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General notes on our trip: June 2015

We spent a week near Castelnuovo then a week near Licciana Nardi staying in rented houses: La Piastra at Antisciana and Casa d’Alloro at Baccana.

Great routes exist but some are hard to find without detailed information. Routes through chestnut and beech woods are often covered with deep leaf litter that can conceal loose rocks and holes. We have marked mountainbike routes on a scale of zero to three stars, à la Michelin. Three stars is worth a special trip, two stars a detour, one star worth doing if you’re nearby. Zero stars is don’t bother. We have not given scores to road or gravel-road routes.

For Garfagnana the best source of information is Daniele Saisi’s website. We also used the Kompass maps which are pretty good but many footpaths marked don’t really exist, and many good paths are not shown. There are two maps that cover the area, no 646 covers a small area south of Castelnuovo and the bigger one no 2451 covers all that and much further north as well. They do disagree. The bigger one seems more comprehensive and certainly it marks more so-called cycle routes but in some places the other map 646 is more accurate.

At the end of the week we finally got round to visiting the tourist office, who were quite well informed. Although there is not much documented information the lady there suggested a couple of rides, suggested Wikiloc and also the route of Daniele’s two-day Garfagnana Epic.

For Lunigiana it is harder to find routes. We found a route on Wikiloc, and a video of a group doing the Via Francigena, which looks fun. There’s a website for Lunigiana mountainbiking but the routes look quite tame and non-technical.

Note on GPS: we didn’t have a bicycle GPS unit when we went to Garfagnana. We pored over Wikiloc to get the gist of Daniele Saisi’s routes and tried to follow them afterwards, sometimes without success. After getting home we eventually bought a unit and also wrote some web software for editing and displaying routes. Not having tracks of our own we downloaded some of Daniele’s from Wikiloc and put them (lightly edited) on our own website. The labels and photos were added some months after our return so their positioning may not be exact.

Sun 14, morning (18km, 500m ascent)

Antisciana–Sillicano, track linking to Poggio-Careggini road. Decent rugged double-track through woods (*).

Afternoon (33km, 775m)

Tried to find CAI no34 from Roggio Puglianella Valle Vigne but it’s overgrown and abandoned.

Mon 15: Rifugio del Freo loop (***) (62.5km, 1670m: GPS track; Daniele Saisi’s description)

Isola Santa

M. Corchia

This starts with a long but gentle road climb through a deep-cut valley passing the evocative hamlet of Isola Santa. A tunnel cuts through the massif; the road descends; and we turn left for a 700m climb giving spectacular views of the Apuan range (a little cloudy when we were there). At Passo Croce the road forks; we take the left-hand option which is initially tarmac then rocky. At Fociambola is another junction: an obvious track gains height but is the wrong way; a less obvious track descends through woods. A left turn from this track is easy to miss.

Puntato

The descent which follows is pleasant and sometimes opens out to meadows. The ghost village of Puntato is attractive. The riding continues enjoyably but enters woods and starts to climb and eventually becomes steep (push). Fallen trees constitute considerable obstacles. The gradient eases off and the path opens out to traverse high above the valley leading to the refuge for a very late lunch of hearty soup and panini.

Freo descent

The descent starts easy, soon taking you across a gully which still held snow when we were there. It follows the opposite side of the valley to the one reaching the refuge. For a while it is a little exposed (Colin pushed). Thereafter it becomes pleasant and easy.

Notes: Daniele records 5hr 27' for this route starting at Castelnuovo; our ride time was 6hr 35' from Antisciana (which slightly shortens it though it adds a sharp climb at the end).

