Garfagnana, a region of Tuscany enclosed between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines, is a wild and authentic Tuscany that can offer you landscapes of spectacular contrasts, where the mountain dominates. From the bare rocky peaks of the Apuan Alps to the green sinuosity of the Apennines, the landscape is reminiscent of fantasy tales of Elves, Gnomes or Hobbits and in fact its mountains are full of stories and legends.
Today we will show you the best trekking routes in Garfagnana in the mountains of this splendid land … and beyond! Below we will also talk about the easier panoramic trails and excursions in Garfagnana. A pair of boots, a backpack with a water bottle and the adventure can begin! There are paths for every type of training, paths suitable for experts and paths suitable for children too, which will allow you to reach breathtaking views, breathe deeply the scents of the mountain and the pure air, away from everyday stress, finally dedicating your time to your well-being.
If you write about mountains in Garfagnana, you name the queen of the Apuan Alps, the Pania Della Croce: the fourth highest mountain in the Apuan Alps, sung by poets such as Dante, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Pascoli and D’Annunzio. The path that leads to its summit is an easy trekking route and very popular with tourists, a panoramic path in Garfagnana also suitable for children: climbing the path up to the Rossi Refuge you will discover the picturesque “Naso dell’Omo Morto” also known as the Dead Man’s Nose. The Pania Della Croce together with other mountain peaks overlap forming an anthropomorphic figure reminiscent of a lying man, called the Dead Man (Omo Morto), whose belly is represented precisely by the Pania; the particular figure of the Dead Omo is visible only in some areas of the Garfagnana, for example from Villa Raffaelli, it is not possible to see its face: just move towards Castelnuovo di Garfagnana to see it entirely.
The mountains in Garfagnana are as ancient and mysterious as they are full of legends … the legend of the Omo Morto tells that many years ago, on that mountain, a shepherd and a shepherdess promised each other eternal love: but the young man was fascinated by that sea that in the distance he could see from those peaks and one day he decided to leave to get to know those places in search of fortune. The young shepherdess was left alone in the rugged mountains waiting to see her lover return one day, until a young shepherd, seeing her sad admiring the sea, asked her the reason for her sadness. In secret he too had fallen in love with the girl, but seeing that his every attempt was in vain, he decided to ask heaven for help and sacrifice himself for love: he laid down on the summit of the mountain and was transformed into a stone giant that would have prevented the shepherdess from seeing that sea that caused her so much pain.
After this brief introduction to the mountains in Garfagnana with the famous Omo Morto, we now discover the best trekking routes in Garfagnana in the mountains! The following itineraries will take you to the most famous mountains in Garfagnana, and will offer you breathtaking views. Below, we will also list other trekking itineraries in Garfagnana on less mountainous areas, such as trekking routes around Lake Vagli, Campocatino and much more! Before starting, we recommend that you also take a look at our article where we talk about what to see in Garfagnana, so as to have a 360 degrees experience!
From Castelnuovo di Garfagnana we take the road to Molazzana, following the signs for Piglionico Rifugio Rossi, and park the car where the road ends: the path continues smoothly to Rifugio Rossi (1609 m) for an hour and a half. When you pass the beech forest and discover the bare rocky peaks, the landscape becomes spectacular: you see the strange tip of the “Nose of the Dead Omo” and the refuge nestled under the gigantic silhouette of the Pania: she is the Queen of the Apuane with her 1858 above sea level If you want to reach the top, there are still 45 minutes going up from the Canale dell’Inferno: but the view from up there is wonderful because it seems to fly to the Tyrrhenian Sea and you can dominate the whole valley.
If Pania is the queen of the Apuan Alps, the king is Monte Pisanino with its 1946 meters above sea level. However, its climb can only be tackled by experienced hikers. The less demanding route on the Pisanino among the various options, but always not easy, long and tiring, starts from Val Serenaia with path 178 which leads to the Foce di Cardeto. Descend for a hundred meters to Buca della Neve where the blue path to the summit begins. You arrive at the Mouth of the Altar and then pass into the Canale delle Rose along the ridge to the summit. Many sections of this route are exposed and with steep slopes therefore it can only be tackled by expert hikers.
