Walking in the Appenines

Many routes follow millennium old mule tracks through chestnut forests.

by Ron Gauld | June 2019

The Appenines form the backbone of Italy running from in the North, through the Regions of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria. There is wonderful walking on well marked trails maintained by the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI). When we came to live in Barga 16 years ago one of the first things I did was to join CAI, as much to learn of the walking opportunities as to meet and speak with Italians. Our area around Barga, just north of Lucca has a wide range of possible routes, many following millennium old mule tracks through the chestnut forests which cover the hills.

The AppeninesThe Appenines

From Barga the mountains to the east rise to over 1000 metres at the village of Renaio then continue to the summit of Monte Giovo at 1900 metres. There are easy walks and more arduous hikes but always through shady forest and with magnificent views. The area is famous for the Porcini mushrooms which sprout in the early summer and autumn whenever the light rains and sunshine combine to make for perfect growing conditions. We regularly climb though the terraced forests in search of the precious funghi, which can be eaten fresh or sun dried for later use.

Millennium old mule tracksMillennium old mule tracks

Above Barga is the mountain village of Sommocolonia at 700 metres which is a pleasant half day walk on ancient mule tracks, still well maintained. Sommocolonia was originally a Roman outpost, guarding the routes up the Auser (Serchio) valley to the north of Lucca. More recently it was the site of an infamous WW2 battle in December 1944 between advancing Allies and retreating Nazi troops.Another interesting route from Barga crosses the valley of the Serchio river to Gallicano then up the valley of the Torrite to the fascinating Eremità (hermitage) of Calomini. The church and monastery were built on the site of a natural cave which had been adopted by a 12th century hermit. The nave and altar of the church are set within the mountain. 100m from the Eremità is a restaurant of the same name which is famous for local specialities of Foccaccia Leva and roast trout. The restaurant has its own organic farm which provides much of the produce. The gentle two hour hike passes through open farmland and along the banks of a cool mountain river.