• Jim Kachenmeister

Take a Hike!

Updated: Mar 12, 2019

There are three magnificent cypress trees lining the road in front of il Borghetto in San Gennaro. Every time I see them, my eye is drawn to two stripes of paint, one white, and one red, drawn across the trunk of one of them. Placed there by the Club Alpina d’Italia (CAI) it is a trail marker guiding hikers up the wide path from our Borghetto apartments to the village of San Gennaro. From there, CAI has marked off another half-dozen hiking trails further up into the forested mountains where trekkers can find shade and cool breezes to bring relief on those blistering hot July and August days.

We are blessed to live between two majestic mountain ranges surrounding Lucca. The Apuane and the Apennines run parallel for a short distance north of Lucca and they provide some of the best hiking trails in Tuscany. The most spectacular climb in our region is to scale the Pania della Croce. At 1,858 meters (6,100 feet), the views from the top are even more spectacular than being on top of a 12,000 foot mountain where the valleys below you are at 8,000 feet. This is because the Pania della Croce is only about 14 kilometers (less than 9 miles) from the sea level of the Mediterranean. From its peak, you can see beyond Pisa to Livorno and the island of Elba to the south, and all the way up the Versilia coast past Forte dei Marmi and beyond to the north. Only moderately difficult, the climb to the top takes about four hours from either of the two starting points.

Park your car at the Piglionico starting point and follow Track 7 toward the top. Or drive through Pietrasanta and up to the village of Levigliani to attack the climb from the south. At Levigliani, you can park your car and take a shuttle bus up the hill for another mile to the trailhead.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to take a break at one of the rifugios for some refreshments and lunch. These simple stone houses serve a wonderful lunch and homemade pastries for your afternoon break. If your trek starts at Piglionico, you will reach Rifugio Rossi in about two hours. If you approach the Pania starting from Levigliani, you will find Rifugio del Freo after just one hour of hiking. From there it is three hours to the top of the Pania. You can even book a spartan room in advance to sleep overnight at either of the rifugios. One year our group did just that and with headlamps firmly in place, we left Rifugio del Freo well before dawn the next morning in order to see the sunrise from the top of the Pania. Spectacular doesn’t begin to describe it.

The CAI office in Lucca will provide you with detailed topographical maps for any area you wish to explore. Avanti!

The Peak of Pania della Croce at 1,858 meters (6,100 feet)

The Pania della Croce from near Rifugio del Freo

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