The sun door of Mount Nona


Last weekend, the Apuan Alps tried to capture me with their seductive magic. They always do, but mostly I don’t have the time to follow their call. The work commitments, too, seem to become more,  rather than less.



This time there was an excursion on the program that could not be missed under any circumstances. It was about watching the sunrise through the sun door of Mount Nona in the Alpuan Alps and two large pieces of rock which almost, but only almost, touch each other. There is, in fact, a small space about twenty centimeters wide and two meters high. The two rocks are connected by a boulder placed on top forming the door. Only twice a year, during the summer and the winter solstice, one can follow the sun rising through the narrow gap.



How interesting! I was really curious and ready if there hadn’t been a little catch. In order to be able to attend this special moment from the beginning to the very end, we needed to be in front of the door a little before sunrise. This meant setting the alarm clock at two in the morning and driving towards the Alta Matanna mountain hut, our meeting point, at three o’clock. Was this doable? Sure, of course. No question.



We met our two guides halfway and after another forty-five minutes we arrived at the parking lot of the refuge, where a small group was already waiting for us. Since there was no time to lose, we immediately started climbing up the mountain.



My dog did what he loves most, i.e. he immediately jumped straight up to the head of the line and activated his “working dog pace”. This means he constantly walked in front of us by watching the surroundings carefully in order to save any member of the group from danger. He can’t be distracted by anything, does not follow animal tracks and stoically resists all inviting scents. He does it really well.

For me it’s a little different. I need to walk five, six hundred meters on a path with a pleasant slope, otherwise I’m quickly out of breath. Not knowing what to expect, besides the camera I had two special lenses and a tripod with me. This meant that climbing up the mountain would probably be quite exhausting. Much to my surprise, it was kind of exciting to follow the small line of people and their flashing lights slightly swaying in the total darkness in front of me.We were all fully concentrated and paid a lot of attention to where we put our feet in the dark, but slowly, slowly, meter by meter we got closer to our destination. After about half an hour, that’s at least what it seemed to be, we passed in front of a large wooden cross and at some point the path led us dangerously close along a deep gorge. In the middle of all this, the sunrise had begun to paint the horizon with brushstrokes of orange.



Finally, we ended up on a small meadow right in front of the sun door. You could even touch it, which meant that lenses and tripod were totally useless. The sun was waiting very impatiently for our arrival, but then gave us a few minutes so that we could find out from where the extraordinary event could have been photographed best.


The people of the Apuan Alps have been acquainted with mining and transporting rock for centuries, but wouldn’t it be interesting to find out who, when and why heaved up the huge stone over the two boulders?



Our guides told us  that the magnetic field around the meadow far exceeds the normal value. Apparently we found ourselves in a supernatural, almost magical place. For a moment I wasn’t sure whether the tall, slender silhouette jumping above the sun door couldn’t have been an elf? Only later, when we continued climbing towards the mountain peak we saw two tents with four young men and a dog who had spent the night up here. No elves, obviously, but what an adventure for them. 



Then, all at once, the sun was there. It is the star closest to the earth and without its warm, bright rays, there would be no life. Humanity has always been aware of this and in all cultures the sun was invoked and worshipped by pagan and magical rites in carefully selected places. Could the meadow be one of these?



Most likely we will  never know, but the special moment touched me deeply. It was as if I was celebrating the rising of the golden light in the sky in the same way as the ancient people in the past.



As soon as we finished taking photos of the very special event, our guides continued walking towards the peak of Mount Nona with its respectable 1297 meters. Not easy, but achievable. Once we reached the cross on the top, strong wind was blowing and we were relieved that we had followed the suggestion of the mountain guides to bring a windbreaker or a sweater. After a few souvenir photos, we went straight back down to the Alta Matanna mountain hut, where a nice, generous breakfast was waiting for us. We had the feeling that hours had passed since the beginning of the adventure, but it actually was not even nine o’clock.



After a while, the group left for another hike to Mount Matanna. My faithful four-legged bodyguard and I returned home. Above our heads, I was sure, the goddess Sòl drove across the sky on her sun wagon, pulled by her two horses. Yes, we too, the people of the north, have stories and myths that are deeply rooted in our hearts and our souls.

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