Marble block near Terrinca
 
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Castelnuovo di Gafangnana - Isola Santa - Galleria del Cipollaio - Forte dei Marni - Marina di Pietrasanta - Camaiore - San Martino in Freddana - Lucca

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Snow on the mountain tops The station at Castelnuovo di Gafangnana

This was to be a ride of contrasts.

I planned to take the train from Lucca north up into the Gafangnana, then climb westward over the Alpi Apuane.

The tracks at Castelnuovo di Gafangnana station

My route would then take me down to the Ligurean Sea before passing through the resorts on the coast and finally climbing back over the hills to Lucca.

Fiume Serchio at Castelnuovo

At Lucca's station I discovered that a train ticket to Castelnuovo di Gafangnana would cost me 3.40 Euros ... and 3.50 Euros for my bike.

Fiume Serchio at Castelnuovo

The train journey avoids the main road up the Serchio valley ... and as a bonus takes you up to nearly 300 metres above sea level.

Campangile in Castelnuovo

Castelnuovo's railway station is just outside town ... on the far side of the Fiume Serchio.

A quiet arcade in Castelnuovo

I crossed the emerald waters of the river and explored the quiet back streets of the town.

The centre of the town is dominated by the walls fourteenth century Rocca Ariostesca.

A quiet back street in Castelnuovo Another quiet back street in Castelnuovo Cylindrical tower of the Rocca Ariostesca in Castelnuovo
We want Forte dei Marni Crossing the Torrente Turrite Secca

Eventually I couldn't postpone starting the climb any longer.

I crossed the Torrente Turrite Secca ... which I would follow for some 20 kilometres up into the Alpi Apuane.

Leaving Castelnuovo and heading for the hills

The road signs indicated that Forte dei Marni on the coast was 42 kilometres ahead. The first half this distance would be spent climbing ... and the second half descending.

Torrite is the first village we pass on the ascent ... and almost the last

Torrite just outside Castelnuovo was the first village I passed through on the ascent ... and almost the last.

A short distance beyond the village a pair of giant pipes ran down the hillside to a hydroelectric facility.

Hydroelectric plant at Torrite Quarry lorries squeezing past one another

There were several quarries in the lower part of the valley ... and lorries were passing in both directions ... carrying either ballast or heavy and expensive looking blocks of marble.

Fortunately this traffic subsided the higher I climbed.

First scars on the hillside Road curving up the valley Isolated cottage
Waterwheel Continuing to climb ...

As well as the modern quarries there was much evidence of older workings ... with abandoned huts ... and sluices and waterfalls alongside the road.

More snow in the distance Looks like I can't pick the mushrooms Passing overhanging cliffs
The northern face of Pania Secca Cyclists ... going downhill

As the road twisted and climbed into the Alpi Apuane I could catch glimpses of snow on the peaks ahead ... and at one point I passed through an avalanche shelter.

Avalanche shelter The dam at Isola Santa The dam at Isola Santa
Mountain Panorama
Isola Santa

Just over halfway up the climb the valley opened up a little and I arrived at the dam forming a lake below the village of Isola Santa.

The village of Isola Santa overlooking the lake

Alongside the dam is a noticeboard showing a panorama of the view ahead ... marked up with some of the many footpaths which criss-cross the Parco Naturale.

Wooden barn alongside the road

The village belies its name (Holly Island) ... the church and most of the houses sit on a premonitory jutting into the lake.

Isola Santa's church on a premonitory into the lake

From the road the church is reflected in the lake ... and presents a dramatic view with the mountains behind.

View back over the village and down the valley

Until recently the village had been abandoned ... but now it is gradually being restored with a small restaurant open and a number of houses for rent.

The road climbs around the lake and village and looking down on the houses I was struck by the slate roofs ... a real contrast with the red tiles prevalent throughout the rest of Tuscany.

Slate roofs in Isola Santa Slate roofs in Isola Santa Slate roofs in Isola Santa
The turn off for Careggine The turn off for Careggine

Above the lake a minor road turns north and heads across the grain of the mountains towards Careggine. I continued to follow the Turrite Secca westward.

Aerial ropeway on the side of Monte Freddone Aerial ropeway on the side of Monte Freddone

I also passed an aerial ropeway running up to the flank of Monte Freddone ... the wire looked to be slightly rusty but otherwise serviceable.

Hidden in the mountains above is an ancient village of stone huts ... called Puntato ... which was once used by charcoal burners and chestnut collectors.

Sign for Stazzema

One of these huts has been converted into a walker's hut ... Refugio la Quiete. I wonder if the ropeway is used to service this hut?

Southern flank of Monte Sumbra

I was slightly puzzled to pass a sign saying Stazzema ... which as far as I could see was a village on the other side of the mountain.