Now let’s talk about another giant, Monte Prado, 2054 masl. The highest peak in Tuscany. Here we are in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, the landscape changes sharply, becoming soft and sinuous, but it still gives us breathtaking views. This time we climb the Apennines at an altitude of 2050 meters above sea level and park the car at the Casone di Profecchia. Next to the hotel we take the staircase and follow the mule track in the woods. After passing the forest road to Passo delle Forbici, we travel along Abetina Reale and pass the Segheria Refuge. We climb up to the pastures of Monte Prado and on the path that passes through blueberry meadows we reach Lake Bargetana; you are enchanted by this mountain landscape with its spectacular panorama. Near the Bargetana Refuge and the Battisti Refuge welcome hikers who reach this watershed between Tuscany and Emilia. The following path re-enters by closing a loop. Retracing the usual outward route, the route is shorter.
Finally, how not to mention the most fascinating and particular mountain of the Apuan Alps: Monte Forato. Monte Forato in Garfagnana is a spectacular rock arch with a span of 32 meters: for this characteristic it has been used over the centuries as a sundial, for the observation of celestial bodies, the equinoxes and the double sunset of the sun: today even acts as a support for a huge and crazy swing that adrenaline lovers will not miss, of course safely with the help of expert technicians. The path to reach the top starts from Fornovolasco, continue by car towards the Grotta del Vento and you will see the sign on the left, where you can park. From here the path number 6 goes up passing in front of the “Tana che scla” (visit possible only to expert speleologists) and continues with the branch number 12 directly up to the hole. The climb is very steep, but the arrival rewards the effort for the wonderful panorama of the Garfagnino side and the Versilian side with the Tyrrhenian Sea. Upon returning, we recommend a cooling bath in the stream that will take away all the tiredness. Then, the steeper but shorter way to reach the summit. Approximately 1h and 30m of ascent.
Alternatively, you can do a circular route:
We are in the heart of the Garfagnana, a few km from Villa Raffaelli, a farmhouse in Garfagnana in the town of Fosciandora. If you are staying at Villa Raffaelli then do not miss the 5 best trekking routes in Fosciandora! In any case, throughout the territory there are wonderful trekking routes to rediscover this segment of wild Tuscany, which compete for spectacularity with the most famous ones of the Alps. Not only in Trentino, even here, between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines the landscapes are sublime and unexpectedly particular. Let’s continue to explore them together! And don’t forget to take advantage of the excursions for fantastic tastings of the typical Garfagnini flavors. So let’s continue, we have chosen for you the easiest easy excursions in Garfagnana and suitable for everyone.
If you are wondering what to see in Garfagnana with your children, this is the trekking route in Garfagnana for you. An ancient shepherds’ pasture, Campocatino is located at the foot of Roccandagia. Walking through the magical alleys between the stone houses is like walking in a nativity scene, it is like taking a leap into the past; the view is majestic. In Campocatino there is a bar and restaurant; better to book: alternatively there are also refreshment points in Roggio or Vagli. The mighty shape of Roccandagia dominates the glacial basin and on this mountain which is climbed by ironed paths for the more experienced; the path that leads to the hermitage of San Viano, on the other hand, is easily practicable by adults and children and in the final stretch, through a stairway in the rock, it reaches the suggestive place where the holy hermit lived: from the rocky wall the Apuane dug by the Quarries of marble and the Arnetola valley with the Via Vandelli, an exceptional architectural work that connects Modena to Massa: 350 km of path that crosses the Apennines and the Apuan Alps and which here, overcoming the Tambura Pass, shows the most spectacular stretch. To get to the Hermitage of San Viano, you can reach the oasis of Campocatino by car passing by the Vagli Lake. Follow the signs for Campocatino. From there, the path to the hermitage is signposted.
