Forging Ahead in Val di Turrite Cava

Each valley branching off from the Serchio River, running through the Mediavalle and Garfagnana, has its own character and none more so than the Turrite Cava valley.

The first part of this valley skirts an artificial lake, goes past a recommendable restaurant, il Laghetto, before plunging further into the depths of the Alpi Apuane and reaching its main centre, Fabbriche di Vallico, well worth visiting for its noble houses and stunning location.

‘Fabbriche’ derives from the word ’Fabbro’ meaning ‘ironsmith’ and the area used to be well-known for its forges, many of which were still in operation until the last quarter of the twentieth century.

The art of forging was first brought to this area in mediaeval times by ironworkers from Bergamo in North Italy. They took advantage of the plentiful local supplies of chestnut wood and water to build up a considerable industrial presence. The forges made a variety of objects from gates and railings, to agricultural implements, to kitchen items such as griddles used to this day for cooking necci (chestnut pancakes).

I stopped to take a look at the largest of these forges at Gragliana a little outside Fabbriche di Vallico. This is the last one to close and has the largest forge hammer in Europe.

After the heavy rains we’ve been having recently the torrent feeding the iron forge was in full spate and the waterfalls produced were quite magnificent.

I tried to locate the forge hammer but was unable to do so. Perhaps it was in one of the buildings, now disused but locked.

There was a narrow bridge over the torrent. Everything looked quite overgrown. I felt, however,  that a little tidying up would make this ferriera a truly interesting industrial archaeological site for visitors.

After the forge the valley rises up into expansive upland pastures and reaches the village of Palagnana. From here I hoped to reach the top of Monte Croce to enjoy the flowering of yet more Narcissi Poeticus just as I had enjoyed them last week on the top of the Prato Fiorito. Unfortunately, the clouds came to envelop an initially blue sky and it started to rain.

I managed to get back to Bagni di Lucca Ponte via Pescaglia, passing other attractive villages, just as the rain turned to ferocious hail. I sheltered and recovered in the Monaco bar there with a welcomed glass of Campari.

Today I’ll make another attempt to visit the top of Monte Croce…

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