Among the Apuan peaks and the landscapes that adorn the Garfagnana, the events of the Second World War took place; clashes and reprisals that left behind traces of history. These territories were crossed by the Gothic Line, a system of German fortifications that cut the peninsula in two, from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic coast.
The Gothic Line trail starts from Cinquale, in the municipality of Montignoso, and enters Garfagnana from Stazzema after crossing the Upper Versilia, in a succession of breathtaking views. As it travels through the Serchio Valley, the route intersects the CAI and GEA roads that are rich in the rugged and lush nature of the Apuan Alps. The historic charm and mountain mule tracks make it a perfect route for adventurous trekkers and in some places is also suitable for mountain bikers.
The first section starts in the village of Stazzema, which was the scene of brutal and bloody battles between the Germans and the Allies, and proceeds along high rock faces and climbs up to an altitude of almost 1,000 metres above sea level.
The route is of medium difficulty and about 10 km long, consisting mainly of paths and mule tracks that offer wonderful views of the mountains and the Pania della Croce before reaching Pascoso, a hamlet of Pescaglia.
Taking a diversion of 9 km, it's possible to climb to the summit of Monte Forato where there are the remains of trenches and military garrisons, all while surrounded by an incredible view.
Dirt roads and a series of ups and downs best describe the route from the hamlet of Pascoso to Torcigliano di Pescaglia. At the highest point of the itinerary at an altitude of more than 1,000 metres, the view extends as far as the sea, embracing the peaks and jagged ridges of the Apuan Alps. Along the route, dirt roads run alongside farmhouses and cultivated fields, passing the remains of an old abandoned village.
From this 21-kilometre-long section, it's possible to take a diversion to Monte Prana where you’ll find other evidence of the Reich’s defences.
Between the villages of Torcigliano and Borgo a Mozzano, the itinerary is mostly on dirt and tarmac roads and is also cyclable.
You’ll enter the woods and Mediterranean scrub before tackling the (not exhausting) slope that leads to Monte dell’Elto where there are numerous remains of the Gothic Line. Bunkers, trenches and firing posts tell of how the German militia built their defensive system by using the depressions and natural hiding spots presented by the mountainous environment.
After about 21 km, you’ll reach Borgo a Mozzano (known for the fascinating Devil’s bridge). Here, it's possible to immerse yourself even more in the historical events by visiting the Museum of Memory and the three fortifications of Anchiano, Socciglia and Via Lodovica.
The excursion itinerary of the Gothic Line starts in Barga and continues mainly on tarmac road, with dirt tracks and paths of medium difficulty.
In this area, the fighting was very brutal and therefore it’s not hard to come across memorials: at Sommocolonia there is the Rocca della Pace and the Museo della Battaglia, while the nearby hamlet of Monticino commemorates the partisans who valiantly resisted the German assault.
The ascent along the ridge that characterises the last section of the route is steep, leading up to 1,300 metres above sea level.
The last 10 km or so of the route along the Gothic Line in Garfagnana climbs up to an altitude of over 1,700 metres above sea level, almost exclusively on hiking trails and mule tracks.
Rugged and adventurous roads, beech forests, plateaus and ford-worthy streams are the hallmarks of the last Tuscan section of the Gothic Line.
History has left behind in Garfagnana and the Mid Serchio Valley the signs of its passage, made not only of assaults and bombardments, but also of pilgrimages and commercial exchanges. In addition to the Gothic Line route, this territory is crossed by two other historical routes, the Via del Volto Santo (which in turn intersects the Via Matildica and leads to Lucca) and the Via Vandelli, which eventually reaches Massa.