A long stage (it can be split) but without demanding gradients: very scenic.
The protagonist of the day is Monte Prado (2,054 m, the highest in Tuscany), which we go around from the north surrounded by dense woods and blueberry moors.
The only water point is at the Rifugio Bargetana.
From Passo Pradarena we start the Great Apennine Excursion, slowly gaining altitude (approximately 200 m height difference). First, we walk on the road just south of the watershed, cutting its hairpin bends on the path. Then, on the southern shoulder of Monte Sillano, we leave the carriage road that bends south and take the 00 path, gaining the crest at the height of Monte di Soraggio (1,832 m). It gives us a beautiful view of the Apuane Alps (to the south) and the great Monte Cusna (2,057 m, to the north).
We continue in ups and downs up to the Passo di Romecchio (1,680 m), from which we leave the ridge (on which the 00 path / GEA continues) and the blueberry moors, to enter the woods on the north side of the watershed, thus bypassing Monte Prado (unless you don't want to make it to the top, very panoramic, 2,054 m). Walking almost level, we pass the Rifugio Bargetana and continue on a comfortable carriage road to the Passo di Lama Lite (not far from which the Rifugio Battisti stands out).
We continue on the cross path, we climb slightly up to the Passo Bocca di Massa (1,816 m), where, with our gaze on the Garfagnana, we resume the 00 path and continue slightly downhill to the Passo delle Forbici (1,575 m) and to the beautiful church dedicated to Our Lady of the Alps. We resume the open road which, going around the top of Monte Giovarello from the south, takes us to Passo Giovarello (1,662 m). We return to the path and, deep in the beech forest, we descend easily to the Passo delle Radici (1,529 m).
Passo delle Radici is located above the beautiful town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.
The poet Ludovico Ariosto (the famous author of L’Orlando furioso) was sent here by the Duke of Ferrara Alfonso I d'Este as Commissioner of the territory. He held the appointment from 1522 to 1525.
Ariosto's main intent was to counteract the phenomenon of banditry, but he did not have an easy life: the brigands were numerous and very active, while he had been assigned only 12 crossbowmen. It was therefore a hard experience for the poet, who wanted so much to return to his life at court, to his affections and his writings, as evidenced by a letter sent by him to his lord. He showed anyway a marked political and operational intelligence.
If you have time, from Passo delle Radici it is worth going down to visit the beautiful village of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, where you can still admire the Ariostesca Fortress: built in the 11th century, it hosted the poet (hence the name) at the time of his office as Este Commissioner.
The fortress is the symbol of the town: severely hit by Allied bombing during the Second World War, it has been renovated and currently houses the municipal offices and the Archaeological Museum of the Garfagnana Territory, which exhibits artifacts dating back to the Mesolithic and Iron Age.
For more info, timetables and tickets, follow the LINK.
From Garfagnana it is worth going south and visit Borgo a Mozzano, to admire the beautiful Ponte della Maddalena, one of the most evocative bridges on which the Devil has put his hand. Built by Matilda di Canossa between the 11th and 12th centuries, it is an imposing work consisting of three asymmetrical arches. It was because of the difficulty in erecting the central arch that, according to legend, the builder asked for the help of the devil. The latter granted his cooperation in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge. The work was finished in one night and the clever builder let... a dog pass!
The necci are sweets similar to crêpes, made with chestnut flour, traditional from Garfagnana. They are usually served with ricotta, however, they are also served with honey or, in a savory version, with sausage or bacon.
Traditionally, necci were cooked with the testi, two flat cast iron pans (between which the batter was spread), with a long handle, placed on the fire of the fireplace.
Rifugio Bargetana, on the north side of Monte Prado. Tel. +39 328 261 2737
Rifugio Cesare Battisti, just north of the Lama Lite pass. Tel. +39 0522 897497
Rifugio Albergo Lunardi, at Passo delle Radici. Tel. +39 0583 649071
Starting point reachable by car.
Departure point NOT reachable by bus.
The nearest town reachable by bus is Laghi, starting from the city of Reggio Emilia with a change in Castelnovo Ne 'Monti.
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.