The Apuan Alps: wild nature and breathtaking views
The Apuan Alps are a mountain range that extends between the Garfagnana, Versilia and Massa Carrara with peaks that are close to the 2000 meters (the highest peak is that of Monte Pisanino, 1946 m.).
These mountains are truly majestic and spectacular, with their wild nature and fantastic sea views, the Apuan Alps are a true masterpiece of nature. But not only: it is here that the famous Carrara marble, which the greatest artists in history have transformed into the most magnificent works of man, is extracted.
The Apuan Alps have unique and special characteristics, these mountains conceal more than a thousand karst caves such as the Antro del Corchia, which is the largest karst complex in Italy, and the spectacular Grotta del Vento.
Among the many wonders that nature has carved here, we must also mention Monte Forato (drilled mount) which is called so precisely because it is … drilled! The mountain has in fact a large arch that connects two peaks thus creating a “hole” that is visible both from the Versilia side and from the Garfagnana side.
On the Apuan Alps, in addition to a majestic nature, also rich in animal and vegetable species, you can also admire some pretty villages such as that of Isola Santa.
Before continuing further, I would say to answer a question that you may be asking yourself …
Why are they called Apuan Alps?
Many wonder why the name of the Apuan Alps since they are far from the chain of the Alps. In fact, although they are part of the Apennine chain, they are called “Alps” because they are difficult to climb, while the term “Apuane” derives from the ancient population of the Apuan Ligurians who inhabited the area in pre-Roman times.
What to see in the Apuan Alps
The fame of the Apuan Alps has always been linked to that of its wonderful white marble; there is no need to remember how many and which works have been made with this white marble, nor to name the great artists who climbed up to its quarries to choose the best marble blocks.
The quarries today are one of the main attractions of the Apuan Alps sea side. Here are 3 marble basins that can be visited: Colonnata, Fantiscritti and Torano. The best known among these is the Cava di Fantiscritti, which takes its name from a Roman bas-relief where divinities are represented with a dedication in Latin. At the end of the 19th century some spectacular bridges were built to allow the transport of marble to the valley through the Ferrovia Marmifera (an industrial railway) which brought the marble to the valley.
At the Fantiscritti Quarries there is an interesting museum (Cava Museo Fantiscritti) dedicated to the history of mining, the extraction techniques to the life of the workers who with their hard work have allowed the world to enjoy the famous white marble. If you want to discover all the secrets of the quarries and be immersed in a unique panorama, now you know where to go!
On the Apuan Alps there are 5 artificial lakes that were formed when rivers were blocked in order to produce hydroelectric energy: the Lago di Isola Santa, LagoGramolazzo, Lago di Vagli, famous for the village of Fabbriche di Careggine and for Vagli Park, Lago Trombacco and Lago Turrite Cava.
The first of these lakes takes its name from the village of Isola Santa, a delightful village made of stone houses capable of giving great emotions and fairytale views. The town developed in medieval times around a hospital that welcomed pilgrims on the road between the Garfagnana and Versilia. At the end of the 1940s, however, the construction of the dam was decided which gave rise to the lake, so much of the village ended up being submerged and the place was abandoned. During the 2000s the town came back to life thanks to a renovation project that led to the creation of a widespread hotel.
Gallicano is a nice medieval village which is located in an excellent position, between woods and valleys, at the foot of the Pania della Croce mountain. In this village there are many monuments of sure interest to visit. There is a castle, the Rocca Estense, which was built, destroyed and rebuilt several times testifying the strategic value of this position, a beautiful town hall and some churches such as the Church of San Jacopo (XII century) which houses valuable altarpieces like the altarpiece of the Robbian school Madonna with Child between angels and saints, the Church of San Giovanni Battista and that of Santa Lucia.
The best time of year to visit Gallicano is on the occasion of the Palio di San Jacopo, which is held every year on July 25th for the feast of San Jacopo patron of Gallicano. On the occasion of the Palio, the three districts of the town challenge each other by parading through the streets of the village with their allegorical chariots.
Grotta del Vento
Known since the 1800s by the inhabitants of the area who used it as a natural refrigerator, the cave has undergone several scientific expeditions that have led to the discovery of over 4000 meters of cave. The name Grotta del Vento is due to the strong wind that is felt at its entrance, which according to surveys, even exceeds 40 kilometers per hour. The cave is characterized by a great variety of phenomena related to underground karst such as stalactites, stalagmites, small lakes, streams and vertical wells that can be visited by following a series of itineraries and with very interesting guided tours.