Tuscany Mountains Hike
This little-known area of Tuscany is a mecca for Italian hikers and rock climbers. A network of trails allows us to explore the beautiful valleys and peaks of this isolated area. We often hike above the tree line, which means we have fabulous views out over the Apuan Alps and down to the sea. This is the area where Michelangelo found the stone for his famous “David,” and we will see the gleaming white quarries of Carrara from our hikes. And since it’s Tuscany, you can also expect delicious food and great wine! (Luggage is transferred by van. 1 night Lucca, 3 nights Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, 1 night in a mountain hut, 2 nights San Pellegrino. Trip ends in Lucca.)
Tuscany Mountains Hike itinerary
Arrive independently in Lucca where you will check into your pre-booked hotel. Lucca was one of the great city-states of Medieval Tuscany, rivaling its nearby neighbor Pisa for dominance in the area. And before that, it was an important Roman city. Their legacy is present today in a town square that’s unique in Italy: the piazza is inside the oval space of the old Roman coliseum. Hotel included. Dinner not included.
Meet your guide(s) and the rest of the group after breakfast at 9:00 a.m. in the hotel. We have a 45-minute van transfer to the mountains and the start of the first hike. The route takes us up to the charming mountain refuge of E. Rossi (1,610 m), where we hike above the tree-line and get wonderful views across the Apennines and as far as Versilia on the Mediterranean coast. We climb the Vallone dell’Inferno (Hell’s Valley) up to the summit of Pania della Croce, which at 1,859 meters is one of the highest mountains of the Apuan Alps. We descend along an old mule track which leads us to the abandoned village of Col di Favilla before returning to the van. Overnight in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. The walk: 14 km (8.5 mi); elevation gain 990 m (3,200 ft); walking time: 6-7 hours; difficulty: middle-challenging. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
We have a 30-minute drive this morning to a charming medieval village known for its interesting caves and small café where we can have another cappuccino before heading off on our hike. After about an hour we turn off and start climbing steeply to a small pass with dramatic views onto the surrounding mountains. The path follows a ridge-line, giving us magnificent views on both sides. We eventually arrive at the summit of Mount Forato – “forato” literally means “pierced” in Italian, and indeed a natural rock span arches elegantly over a wide hole in the mountain. This is an ideal spot for a a picnic, after which we gradually descend the other side and loop back to the village to meet our van (the last time I did this walk I saw six or seven chamois deer!). We have a short drive back to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana where you will have time to explore this charming medieval mountain village before dinner. The walk: 13 km (8 mi); elevation gain: 800 m (250 ft); walking time: 5-6 hours; difficulty: moderate challenging. Overnight in Castelnuovo Garfagnana. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Today we summit! After a short drive we reach a small village, more like a collection of isolated houses spread out amongst a forest of old chestnut trees. Along the trail we pass a number of metati, small huts used for drying chestnuts and preparing chestnut flour, formerly a staple of the region. The route climbs towards the exposed (but safe) summit of Mount Sumbra (1,754 meters), considered the most spectacular peak of the Apuan Alps. From here we return back along the same path. The walk: 13 km (8 mi); elevation gain: 990 m (3,200 ft); walking time: 7 hours; difficulty: challenging. Overnight Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
This morning you will have a slightly heavier pack because we will be staying overnight in an isolated mountain rifugio (mountain hut). But first we have a van transfer to take us to the entrance of the Orecchiella Park. We will be heading into the northern part of the Garfagnana, crossing over from the Apuan to the Apennine chain of mountains. This area is characterized by large upland plains cultivated with spelt and dotted with tiny villages and dense forests. From the visitor center we will climb to the summit of Mount Prado, Tuscany’s highest peak at 2,054 m. This is a wild and empty area of Italy, where the silence is only broken by the occasional whistling of marmots. Our destination is a charming mountain rifugio run by a couple of very nice guys who also happen to be excellent cooks, so they will be preparing our dinner this evening. The rifugio has two small dormitory-style rooms with beds and mattresses and bedding. There is even a proper flush toilet! It really is a treat to stay up high, away from the hustle and bustle, and enjoy the sunset and the fresh mountain air before enjoying a hot dinner and gathering around the fire. The walk: 15 km (8.5 mi); elevation gain: 820 m (2,600 ft); walking time: 7 hours; difficulty: challenging. Overnight in the mountain hut. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
After breakfast, our hike continues along the deep valleys of the park, along ancient paths that for centuries were the only means of communication between the isolated villages of this region. We will eventually return to the visitor center and pick up our van and drive to the ancient village of San Pellegrino, which sits at an altitude of 1,500 meters. You will have time before dinner to wander amongst its evocative cobbled streets and alleyways. The walk: 11 km (7 mi); elevation loss: 820 m (2,600 ft); walking time: 4-5 hours; difficulty: moderate. Overnight in San Pellegrino. Hotel and breakfast included.