Descending from Trassilico

Tues 16: Giro della Palodina (** (TCM)/*** (CJC)) (38km, 1240m: Il Zappello GPS track; Daniele Saisi’s description)

The gravel road after Verni is a few hundred metres after the Agriturismo Summer. It is a newish and well made track but unsignposted, and not on the 2451 map. It peters out at a fork, where there’s an ambiguous GTE sign. We took the right fork which was a little too steep to ride and came out at a clearing, from where another doubletrack leads to San Luigi (not named on the new Kompass 2451, but it is on the 646). Path 111 was overgrown and challenging, and we didn’t bother with the Sopra-Sotto path. The gravel road to Foce Pompanello was undergoing a big reconstruction after a landslide. The path down to Trassilico has a few diversions from the gravel road. The Zappello descent is quite hard, despite being marked as ‘medio’.

When we reached the valley we followed a path parallel to the road back to Gallicano.

Roggio–Vagli

Weds 17: Roggio–Vagli (37km, 980m: partial GPS track; Daniele Saisi’s longer version)

Road to Casatico, then good old gravel road to Roggio marked as Via del Funghi or something. The Kompass map marks a track to Casciana as a possible mtb route. It was hard to find and we think we got the right path but it’s horribly overgrown and derelict so we turned back. Instead we rode up the gravel road to above Vagli, which presents you with great views. On descent we followed paths through Isola and Roccalberti, nice route.

Notes: Daniele did a longer version of this route. Our GPS track chops off the parts of his route we didn’t do but we haven’t attempted to add the joining section.

Thurs 18: Pieve Fosciana–P. delle Forbici–P. delle Radici–Le Lame–Barca (***) (56km, 1630m)

Great ride. Main road to the Albergo Casone di Profecchia, then turn L after a few 100m to follow gravel road to Passo delle Forbici. The main road is very quiet. From here gravel road to Passo Giovarello, in woods then in the open, then onto the ridge path that’s a push at first, then a lovely ride in meadows, though in a little narrow rut at times. Then into the woods where it’s great fun even if you have to push some of the steeper ups. All well signposted. Near the end you join a double track. Albergo Lunardi at Passo delle Radici is wonderfully old fashioned and has good food.

Then gravel road along ridge, just below ridge, in the open, very nice. At Le Lame (unmanned refuge) CAI 46 starts. This is brilliant. It’s well marked but we slightly went off line at one point. It has a spell as a double track then there’s a lovely technical section out in the open on quite a precipice, followed by some delicious tricky rocky obstacles. We came out at a saddle where there’s a house. We think Daniele’s Epic has a bit more on the path from here but we just took the road back. It’s a great little road.

Near Colle Panestra

Fri 19: Castelnuovo–GT path; (one section *) (51km, 1570m)

A bit useless. Rode up Montaltisso to GT/CAI 127 junction. Descended on GT/133 to just below San Antonio, which must be nice as a walk but was mostly a push for us. Some good views. GT path follows the road now – which is boring, boring, until just after Le Piane where it forks right away from the road and there’s a lovely steep bendy section, obviously well used by mountainbikes.

In the morning Colin’s gel saddle finally exploded in icky fashion and Colin had to do the morning’s ride with a section of cut up inner tube repair. In the afternoon we went to the bike shop. We rode into town via the Pontecosi reservoir, where there’s a nice bit of single. We went to the tourist office, got the Epic map and followed its a route round the Fortezza Alfonso, and across from Buggina to Antisciana all on interesting paths (*). None of these paths are marked on Kompass.

Sat 20: Ugo Park (21km, 680m)

Transfer day to Baccana. We thought we’d try out Ugo Park. Drove to Corfino, found a rider-made route (*) down to Pianacci but couldn’t find the continuation and gave up. Rode back on the road, lunch at the Albergo Panoramico. This had an interesting consequence...

Sentiere Airone

Sun 21: Corfino–Airone paths in Orecchielle (***) (23km, 820m)

... which was we discovered we’d left a bag at the Albergo, and had to drive back to pick it up. To rescue the day we devised a ride in the Orecchielle park. From Lamarossa, the Airone 3 path down to the visitor centre. (We first took the wrong path, marked with a blue square, but this was fun anyway.)

