The Romecchio mountain
Apart from the last two or three days, the high temperatures in Tuscany, like everywhere else this summer, were really hard to bear. Even Stefano Pucci, one of the most experienced mountain guides of the Apuan Alps, and always ready to show us special places, had suspended all hikes because of the heat.
At the end of July, when he finally decided to go back to the mountains, about ten people, including me with my dog, showed up in time in Ponte a Moriano, where we usually meet. The specified time, eight o’clock in the morning, was more than acceptable.
Our goal were the two peaks of Mount Romecchio in the Tuscan Emilian Apennines, at 1784 metres altitude, where we would see Tuscany on one side and Emilia on the other. In addition, we would be able to spend a few hours in the pleasant coolness of the mountain, which we were all looking forward to.
On our hike we walked for a while along the so-called “oar road”. Today it is just a trail like many others. A few hundred years ago however, the road was important for transporting fir and beech trees from the mountains around Pistoia, down the valley, and then on to Pisa. Especially in Abetone, formerly known as Boscolungo, century-old giants trees with long, straight trunks grew, perfect for the construction of ships masts and oars for galleys.
After about an hour’s drive, we reached the mountain hut Giovanni Santi alla Vetricia and were ready to start our hike. It’s a bit like in life, its better if you don’t know what’s going to happen. The same was true for the adventure ahead of us. After about twenty metres in fact, we came to a simple staircase where five or six steps led to a fairly wide path, which was however so steep, that it felt as if we were falling backwards if we had not bent forwards.
When it goes straight uphill from the beginning – which I would prefer to call drudgery – the unpleasant thing is the initial shortage of breath and the cold muscles. The comforting thing is that common suffering makes it all more bearable. The only moment that could have caused a certain, let’s say envy, in some of us (including me for example) was the fact that our track had been crossed several times by dirt and gravel roads that could have easily been navigated by car. Couldn’t we have parked further up? What’s wrong with me? Of course not. Real hikers don´t shy away from anything.
While walking through the forest, we saw lumberjacks, hunters with their dogs, and even mushroom pickers. The latter did not seem to be particularly happy about our presence. Of course, they were afraid that we and not they would carry the forest goodies back home. Then we passed meadows with strong tufts of grass, which were used to rough climates and also tiny white and light pink, pale flowers, as if the wind had blown away their colour. The meadow was followed by juniper bushes, which had grown only a little, whilst trying to better withstand the constant wind. Finally, an ocean of blueberry perennials opened up in front of us, reminding me of my childhood. Sun-warmed berries, eaten straight from the plants, are among my favourite memories.
Anyone, who like me, thought that up here there was only us, and one single hiking trail leading to the two peaks of Romecchio, was completely wrong. All around, paths crossed like long strings in all directions. Signs with names like Passarella Colle alle Vacche, Passo del Terzino, San Pellegrino in Alpe or Lago Santo, to list only a few, made us think of a kind of “hiking crossroad-junction” that would have made every mountain lover’s heart beat faster. In fact, we crossed a large group of people from Varese, who came from Lago Santo on their way up to San Pellegrino in Alpe. Of course, cyclists were not missing either. There was, in fact a young man who had spared no effort to enjoy the fresh air and the magnificent view from up here to the fullest.
In the meantime, we had continued our hike, not too fast, but still determined. After about half an hour, we arrived at a tiny grass covered spot which was well protected from the wind. From here, sitting more or less comfortably, we saw the fields and meadows of Emilia on the right, which give the famous Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) such a special taste.
By now, only a stone’s throw was separated us from the two peaks, but as the track looked difficult, some members of the group preferred to stay where we were sitting, and wait for our return. The remaining mountaineers on the other hand, finally had the chance to find out which kind of wood they were carved from. In fact, it was not only short distance on rocks and rubble that worried us, but the fast changing of the weather. Clouds and mist moved so quickly, that the temperature fell below twenty degrees within seconds, and then rose to over thirty at the same speed as soon as the sun would shine again – unbelievable.
The conquesting of the last of the two peaks made us proud, and the view of the world around us was really breath taking. But we were hungry too, and in a small wind-protected area we enjoyed the well-deserved lunch. I could have stayed up there forever, in this quiet place where time seems not to exist, and where the great tranquillity leads to a deep, inner feeling of well-being. Unfortunately, a huge, fast-moving wall of grey cloud interrupted the idyllic scene, which is why we collected our backpacks, and without losing time, we descended to the people who had been waiting for us further down, to finally find our cars after about an hour.
The hike lasted the whole day, and yet we had only covered seven or eight kilometres. They were however so intense, that I still have sore muscles after three days. It must have been the same for my dog, because he is lying on his pillow, sleeping most of the time. Nevertheless, we are both ready for the next trip. My dog, because after more than ten years, he finally seems to have found his true vocation, i.e. to assist our mountain guide without distraction, (even if no-one asked him to). Me, because mountaineering just makes me happy.