Our final hike leads us to the last ridge of the Apennines through the area called the “Tre terre”. The name comes from Medieval times when the area was the border between two rival city states, Florence and Modena. We start in a small village and climb up to chestnut forests following an old mule track. We get to an Alpine valley of rich farmland dotted with stone huts; they were previously used for cows but are now restored and rented to tourists in the summer. Our path eventually reaches “Dogana,” the historical borderline between Garfagnana territory and the Florentine city-state. The track continues up to the mountain’s edge and then through the Saltello Pass (1,599m), a historic transportation route between the Serchio Valley and the Emilia Plains. Stop a while to enjoy the magnificent view before carrying on to San Pellegrino, which is only slightly below us. If time allows we visit the local museum to see its interesting collection of tools and artifacts, allowing us a glimpse into the lives of the people of this isolated, mountainous land. We finish the day with one more delicious Tuscan meal in a local restaurant. The walk: distance 16 km (10 mi); elevation gain 1,100 m (3,500 ft); walking time 5-6 hours; difficulty moderate. Overnight in San Pellegrino. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
The tour finishes after breakfast, but your guides will be happy to help you with your onward travel plans. We shuttle everyone to the Lucca train station for connections to the rest of Italy. Breakfast and one group transfer included.
the walks are quite mountainous, with a fair amount of elevation gain and loss on hiking trails. We have designed the trip so that there is always some free time in the late afternoon so you can relax, read, or enjoy the towns where we stay. Breakfast is included every day, and dinners reflect the excellent traditional food of the region. Daily distance between 8 and 12 kms.
Activity rating: 4 out of 5 = Rewarding: The walks have challenging uphills and downhills and are a bit longer. Daily activity is up to six hours. Max distance 20 kms. Note: To enjoy this tour you need to be an experienced hiker who can happily walk for six hours during the day, and also cope with some steep uphills and downhills.
Trip Cost Includes: 7 nights' accommodations (1 night Lucca, 3 nights Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, 1 night in a full service mountain hut, 2 nights San Pellegrino); 7 breakfasts and 6 dinners; bilingual Customwalks guide(s) to accompany the tour and lead you on the walks; all van and luggage transfers starting with pick up from Lucca and ending with the final transfer to Lucca train station.
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Getting There: Lucca is a small city on the Tuscan coast, not far from Florence and Pisa. It is easily accessible by train from either of those cities.
Air: The Florence and Pisa airports are convenient to the start and end of the trip and are well connected to other European cities like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Brussels. For a complete list of Italian airports and a selection of low-cost airlines, see our "Transport Info" page.
Rail: Lucca is only 20 minutes by train from Pisa (2 departures per hour), and trains from Florence take about 1.5 hours, departures every hour. See the Trenitalia website (in English) at this link. For alternative high-speed rail travel, see the Italo website. For complete information on using the Italian train system, see our blog post.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: the trip ends after breakfast on Saturday morning with a transfer to the Lucca train station for 10:00 departures.
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