Tuscany is well-known as an idyllic destination of pastoral scenes of vineyards and farms, its magnificent, historic towns and cities so packed with ancient treasures, art gems, cultural heritage and iconic monuments that it would take a lifetime to truly know them all. Unfortunately, Tuscany is no secret. Each year, millions of people throng to the main sites and clog up the cities’ imposing thoroughfares. But there is a lot to Tuscany other than the art historical cities. Head off the main tourist routes and you will find a quiet and peaceful region, replete with a variety of delightful walking trails.
The peaceful Garfagnana region is a mountainous walker’s paradise, situated between the Alpi Apuane and Apennine mountain ranges. Not far from the bustling tourist attractions of Florence, Lucca and Pisa, this area’s trails could be located in a different world. It could just be the perfect base for a walking holiday, offering a range of hikes and gentle trails to suit all ages, preferences and fitness levels. You can climb to the peaks of the spectacular ranges, explore picturesque lake-side villages and take long distance routes over the rugged landscape. All this in addition to evidence of a rich and fascinating human history throughout the area.
The Garfagnana region is a far cry from the better known rolling hills and gentle ambles of southern Tuscany, though no less in its beauty and age-old charm. From historic Barga, with its surprising links with Scotland, the Garfagnana valley travels up through north-west Tuscany to the fortress towns of San Romano and Castiglione, passing Castelnuovo di Garfagnana along the way. It ends in the north at the Piazza al Serchio and the Parco Naturale dell’Orecchiella. Many of the walking trails that you can follow throughout the region are ancient mule tracks and it is intriguing to consider the many people who have placed their feet where you are now placing yours. The Club Alpino Italiano maintains the tracks and the refuges which provide accommodation in the mountains which range from the sublimely basic to well-equipped and comfortable hostels.
When you require sustenance after a long day’s walking you will not be disappointed by the food you will be able to find here. The food generally is of the quality you would expect in this country of gourmands. There are many local delicacies but the valley is particularly known for its cured hams, pecorino cheese, porcini mushrooms and honey from bees who gather from chestnut flowers. The local meat most frequently eaten is pork, though game meats, trout from local rivers and other meat dishes are also said to be exemplary.
So, if you are thinking about a visit to Tuscany, but would rather escape the crowds, then consider a hiking holiday in gorgeous Garfagnana.