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Pruno di Stazzema
Photo © Alice Russolo e Nicola Santini
Photo © Alice Russolo e Nicola Santini

Monte Forato

Naturalistic attractions

The large natural arch on the Apuan Alps, inside which the sun rises and sets

Monte Forato is located in the area of Stazzema, in the Upper Versilia, is part of the Apuan Alps and takes its name from a rather unique characteristic: a large natural arch that stretches between the two peaks of the mountain (both more than 1,000 metres high), forming a large hole.

The natural arch, formed by erosion from the elements, 32 metres wide and 25 metres high, is one of the most impressive in Italy and can be seen clearly from both sides of the Apuan Alps: the Versilia and the Garfagnana.

A unique characteristic of Monte Forato is the double sunset: the setting sun aligns perfectly above the arch then disappears behind the rock only to appear once again inside the hole, giving the impression that it has set twice. The phenomenon can be seen on certain days of the year, but which days is never certain (in October/November and January/February), from some villages in the Garfagnana, like Gallicano, or in the Serchio Valley, like Barga. From Volegno and Pruno, in the municipality of Stazzema, on the other hand, the sun appearing through the arch can only be seen on the Summer solstice.

Adventurous visitors can feel the thrill of hanging from a swing below the arch, which is hung during a few special excursions organized by the Associazione Garfagnana Guide.

The legend of San Pellegrino

The unique features of Monte Forato naturally lead to legendary tales. The best known is that of Saint Pellegrino, who was tempted by the devil while trying to build a large cross on the top of a mountain in the area. Satan, to prevent him from hoisting the cross, presented himself before him first as a dragon, then as an enchanting woman. However, Saint Pellegrino remained unperturbed. The devil, by then furious, decided to present himself in person and hit Saint Pellegrino so hard that he fell to the ground. Saint Pellegrino returned the slap with such energy that the devil flew away, crashing into the Panie, rupturing them and creating the opening known as Monte Forato.