Abetone and the Garfagnana
On the weekend we went walking up in the mountains at Abetone. The lifts weren’t working to take us up to the snowless skiing peaks, so not wanting to take my parents on an uphill ski slope challenge, I asked a little old local man in an Ape (three wheeler) where the best place to walk would be. We were delighted in his suggestion, and took an easy winding path though the stunning assortment of trees making up these dense and sometimes dark and ominous forests right outside the almost empty ski resort. Autumn has arrived here in all its colourful splendour. The deciduous trees, the acers, mountain ash and beeches were all turning, in different tones and shades of orange, yellow and red. While the larches, pines and white and red ‘abete’ firs stood enormous above us in soft shades of green, light and dark. In a few days it would be even more spectacular.
We stayed that night on the edge of the Garfagnana in Colle di Buggiano, a tiny little village just above Montecatini Terme. Nestled in the hills above Buggiano we visited other hilltop villages of Vellano, Castelvecchio, San Quirico and Sorana, all in seeing distance from each other in an area that is known as the Svizzera Pesciatina. Sorano is well known for its little white fagiolini beans they grow here. Many small plots along the road have areas with netting and poles for them to grow up, often there were bamboo and canne (reeds) growing near the plot, which would be used as poles. When we got up to the villages, built into and onto the hillsides, we found ourselves wandering down tiny narrow streets leading onto sloping piazzas with plastic chairs and benches, providing a real sense of neighbourliness and community. Friends called to each other from the windows to the streets below. We climbed a cobbled stone path with a couple of pensioners on their way home, amazed at how fit and patient they are living here. In Vellano they were holding the Sagra delle Frigate - la 'Vera' Festa delle Castagne (Chestnut festival). The streets were filled with a few local people’s craft ware and a great stove was installed outside the bar, to prepare the slow cooked chestnuts. Bunting adorned the place and visitors like us started to arrive . The people here were all so friendly to us, happy to chat and talk about their lives, the mushrooms and the weather. The cool autumnal breeze swept us to the bar to drink hot chocolates and get supplies for our daring picnic.
We had our lunch on a bench with an amazing view, then crossed the low valley to the river Pescia di Pescia of working and disused paper mills to climb the other side to more little towns.