Tuesday, September 9, 2008
THE APUANE ALPS
Our trip to date has consisted mostly of cities, large and small. They have all had their individual allure: Haarlem had its bikes, Krakow it's beautiful square, Dubrovnik and Ljubljana their historic areas. This must obviously be the case since that is where one finds accomodations. A focus on the beautiful nature of Europe has therefore been more limited - two or three days maybe at each location.
One of my goals on this year long odyssey is to hike where you can see tall mountains. Not hills, but real mountains. We saw the Julian Alps in Slovenia but it was after taking a cable car up the mountain. Our experience in the Tatra Mountains of Poland was similar to that of Slovenia. So far, only here in northern Tuscany in the Apuane Alps, have we been able to take a leisurely hike on a trail and watch the peaks above you.
We drove about 50 km north through winding roads to arrive at the cute little alpine town of Fornolasco. Here we took a trail for about an hour along a creek which at times was still and serene and at other times rough. The trail was well maintained with stones lining much of the way. Occasionally we could get a glimpse of Pania Secca, a pointed rocky pinnacle (about 6100 feet or 4500 feet above our heads) jutting out with its fellow crags. You would have to be a mountain climber to ascend that peak, but looking at it from a distance was very nice (and much safer). After having lunch on the trail, we headed back and found a place where you could access the stream we had been following. The temperature of the water was wonderfully cool (causing frostbite after ten seconds!!) so we stripped off our shoes and socks and dipped our puppies in. Very "cool" scene.
We finished up our day with beer, vino and two hot chocolates at the local tavern. Only italian was spoken amongst the locals relaxing, sharing gossip and playing cards. A nice end to a nice day.
I discovered from the tavern keeper that in 1996 the placid stream we hiked beside became a raging torrent that took out the church, several buildings and killed a person. The tavern we sat at was on the site of that church.