If you are in Garfagnana you cannot miss the excursion to San Pellegrino in Alpe, the highest town in the Apennines, with the Hospital of Matilde di Canossa built for the pilgrims who passed from there on the Via Francigena: in the church the remains of the Saint, son of the King of Scotland, who lived here in poverty in communion with the animals of the wood and who, according to legend, fought with the Devil by renouncing wealth; the Giro del Diavolo is a trekking route in Garfagnana that from the town climbs up the 00 trail with a wonderful view of the border crest between Emilia and Tuscany, it can be traveled on foot but also by MTB. You can observe the famous “macea” of stones brought by pilgrims in penance: then you go down to the town passing by the shady fountain of the Saint.
The Alpeggio del Puntato is an ancient mountain pasture of uninhabited stone houses, located in a meadow valley at about 1000 meters above sea level, dominated by the Pania della Croce, Pizzo delle Saette and Monte Corchia. Just before the Cipollaio tunnel, on the Strada d’Arni that leads from Castelnuovo Garfagnana to the town of Arni, there is a sign (clearly visible) on the left. The path follows a panoramic wood up to the meadows and the small stone church of Puntato: the ringing of its bell in the valley leads to images of the past and the bucolic panorama rewarding the climb: at Rifugio Il Robbio it is possible to have a good refreshment, while continuing from the Small church along the tree-lined avenue you can reach Col Favilla and the Tana dell’Omo Selvatico, a cave of speleological interest. The return is by the usual outward route. The following route also includes a visit to Monte Freddone. If desired, from the Puntato it is possible to simply re-enter using the usual outward path.
On the road to Arni, you start from an open space located to the left of the Cipollaio Gallery. Near the Henraux marble quarry starts a path marked for the Fatonero where you descend halfway up the river bed in a rocky environment on the slopes of Mount Sumbra and Fiocca. Going down along the dry riverbed of the Turrite we reach the first Marmitte. At this address you can find more information on this simple route.
The Marmitte dei Giganti are geological formations. These gigantic holes in the rock were dug by water erosion, creating a particularly suggestive landscape; if you are not afraid of heights, some ropes can help you climb the Marmitte higher, but we have preferred not to exaggerate. On the Fatonero, there are many legends told in front of the hearth by the shepherds who once lived in these places; legends that date back to the Apuan Ligurians, who tell of fairy trees or goblins that inhabit these woods. In reality, the Fatonero wood owes its name to the black beech trees that make it up: path 144 crosses it and connects to 145 for Monte Sumbra.
The Grand Countess Matilde di Canossa created, in medieval times, a network of roads that can be traveled by pilgrims, making them safer thanks to the construction of some hospitals along her route; some of these streets form sections of the Via del Volto Santo and the Via Matildica.
Matilde (1046-1115) Grand Countess of Tuscany, was an extraordinary woman, incredibly emancipated and modern for those times: a warrior woman who fought in battle since she was trained in the art of combat from an early age. Well this extraordinary woman loved to ride in her territories and from the lands of Canossa she moved up to Lucca, up to her beloved Holy Face, for which she had built the wonderful Cathedral of San Martino. For this he had created a road network full of hospitals to welcome pilgrims. The Via Matildica crosses the Garfagnana coming down from San Pellegrino in Alpe, passing from Castiglione Garfagnana to Pieve Fosciana and then continues towards Lucca. This stretch with wonderful views is described in the route below.
The stretch of the Via Matildica in Garfagnana connects San Pellegrino, Castiglione di Garfagnana and Pieve Fosciana, continuing towards Lucca. The following map indicates the first stage, the one that passes from San Pellegrino in Alpe to get to Castiglione.