Food 2 kilometres

The area has declared itself a commune antitransgenico ... against transgenic crops. I wondered whether the food advertised on the road 2 kilometres ahead would be free from genetically modified material.

Ahead the snow white southern flank of Monte Sumbra gleamed in the sunlight.

Ridge of Monte Sumbra Isolated workman's hut surrounded by scree Road winding through a cutting in the rock
The road clinging to the precipitous hillside Author having some difficulty in keeping bike ... and camera ... upright
Road crossing a bridge ahead Short tunnel just east of the settlement of Tre Fiumi

As I climbed the scenery became increasing rocky ... the road squeezed through cuttings, crossed arched bridges and was carved into the side of the mountain.

I next reached the Tre Fiumi tunnel ... the first of many on this route. Like most of the others there were no lights in the tunnel.

The Tre Fiumi tunnel has no lights The Tre Fiumi tunnel Back to daylight
Man made arch in the Tre Fiume quarry Turn-off for Massa ... we want Stazzema and Seravezza

Emerging from the tunnel I arrived in the small settlement of Tre Fiumi.

I could only see two rivers ... the Freddone and Turrite Secca ... and the promised restaurant was closed.

Also closed was the Hen Aux quarry ... which was occupied by a lone mountain goat.

Deserted quarry workings ... ... taken over by a mountain goat

At Tre Fiume a road turns off to Massa but I continued straight on for the final climb towards the Cipollaio tunnel.

No excuse for getting lost Final section of the climb alongside the C.le del Freddone Another workman's hut
Eastern entrance to the Galleria del Cipollaio The Galleria del Cipollaio is 1125 metres long From the centre of the tunnel you can see both ends
The route to the Henraux Cave doesn't look very inviting

The Galleria del Cipollaio is over one kilometre long ... from the entrance I couldn't see the far end ... and although it is illuminated by faint orange lights ... I chose to get out my flashing LED lights.

The Western entrance to the Galleria del Cipollaio

The walls of the tunnel were rough hewn rock ... and throughout its length water was dripping from the roof. Half way through I discovered that you could see both ends ... I guess the tunnel must have a slight bend in the middle.

White gash on the side of Giardino mountain

Emerging back into daylight a dramatic vista unfolds ...

Zig-zag track through the quarry workings

Directly ahead the ground falls away down the Giardino valley ... to the left the road contours around the Criniera di Fornoli ... and to the right the side of Giardino mountain is bisected by a brilliant white gash of an enormous quarry.

A dramatic zig-zag track finds its way through these quarry workings.

Road cut into the side of Monte Cipollaio and Criniera di Fornoli
A short tunnel near Gerbara A large block of marble being transported down the mountain

After soaking up the view for a while ... I put on my wind proof jacket and then set off on the 20 kilometre descent down to the sea ...

... well someone's got to do it.

A short tunnel near Gerbara Well I've come from Castellnuovo ... so it must be onward to Forte dei Marni

The road descends gradually ... passing through a series of tunnels ... none of which were illuminated.

I paused before each one ... checking to make sure that a quarry truck wasn't about to overtake.

Looking down towards Bosati in a patch of sunlight
U-bend Turn off for Terrinca and La Costa Mountain tops shrouded in cloud
View over the rooftops of Terrinca

The valley was the scene of an appalling massacre during the Second World War.

Another turn-off for Terrinca ahead

Five hundred and seventy people mainly women, children and old people were killed in Stazzema's piazza on 12 August 1944.

Food in Terrinca

The massacre was a reprisal towards the Italian people who had helped the Partisans.

Snow!

After the war the area was awarded Italy's highest decoration ... the medaglia d'oro al valour militaire.

Yet another turn-off for Terrinca

Just beyond Terrinca I came across a giant yellow framed saw.

Giant saw for cutting marble blocks

The saw was steadily cutting through a large block of marble.

Water was being pumped over the marble to lubricate the blade ... but what surprised me was that no one was around.

Marble blocks alongside the road Marble blocks alongside the road
Confusing signs for Levigliani / Leviglianio View backwards from Levigliani
Patch of sunlight on the village across the valley Another tunnel ... with lights this time
View down into the Vezza valley

The road descended into the Vezza valley before turning a full 180 at Pontestazzemesa to follow the river towards the sea.

Road looping back on itself

Alongside the Fiume Vezza the scenery becomes increasingly industrialised.

We don't want any of these

Most of the factories seemed to be associated with the stone trade.

Road alongside the Fiume Vezza

Just beyond Ruosina I passed a turn off to Gallena which was the site of a silver mine.

Galena is now the name given to a mineral form of lead sulphide which is often found in association with quantities of silver.