Baccana

The Airone path is great fun. There’s a bit of a push uphill along the way but otherwise it’s all a nice downhill. The visitor centre has a good simple restaurant. From there, Airone path to Rif Isera then down to Pruno – this is a very technical section, not steep, but narrow and rocky.

Mon 22: Comano–Passo Giove (23km, 820m)

Tried to find Grande Ippovia trail from Lagastrello to Comano which is advertised on a map in Comano, but we couldn’t find any sign of it from the Giove pass nor the Lagastrello. It also rained. Back in the village we met Ian, who told us about the route to Bastia.

Baccana–Bastia

Tues 23: Baccana–Bastia (*) (8km, 225m)

Rained in morning. In Afternoon rode Ian’s walk to Bastia and back, all of 7.73km, total. A nice doubletrack with some testing climbs.

Weds 24: Canepari–Sarzana (**) and Canepari–Aulla (rubbish) (45km, 1300m)

From Pallerone, rode up through . Down the road a little towards Canepari then right up gravel road back to ridge. Along here, past former bar, to picnic table where an unmarked but irresistible looking trail leads. We followed it. Mostly benign but with a fearsome chute. Turns out it’s the course of a local Enduro. At junction at Prulla, course continues down, we forked left where there was a choice, I think following the marked footpath. Some pretty difficult sections to come. But overall a great find.

Bibola

Enduro

Via Francigena

Vecchietto

We joined the road and passed a restaurant – should have had lunch here but thought we’d find food in Canepari. Restaurant there is all shut up. Back to ridge, find the Via Francigena path down. It’s very overgrown and almost unrideable. Perhaps it would have been all right earlier in the year. We emerged at Vecchietto and took the road back through Bibola.

Thurs 25: Monte Tondo loop (***) (35km, 1140m: GPS track; Daniele Saisi’s description)

Followed route exactly as described by Daniele. Parked at Magliano, then rode up to Rif M Tondo. There’s a steep climb in the woods then you’re out in meadows. It becomes a narrow path on the left, then the right of the ridge, which is lovely riding. In and out of woods to the Belfiore pass. Back into the woods, a long push up then out on a precipitous narrow path that leads to a formidable piece of rock. Quite an obstacle. After this it’s still scarily narrow, part of the danger being catching pedals in the shrubbery. It relents and enters the woods to a lovely extended downhill section to the Cavolsella pass. Here it’s up to the Pradarena pass where for once we have lunch at a reasonable time.

Monte Tondo loop

Back down towards the Cavosella to take up CAI no 82. It’s reasonably well signposted, also marked red/yellow for a local path as well as Epic signs. It’s a great, easy descent to the Oasi of Lamastrone. From here, gravel road then tar back to the car.

Fri 26: Varano–Bagnone–Virgoletta–Via Francigena–Amola–Panicale (**) (58km, 1320m)

We rode up to Varano on the other side of the valley, then followed the high gravel road to Panicale. Then road to Bagnone. Bagnone is an attractive little old town that’s not too touristy. From here to Virgoletta, a very beautiful old village. Then followed the Via Francigena. At first is goes up an overgrown steep path which turns into doubletrack, somehow we went off course but regained the trail at the road. Now it’s a wide track but tricky descent, a ford, and a long tough uphill. That’s followed by a gravel section (look for the singletrack on the right that we think cuts a corner) and this turns into an ancient way through the woods. Very pleasant.

Ride to Bagnone

We came out at the road near Fornoli, and muddled our way to Amola. From here there’s a steep road climb to Molesana where there’s a dirt road through to Panicale. This is slightly non-obvious, it’s to the left of a farm, and we had to ask the way at the farm. It’s a steep uphill and quite hard but it’s a nice route. Then back on the Varano road. Apparently there’s a short cut down from Varano to the Maesta junction, but it was late and we were more interested in lunch.

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