Puccini, porcini, pesto, pasta and the Alpi Apuane – ciao Annie


With a British summer of searing sunshine and blue skies a distant memory it was time to track down the ever considered but never explored mountains of Tuscany.  3 hours on a nifty BA flight, a chaotic Pisa airport, a 10 minute bus trip and the Leaning Tower all pillars and posts was before us..

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

A swift Moretti, a slice of pizza, a riverside gelato and it was all aboard for a taxi ride to the magnificent mountains of Garfagnana where we were greeted with a sun setting across the mountains.

Swimming pool of Tuscany at sunset

A quick dip, well I wanted a swimming gala but sadly no one was playing, then down to the farmhouse of the agriturismo Braccicorti – hello Rupert and Angela, for a hearty Tuscan supper and a few not quite so fine glasses of the local vino rosso.  Ouch.

Garfagnana, Tuscany, Tuscan walks

Morning mist in the valleys

Fab early morning with a little inversion and Incredible views across the valley, vineyards heavy with grapes, figs on the trees, chestnuts, nectarines, apples, plums and more.  This was like an exotic version of Kent, but more than a tad warmer.

A view of vines set to the mountains

Surrounded by produce – all ready for the eating.

Sunday saw a jolly little stride out through the valleys and up into one or two Tuscan villages, a church here a church there but never too far from a glass of birra or a powerful espresso, but as far from Starbucks or Costa as you can get…..no complaints here.

View of Tuscan rooftops

Tuscan tiled roofs viewed from the ramparts of Castiglione

Pania di Corfino was on the agenda for Team Blighty, with a hunt for wild boar and chestnuts, had I misheard?  No matter on we crashed through the  heavily wooded and very beautiful Orecchiella Park breaking out to an impressive open summit – no great pics, sorry.  A ‘nice’ but not challenging day with a sun drenched café finish in town.

Bilberry fields surround Monte Prado

Bilberries, the leaves as scarlet as it is possible to be

Having found no Porcini thus far, plenty of locals plundering the woodland tho’, a punishing climb across the Bilberry fields it was, oh and apparently more Porcini woodland, uh huh.  Monte Prado and the Apennine ridge on the border of Toscana and Emilia Romana a stunning display and beyond anything I have seen even the boldest of Lake District seasons did not compare.

The intrepid guide Clare, season-after-season but even she had never had a season like this.  The downside is the berries are teeny weeny and even the locals need special devices to pick sufficient to make the tiniest pot of jam…. The walk to the summit was easily followed and well worth the effort.

Bilberry fields en route to Monte Prado

Astounding.

Exhausted by the hills it was time for some culture – and with a toot toot of the local train – we were Lucca bound.  A little known but ancient Etruscan city, once ruled by Napoleon’s sister and the birthplace of Puccini, a Pope and a number of other well knowns.  Protected by high ancient walls and filled with interesting buildings of ages past but most importantly host to some of the best grub in the region – this city is well worth a visit.

A statue of Puccing in Lucca

Puccini – resting outside his museum

But enough of this nonsense we were here to march and march we would.  Boots squeezed on and a stride out to Campocatino and on up to the hermits cave.  A seemingly easy walk, but we managed to take a few off pistes, the worst culminating in a challenging clamber across a mushroom clad wood, no porcini, with hidden precipices all trying to lure us their way.

At last some locally sourced Porcini, not picked by us, but purchased by us for a pirate’s ransom.  Delicious.

A pastoral village in Tuscany

Campocatino shepherd’s village

This is an area well worth exploring, known for its bike trails as well as its walking.  The locals have shot most of the birds and the wildlife has suffered too.  Gradually the focus is changing so cross fingers the wildlife will start to return.  The landscapes remain incredible, the hospitality better than France, the food locally sourced, generally fabulous and not insanely priced.

Visit when you can.  It really is well worth a little of your time.

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