Visiting Tuscany is about so much more than seeing capitals of art, like Florence, Siena and Arezzo. Indeed, the region offers a vast range of beautiful landscapes, from the rolling hills of the Chianti to the sharp peaks of the Apuan Alps. Nestled between the latter and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine we find a vast stretch of land that offers tourists a plethora of activities for spending their holiday outdoors: Garfagnana is an enchanting corner of Tuscany where nature dominates, vaunting reserves, canyons and even the highest peak in the region, Monte Prado, which reaches 2,054 metres. Together, these diverse landscapes are the perfect place to get your adrenaline pumping, so pop on your walking shoes, jump in a raft and rent your kayak for this three-day itinerary in Garfagnana.
The best place to base our three-day holiday is in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, the area’s main town and located right in the heart of Garfagnana, making it perfect for day trips. But the focus of our vacation is all-things outdoors, so let’s head outside of town to hit the trails in the Orecchiella Park. Stretching over 512 km, the park is part of the larger Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park and includes a vast network of hiking paths, including the Airone Trails. The three routes all start at the Visitors’ Centre: Arione 1 (about 5 hours) leads to the alpine pasture in Campaiana and the summit of Pania di Corfino, where you can visit the stunning Botanical Garden, home to rare species and others in danger of extinction; Arione 2 (about 4.5 hours) leads to the Prati di Ripa, boasting breath-taking views of the Apuan Alps and Apennines, before flanking the Rimonio River; Airone 3 is the longest trail, a two-day excursion up to Monte Prado, passing through the Lamarossa Reserve. The third trail is perfect for those who solely want to spend their holiday hiking in nature. Before heading home for the day, make sure to check out the Mountain Garden, vaunting 60 species of flowers and local trees as well as a network of educational walking paths.
The second day of our itinerary is dedicated to adventure! The “Selva del Buffardello” Adventure Park is situated in the heart of Garfagnana and offers a range of activities, like acrobatics courses, excursions, trail running and e-mtb. The ten courses are divided into three for children and seven for teens and adults. The courses include a network of gangways and suspended bridges at different heights from the ground, balancing games and trapdoors, obstacles to clamber over, Tarzan jumps and zipwires, making the Adventure Park is the perfect place to spend a day with the family.
Visitor safety is a priority at the park, so everyone is given a helmet and harness and must participate in an informative briefing with a qualified instructor before they can head off to the courses. The park also offers courses with specialized guides and educational workshops for kids dedicated to tops ranging from the prehistoric civilizations that lived in these mountains to the evolution of the area over time.
We’ll spend the third and final day of our itinerary immersed in the waters of the lower Garfagnana. Indeed, the southern border of the area is famous for its wealth of opportunities for kayaking, rafting and canyoning thanks to the Val di Lima and the Orrido di Botri. The River Lima has long been a popular destination for water sports, as there are a few navigable stretches as it winds down from Abetone, the most famous being between Fabbriche di Casabasciana and Bagni di Lucca. In fact, there are tons of rafting companies in this area that offer outings accompanied by an expert guide, including excursions for families.
Outside this stretch, there are a host of other places to explore, like the Cocciglia canyons, just beyond Fabbriche, which vaunts its own adventure park for visitors to explore through rafting, canyoning and aqua trekking. The Orrido di Botri are also a spectacular site to discover. The limestone gorge carved out by the Rio Pelago is up to 200 metres deep in some parts flanked on either side by steep walls. An official nature reserve since 1971, the canyons can be hiked individually or with an expert guide.