The entire stretch of the Via Matildica passing through Garfagnana is very long, and we recommend that you travel it by mountain bike or E-MTB. If you are staying at Villa Raffaelli, a farmhouse in Garfagnana, you can rent E-Bikes or use the MTBs available in the villa.
The Via del Volto Santo is a variant of the Via Francigena that the ancient pilgrims traveled to get to Rome. It crosses the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana to Lucca, where pilgrims stopped in front of the Holy Face in the Cathedral of San Martino. The stretch of the Via del voce Santo that crosses the Garfagnana is quite long: it starts from Passo di Tea up to the lake of Pontecosi, continuing from Barga to Lucca. The descent from Passo di Tea actually starts from the Argegna, a pleasant place of green meadows with a white sanctuary, where, shortly after the Votive Bell of the Alpini, there is a detour marked as an archaeological site: in fact, you can see the remains of the ancient Hospital of Tea built by Matilde di Canossa for pilgrims: continue to Giuncugnano, the medieval bridge of Gragnana, the medieval bridge of San Michele, the medieval bridge of Piazza al Serchio, San Donnino, the mighty Fortress of the Verrucole, the medieval village of San Romano, Sillicagnana, the wonderful village of Sambuca and Lake Pontecosi.
The itinerary created by Garfagnana Trekking is made up of nine stages, each of which can be covered in a single day. The Garfagnana Trekking route is an annular route that will make you visit some of the most evocative places in the Garfagnana, The start is in Castelnuovo Garfagnana. More info on the Garfagnana Trekking website.
The Italian Alpine Club (CAI) maintains many hiking trails in Garfagnana. The CAI trails in Garfagnana are marked with the classic White / Red sign. You can consult a complete list of CAI trails on the website of the Garfagnana section.
From the village of Sillico a series of seven scenic trekking trails in Garfagnana start, which run along the ancient streets where the famous bandit “il Moro” used to roam. Sillico is a characteristic village located between Fosciandora and Castelnuovo Garfagnana: in August its medieval streets relive the events of the past with a historical costume party. In fact, during this festival we remember the terrible actions of the famous Bandit Il Moro Del Sillico and the desperation of the Governor of Garfagnana of the time, the poet Ludovico Ariosto; in vain were his attempts to stop the bandit and his gang. The town of Sillico is not far from Fosciandora, location of the Villa Raffaelli farmhouse. The paths of the Moro are excellent trekking routes in Garfagnana and can be easily found on the following map:
The Orecchiella Park is a natural reserve in which to immerse yourself in nature, where it is easy to observe the free flight of the golden eagle on the rocky peaks of the Pania di Corfino, listen to the roar of deer, meet wild animals in the middle of a forest full of endless plant species and admire the flowers of the botanical garden. The Orecchiella is above all the perfect place for trekking in Garfagnana, a park where you can follow perfectly maintained paths. The paths of the Airone are perfect trekking routes in Garfagnana. You can find all the information on the routes on the Orecchiella Park website.
The territory of Vagli has been defined as the Pearl of the Apuan Alps: it is very rich in routes of various difficulties. Lake Vagli in Garfagnana, famous for the ghost town submerged in its waters, is an emerald surrounded by green woods. The lake is surrounded by an educational and illustrative path that will make you walk among animals and medicinal plants. You will pass on the Tibetan Bridge, which connects the two shores of the lake. At the center of the bridge the walkway is made of glass, for an unforgettable experience.
Reachable from the territory of Vagli, the Bivacco Aronte is the oldest refuge in Garfagnana. The paths that reach it were frequented by shepherds, snowmen and salt men. Visit this Komoot page and choose a path in this fantastic natural scenery transformed by the marble quarries into a landscape of pure white light.
The best-known trekking path in Garfagnana in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is the Ariosto path that from Rocca Ariostesca, the ancient seat of the Governor of Garfagnana (the poet Ludovico Ariosto) leads to the Renaissance Fortress of Montalfonso and is marked as a CAI path in white-red color.