It has been lovely to relive the summer days high in the mountains of Northern Tuscany. Our final hike was to the summit of Monte Prado, the highest of the peaks in the Tuscan part of the Apennines.
It was a stunning day – just a few puffy clouds in a perfect blue sky. Once we had climbed out of the village and ascended, most of the walk was along ridges, with staggering views in every direction. I loved it. For some reason, though, I have very few photos from the day. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because my battery ran out – maybe I was just concentrating on the walking with legs aching from so many steep climbs in the week!
So here are my last few photos from my wonderful Tuscan week.
My first post about Garfagnana took in three glorious walks and plenty of sumptuous pictures of the gorgeous place I stayed. With two more walks to write about, I feel nostalgic for those hikes and the stunning scenery they took me through. My last trip to Italy had been back in 1989; after my week in July, I’m determined not to leave it so long again. When we have the whole world to explore, it’s sometimes easy to forget the riches right on our own doorstep.
Our fourth walk was another circuit; not as high as other days, as the weather forecast wasn’t so good.
The weather was glorious as we set off and climbed higher, passing through a small village where most of us stopped to splash ourselves with cool, crisp, clean water from the village tap. I love the fact that in this part of Italy, the water is so good that you can quite safely drink from the communal tap.
As we left the village, we entered woodland for about 40 minutes. The flowers were gorgeous and pausing to take photos gave me a great excuse to rest in between steep upward trekking!
We emerged from the woods onto a plateau with a vast escarpment above. There’s some kind of technical term for the glacial bowl that formed the plateau but I’ll be buggered if I can remember what that is! Anyhow, it was incredibly pretty, with little stone huts and at the far end a steep-roofed church that fitted perfectly with the trees and rocks behind.
Onward! And into more woodland. The skies darkened and a storm was threatening. Our leader, Liz, reckoned we had just enough time to walk out onto the lookout point before the storm rolled in, so those of us brave enough to go, did. The dogs weren’t happy about it though!
Fortunately Liz had planned her walk well; the promontory that formed the lookout was steps away from a refuge. We started out on the ‘back porch’ but looking at the speed of the incoming storm, we quickly retreated inside. At first we couldn’t see a thing but eventually the eyes adjusted. It was a lovely little place and eating lunch on the pews of this little chapel was great.
There’s nothing quite like the freshness of mountain air straight after rain. Somehow the colours seemed sharper too. As we descended, I was stopping every few seconds to capture the delicate, glorious flowers and baccipretti.
Join me again (tomorrow I hope!) for my final walk in Tuscany.
I started a new job in August. Blogging, creative writing and photography have all taken a backseat while I have been settling in at the Oxford Martin School, part of the University of Oxford. It’s a great job and my first big project was to launch a report called ‘Now for the Long Term’, which makes recommendations to switch political and business focus from short term pressures to long term needs. It has been an exciting time and I’ve met fascinating people, from Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, to Al Gore, former US vice-president.
But now it’s time to make time for my personal passions. Before I started the job, I booked myself onto a wonderful week-long walking holiday in Tuscany. A small group travelled to an area in the north of the well-known region, which is a far cry from the busy, bustling tourist Tuscany that is flooded with us Brits each year.
Our wonderful tour leader, Liz, met us at the airport and made a quick nip into the centre of Pisa, so those of us who had never been could take in the leaning tower. I just couldn’t resist the very cheesy photo…
This was a week of pretty strenuous walks; we walked steeply up into the mountains most days, seeing very few people as we wended our way up to staggeringly gorgeous views. What really made the trip was having a picture perfect base to wake up in and return to each day. Braccicorti is an agritourismo – an agricultural location that welcomes guests into the farmhouse. Braccicorti is a stunner; it is run by a welcoming, friendly family who make glorious food from mainly homegrown ingredients (or local where it’s not produced on their land). And the setting couldn’t be better. I had a room with a view and there was a fabulous swimming pool for that essential post-hike swim. Here’s a selection of pics to give you a feel for just what an idyllic place it was.
The walks themselves were no less stunning. Here’s a selection of pictures from day one, which took us pretty high up.
Day two saw us climb higher – to 1,754 metres to the summit of Mount Sumbra. Another stunning hike.
Day three was a hot one but I didn’t mind at all, as we took a circular walk in the valley – no uphill climbing means I can cope with any amount of heat! Revisiting these photos in depths of late, chilly & dark, autumn is a joy. I am transported right back into the fields, villages and heat of those July days.
After three days’ walking, we were due for a break. I had been to Lucca in the past, so I decided to stay local and go to the local town – Castelnuovo. The rest of the group did too; I think everyone was too knackered to get up for an early train! It’s a sweet town but I failed to take a single decent photo apart from our gorgeous lunch – a deli just outside the town walls put together a great plate of cheeses and nibbles for us.
Two more days’ walking to come but I’ll leave that for another day!