A tempting taste of trekking in the high valley of the Serchio River in the province of Lucca, Italy; sometimes the perfect outdoor adventure just happens.
We were happy enough with narrow stone streets of the walled city of Lucca – until we saw the distant mountains. Castelnuova Garfagnana was a gateway to the Apuan Alps, and it was only an hour away by train. Off we went.
A huge map adorns the outer wall of the information centre – outlining roads and towns and long red lines of hikes. Countless options. Where to start?
We saw two castles marked on the map, red lines leading to each. We chose Sassi. Asking inside, we found out it was only a four-hour return hike – perfect for our timeframe.
Map in hand, our only dilemma was finding the trailhead in the maze of city streets. Several false starts behind us, we stood at the signpost with an arrow pointing towards Sassi.
A canopy of verdant green enclosed moss-covered cobblestones, each one carefully laid centuries before. Sections of the stone mule path were still completely intact, others torn apart. Red and white painted lines on trees, rocks and the occasional building mark the route.
Sweat rolled down my back as climb defied the information centre staff’s description of the route as easy. We gained over 1200 feet of elevation in just over an hour and a half, with increasingly spectacular views of dozens of villages strung out on mountain slopes.
From the castle above Sassi that was our destination, we gazed upwards to where the track continues. Our short trek was a mere few miles in nine-day trekking loop crossing through the Apuan Alps Regional Park and Apienne Tosco-Emiliano National Park. On our next trip, we’re coming back with enough time to do the entire route.
Call it kismet, serendipity, fate – sometimes the perfect outdoor adventure just falls into your lap!