEA, descending directly to Lake Santo Parmense, passing through Capanna del Braiola, an austere emergency shelter). We go up the slope of Monte Braiola (1,815 m), descend to the next pass, and carefully ascend (approximately 150 m height difference) the north side of Monte Marmagna, on a slightly exposed path.

From the summit of Marmagna (1,852 m) the view is complete: from Monte Cusna (2,121 m, the king of the Reggio Apennines) to the sharp Apuan Alps, from Monviso to Corsica. The sea of the Gulf of La Spezia shines in the sun.

Finally, always on the 00 path, we go down to the next pass and from there we take the trail on the left that descends comfortably (about 200 m drop) to Santo Parmense Lake. Being careful not to take the path that ascends to the Bocchetta dell'Orsaro, we reach the lake protected by a pleasant basin and by the dense wood.

What to know

Santo Parmense Lake is the largest glacial lake in Emilia Romagna.

Being at more than 1,500 m above sea level, in winter its surface is covered with a thick layer of ice, which is why it becomes a meeting point for scuba divers who practice scuba diving under the ice.

During the last war, as remembered by a plaque placed at the entrance to the Rifugio Mariotti, the Santo Lake was the scene of a bitter battle between fascists (about eighty) and partisans (nine): attacked by overwhelming forces, the partisans barricaded themselves in the mountain lodge and were able to resist the attack for hours. They forced the regular troops to retreat and thus were able to flee in the night when they crossed the frozen lake to go down to the valley, where they were welcomed and hosted by the locals.

What to see

On the Passo del Cirone, the junction point between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, we find a worn stone, dated 1828, which marked the border between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and that of Parma: the legendary Via del Sale passed through here.


Not far away, there is the small church of the Madonna dell'Orsaro, of evident Romanesque style, made of sandstone. Under the mighty size of Monte Orsaro (1,831 m) and surrounded by meadows, it is truly a pleasant place of peace. The peculiarity of the church is that, despite its medieval appearance, it is of recent construction: it was in fact completed in 2003 under the guidance of the Pontremolese sculptor, Luciano Preti.

what to eat

The fried tortelloni, a homemade dish typical of the Corniglio forest, stuffed with potato and leek filling, are a delicacy at the Rifugio Mariotti.

where to sleep

Capanna del Braiola, just below the Bocchetta dell'Orsaro, on the east side: it's a simple emergency shelter, without beds, with only a table and two benches. Always open.


Rifugio Mariotti, near Lake Santo Parmense. Tel. +39 0521 889334


Starting point reachable by car.


Starting point reachable by bus, starting from the town of Pontremoli.

Here the LINK to check the timetables.


Starting point NOT reachable by train.

The nearest location reachable by train is Pontremoli, starting from the city of La Spezia or the city of Parma.

Here the LINK to check the timetables.


“We proceed in single file, slowly, while the setting sun is coloring the sharp ridges of the Apuan Alps”

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