The Restful Southern Apuan Mountains

The southern Apuans are also known as the ‘Apuane riposanti’: literally the reposing or resting Apuans. Not as high or as dramatic as the central and northern Apuans they nevertheless give one plenty of scope for fine walking and wonderful views.

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A few days ago I did a circular tour expecting to get to Camaiore via the Luccese pass but, in fact, turning off to explore the possibility of climbing Monte Prana (or Prano) which is only 4005 feet high as compared to Monte Pisanino which is 6300 feet high.

From Diecimo I avoided the right bend in the road which leads to Pescaglia and, instead, travelled straight on the little road which leads to the ancient foundry I’ve described at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/back-to-the-iron-age/ and the magic Christmas crib cave which we visited last December. (See https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/a-mountain-nativity-scene-in-a-cave/ ). I then continued on the road leading to Gombitelli. At Passo Luccese I noticed a characteristic red and white footpath sign with number 101 printed on it. I blanked out any thoughts of 1984 and took to the path.

The first part of 101 consists of a gravelly road with already extensive views on all sides and some very pretty flora.

At a certain point, before a very large tree, there’s a shrine dedicated to the Virgin. The gravel road stops and gives way to a delightful footpath through a forest of leccio (holm oaks) and conifers.

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There were two signs indicating the way to Monte Prana. Each indicated an opposite direction, however. I took the one that seemed more recent and larger.

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I was nearing the spot where the path come out of the forest and into the upland pastures when clouds gathered quite rapidly and forecast a sudden change in the weather. I also looked at my watch and felt that this walk needed more time. (In fact, one should leave a minimum of five hours to do it.)

I returned to the road at passo Luccese and noticed a sign directing one to a church. Now I’ve scootered over this pass several times but never imagined that there could be a gem of Tuscan Romanesque tucked away in the forest a short distance away.

The church of san Jacopo is, in fact, pre-Romanesque and dates from the eighth century. It’s a truly magical, almost Arthurian, building (closed, as usual) constructed in that noble and spiritual style characteristic of its times.

The name Lucese derives either from Latin ‘lucens’ meaning shining’ or from Latin ‘Lucus’ meaning sacred forest. The church was actually transformed from an ancient temple dedicated to the woodland and hunting goddess Diana and was re-dedicated to San Jacopo (Jacob) by Paul of Antioch, a disciple of Saint Peter, and probably Lucca’s first bishop. (San Paolino). There are documents dated 1247 showing that the church had a hermitage and a hostel for travellers and pilgrims going on the path between San Graziano and Fiano.

Continuing on the Lucese road I reached the picturesque mountain village of Gombitelli and descended to the Val Freddana main road which leads to Camaiore. By this time it had become rather late so, taking the road back in the direction of Lucca, I turned left to return to the Lucese pass and thence home.

There are so many roads, tracks and paths to explore in our area even if one has been resident here for over ten years. Who said one can get bored with the place after five years? There’s a whole new list to be made of the charming villages in this Camaiore/Lucchesia borderland to explore and the walks to do among the ‘riposanti’ Apuans…

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4 thoughts on “The Restful Southern Apuan Mountains

  1. Special area this I wonder if Marilde di Canossa knew this tiny church seems truly a gem it once must have been a very active busy area bustling with people unlike the quiet and stillness of the 21st century. What amazes me always is the distances between central areas and these places tucked away in the middle of nowhere how on earth these people survived and yet it seems that there was in the Middle Ages or even predating that time a hive of activity all vanished now and left to one’s vivid imagination. It is truly fascinating to imagine life in those times. I mean take our village there once in our time even a shop prior to our arrival a bar the chiesina or romitorio for prayer worship and meditation still exists the laundry area the tiny mill can both be seen seen although now overgrown and mostly defunct incidentally there may have been more mills in this area as there are several mill wheels strewn around the village the local forno or bread oven is still in use baking bread daily here too must have been a thriving community of religious order. By the little Church there is a clue as the Passionisti Fathers have left a prayer message as follows ” Ai piedi di questa Croce O mio Jesu prometto col cuore e con la voce di non peccar mai piu'” ( this is to promise with all one’s heart and voice at the foot of this cross to never sin again – there is in fact a wooden cross in situ) well if nothing else it is a good reminder to be on one’s best behaviour I wish this was adhered to more by one and all! The immediate area too must have been a great thriving religious community. Hence the peace and quiet of the area broken mostly only by bird song pine martens at night the bleating of sheep and the cling clang of sheeps bells.

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