There are two ways of reaching Garfagnana’s “capital”, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, from Gallicano. One is to follow the main road through the gorge. This has the advantage of fewer hairpin bends but greater possibility of icy surfaces in winter. The other takes one over Monte Perpoli. There are a substantial number of bends but one is rewarded by the beautiful views over the Serchio valley. There are a surprising number of villages on Monte Perpoli. One of them is Perpoli itself, which I have described at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/precipitous-perpoli/. But there is also Cascio, Debbio, Broglio, Brucciano, Promiana, Campo (described at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/saint-julian-at-campo/), Monte Rotondo and several others.
At the top of Monte Perpoli is a bar and restaurant at which I used to stop quite frequently for lunch when I was teaching at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. It’s called Trattoria Bonini and its fine workers’ lunches at only ten euros have received the accolade of trip advisor reviews (see http://www.tripadvisor.it/Restaurant_Review-g676357-d1436118-Reviews-Trattoria_Bonini-Castelnuovo_di_Garfagnana_Province_of_Lucca_Tuscany.html). In fact, it’s been voted the best restaurant in the Castelnuovo area out of twenty two!
From the trattoria, roads spread out to even more villages: Eglio, Sassi, and Montaltissimo for example. These all worth visiting for their hidden and often neglected riches. Yesterday I decided I’d go to Piglionico and Alpe San Antonio.
I know Piglionico well as it’s the start of footpath no. 7 which takes one to the Rifugio Rossi in under two hours. The rifugio Rossi is an excellent starting point for reaching the top of the Pania Della Croce, Pania Secca and visiting that amazing limestone plateau called la Vetricia. Last time we were at the rifugio Rossi it was for a concert given by two sopranos accompanied by the brass section of the orchestra Del Maggio musicale Fiorentino. The area’s natural amphitheatre and the stupendous views from five thousand feet made the slog up to attend a concert truly worth it.
Piglionico also has a more sinister connotation as a centre of resistance to the Nazis during WWII. The little chapel is a witness to the struggle and in it is a memorial to these killed for liberty.
Several of the victims were thrown to their deaths off this precipice opposite.
I’d never been to Alpe Sant’Antonio so was keen to explore it. Like Campo Catino and San Luigi it’s an old summer pasture area practising transhumance. The population inflates a little during the summer but is reduced to around three in winter. The houses are spread out rather than clustered together.
At the end of the road is a nice trattoria called “La Betulla” (The birch) and there is also an agriturismo to stay nearby.
There is a sweet church built on a hillock at the end of a fir-tree alley and the whole place has wonderful views.
There is also a little shrine opposite the church and a further shrine on the way back to the trattoria’s crossroad.
This area was inaugurated as a village square dedicated to Fosco Maraini in a ceremony described at
But who was Fosco Maraini and what is his connection to this way-out place? He was an anthropologist, explorer, orientalist, poet, photographer, climber and writer born in 1912.
Fosco had a particularly strong relationship with China and Japan. His book on “Secret Tibet” is a must-read and his second wife was Japanese. Indeed, when the square dedicated to Fosco was inaugurated in Alpe Sant’antonio there was a significant Japanese presence.
Maraini died in 2004 and wished to be buried in a cemetery in the Garfagnana. The one at Alpe Sant’Antonio was chosen and here is Maraini’s tomb:
For more information about this multi-talented guy go to http://www.foscomaraini.net/
Isn’t it amazing how even a seemingly insignificant place like Alpe Sant’Antonio can reveal whole new areas of knowledge! The entire area is definitely a trekker’s paradise and is now particularly beautiful with its autumn colours appearing.