There are a very large number of circular routes one can take in our part of the world especially when entering the Garfagnana. One of my favourites, because of the variety of scenery encountered and the amazingly diverse sights one comes across, starts at Gallicano. I know this one well because between 2009 and 2010 I taught at the Gallicano Istituto Comprensivo, the very modern looking structure one can see on the left hand side of the road and built as one of the first specifically built seismic sensitive school in the area, and explored the area in my free afternoons there.
From Gallicano one take the road to Vergemoli, deviating to visit the Eremo di Calomini, an amazing monastery, half of which is built into the mountain and which has a good restaurant nearby. (See my post at
for more details).
Vergemoli is a surprisingly well-kept large village (it’s a comune in fact) with a couple of interesting churches, stunning views over the towering Panie mountains and a very attractive streetscape.
From Vergemoli one can take the panoramic road which descends toward the famous grotta Del Vento with its very extensive stalagmite and stalactite formation. Apart from a dip in a swimming pool the cave is an excellent place to keep cool as it has a constant temperature throughout the year of 10.7 degrees Centigrade.
Next stop is Fornovolasco, with lovely modern frescoes in the church and an interesting industrial archaeological park nearby called il parco battiferro (lit. beat iron)
Here it’s possible to return to Gallicano but I far prefer taking the high road to one of the most magical villages in the area, San Pellegrinetto.
Beware, however. the road is narrow, winding and subject to frequent landslides. To drive on it is rather like taking a vessel across rough waters. The sign warns you!
I then descend via Campolemisi into the beautiful valley of the Turrite and enter the delights of Fabbriche di Vallico before which there are at least two restored mills.
(See my post at
for San Pellegrinetto)
A whole day could be needed for this tour allowing for walk, visits and a suitable lunch break.
Indeed, there is so much to see on this journey that I can only start describing some features of it here in more detail..
To start off, there are some views of the oratory dedicated to Saint Anthony in Vergemoli which dates back to the eighteenth century.
The exterior has a fine portico which allows pilgrims to pray when the chapel is closed and even make an offering through a grill into a hole in the interior of the building.
The actual shrine to Saint Anthony, which has been recently restored, is one of the most elaborate I have seen in the area.
The interior is simple but elegant and is very well kept up.
Outside the campanile leads the way to mountain paths which are well worth exploring.
As many will know popular Saint Anthony is the saint of lost causes and articles. He could, thus, most useful invoked if you can’t find your car keys or your partner at a large exhibition or a pet that’s gone missing. He’s certainly worked for me and I may need to have further recourse to him the older I get, I think……