Mountain Magnificence

Today it’s started somewhat cloudily and the temperature has fallen to below twenty degrees centigrades. One shouldn’t complain, however, since September and October up to this point have had balmy, sunny weather, great for walking.

I met up with some friends at Roggio last Wednesday, a small village above Vagli di sotto and its artificial lake. I realised I’d been there before, in 2012 and instantly recognised the church of San Bartolomeo perched on top of the compact village. In fact, the big village festa is on the 24th of August, the same time that Bagni di Lucca has its Saint Bartholomew’s fair. Perhaps next year I’ll try to be at Roggio instead on that day.


Incidentally, Roggio is famous for two things. First it is supposed to have the best porchetta (a savoury, fatty, boneless traditional Italian pork roast) of any place around. Second, it has a particularly strong connection with south-east London (where I was born and bred) since so many Roggiani emigrated there. Evidently, if one is in London it’s possible to attend a Roggio festa there on August 24. I must find out exactly where it takes place. Tulse Hill, Lewisham or even East Dulwich?

We decided we’d take our walk before having lunch which is always a good idea unless one brings a light packed repast. The unmetalled road opened out onto a beautifully extensive ‘alpeggio’ (pasture) and a magnificent scenario of mountains spread themselves before me. I recognized most of them. To the right was the Monte Pisanino, the highest of the Apuan range at a height of 6384 and one which I’d climbed back in 1994.

The dip in the range was the Focolaccia pass where there’s the rifugio Aronte, the oldest of the mountain refuges, dating back to 1880. I remember spending the night on the lower slopes of the Pisanino (it was summer but at over 1000 metres the nights are still rather chilly…)

In the morning of that summer of 1994 I carried on skirting the path round the Roccandagia which is the cliff-like mountain rising above Campo Catino, another alpeggio which now has become a popular summer resort with its characteristic little stone houses. We went to a festa there in 2015, described in my post at which also mentions my adventures and a poem I wrote on Monte Pisanino. Cheese-making was one of the crafts being demonstrated and there were other activities and an exhibition. It was a truly fun day out.

I could see all these places so clearly in the crystal clear air on our walk. It was a truly wonderful (and slightly nostalgic) experience.

We passed a cottage which seemed to have been recently deserted. It was a sort of rustic Marie Celeste and eerily sad to explore. The ghost of its previous inhabitants still seemed to haunt it.

For lunch we returned to La Guardia restaurant which I would thoroughly recommend for its special feel, the very friendly atmosphere and the great food.


We were treated to antipasto, primo and secondo but no-one could manage a dolce so we all plumped for caffé macchiato instead.

It was the best idea possible to have done the walk before such a deliciously gargantuan lunch!

The only disappointed was that we missed the sale of some excellent porcini mushrooms to some clearly more cunning visitors.


We then visited the village of Roggio which stands at a height of 2814 feet. The view from the church was spectacular, taking in the whole of the Vagli valley and beyond to the Apennines. It was lovely to see that many of the houses had been roofed with the traditional grey stone slates in a Welsh-like manner, rather than the more modern red tiles,

We explored a stretch of the Sentiero Del Fungo which is an old mulattiera (mule-track) connecting Roggio with Casatico. I remember doing this track with Sandra in 2012 and reaching Casatico.

By this stage, however, we felt that one longish walk was enough so returned back to Roggio after a little distance.

We said goodbye to each other and I jumped back onto my scooter. The Sentiero Del Fungo, however, still tempted me so I decided to risk it on two wheels. Apart from a few muddy tracts it was in reasonable shape I knew the woods around me would be full of mushrooms but a day would have been necessary to fully fathom out where they were.  On the way there were useful signs telling visitors what mushrooms were to be avoided if one wished to live another day. If in doubt all of them!

To walk the distance to Casatico would definitely have taken ‘un’oretta’ which means anything from over an hour to almost two.

Casatico was a tiny place, a hamlet, in fact and a road from it led back to Camporgiano with its imposing fortress, now in private hands and its ceramics museum, for ever closed and no-one to tell me who had the key to it. Next time I’ll try to phone 0583 618888 and make a proper date. Another number was also suggested:  Signor Sarti on 338 28 79741


I passed some nice pumpkins, two imposing railway viaducts, one of which has a footpath along it and then re-entered the very familiar countryside around Bagni di Lucca and home.



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