Arrivederci dal Territori di ponti nel Tempo ... I recognise that bridge Ruosina ... only 110 metres above sea level Fiume Vezza approaching Ruosina
Crossing the Fiume Vezza at Ruosina More blocks of marble alongside the road Fiume Vezza at Seravezza
I think I want the sea More blocks of marble at near Seravezza

Alongside the Fiume Vezza the gradient slackens considerably.

In Seravezza which is only some 50 metres above sea level the river is contained within stone and concrete walls ... I imagine it must be a fearsome sight after heavy rain.

Church at Querceta

Below the settlement the river and road wind their way through a notch in the coastal hills to arrive at the coastal plain alongside the Mare Ligure.

It was now a flat ride through the suburbs to the beachside resort of Forte dei Marmi.

Busy cafes at Forte dei Marmi Busy cafes at Forte dei Marmi
Unicyclist at Forte dei Marmi's pier Forte dei Marmi's pier
anche biciclette condotte a mano ... no bikes ... even if you carry them! Empty beach at Forte dei Marmi

The square of the town, set back from the sea, was full of bustle ... and the cafes and restaurants were doing a good lunchtime trade ...

... in complete contrast the sea front and pier were almost completely deserted.

Deserted beach

In Forte dei Marmi I turned to follow the coast road southward along the coast past rows and rows of bars, private clubs and private stretches of beach.

Cycle path alongside the coast road from Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio

At intervals there were public paths down to the sea ...

... and I followed one of these to have lunch on the beach ... which I had all to myself.

Local cyclists Local cyclist ... not on the bike path
Local cyclist ... not on the bike path Local cyclist ... not on the bike path
Cycle path alongside the coast road from Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio

After lunch I continued southward ... following the bike path which runs alongside the main road.

9/11 memorial

Groups of racing cyclists swooshed past at intervals ... all of them riding on the road.

In Marina di Pietrasanta I passed a memorial to 9/11 which consisted of two tall blocks of marble ... presumably echoing the form of the twin towers.

In the next resort Lido di Camaiore I turned away from the sea to climb over the hills back towards Lucca.

Heading back towards the mountains ... Monte Gabberi this time

The minor road ducked under the A12 Autostrada and then crossed the main rail line.

Well my map showed a crossing ... but this had been closed and a fence erected in its place ... unclear how to get around I climbed over the fence and dashed over the line.

The Pisa to Empoli rail line Train passing
Santa Lucia church with Monte Gabberi looming behind

After the excitement of the rail crossing I started the gentle climb alongside the Fiume Camaiore.

The first part of the route was overlooked by the church of Santa Lucia standing on top of steep knoll ... which itself was overlooked by the brooding mass of Monte Gabberi.

The road was lined on both sides with regularly spaced trees ... and before long I arrived at the small town of Camaiore.

Tree lined road approaching Camaoire Tree lined road approaching Camaiore
Tree lined road approaching Camaiore Tree lined road approaching Camaiore
Main Square in Camaiore Welcome cafe - Pasticceria Rossano - in Camaiore

The first sight that greeted my eye in Camaiore was a cafe ... the Pasticceria Rossano.

The cafe had only a small frontage ... but extended back inside an amazing distance.

Campangile in Camaiore Another tree lined avenue

Even although it was quite late in the day ... the displays were full of selections of pastries. I needed no persuasion to stop.

I took my purchases out onto the veranda ... sat back ... and watched the world go by.

Signs for Lucca at last More trees Two cyclists heading uphill
A larger group of cyclists speeding past

After the rest I reluctantly climbed back on my bike and explored Camaiore's main square before finding my way back onto the road to Lucca.

The road climbs from the town up to a pass at a altitude of around 200 m near the village of Montemagno.

More trees providing welcome shade Climbing continues
yet more climbing and more
View back towards Camaiore More climbing
Sweeping curves

On the way up I was passed by dozens of cyclists ... some on their own ... others in pairs ... and yet more in large groups.

Group of cyclists on the bend below

At the zig-zags near the top I could see a particularly large group approaching at speed from behind.

Large group of cyclists approaching

I stopped above a bend and watched them catch up.

A fast training run

They were nearly at the top of the climb and the leaders were sprinting for the summit ... and most of the tailenders were struggling to keep up.

Tailenders struggling to keep up

Around the last bend the backmarkers were dropped ...

... but when they saw that there was a possibility (admittedly slight) of being overtaken by a foreigner on a town bike ... they found a last burst of energy to take them to the top.

View down to Montemagno Montemagno Turn off for Massarosa
Local resident chopping firewood

Cresting the top I could see down to Montemagno in the Freddana Valley below.

More cyclists overtaking me

It was to be all downhill now ... following the Torrente Freddana back down to Lucca.

On the way I continued to be passed by racing cyclists ... I was puzzled that they were all travelling in the same direction ... how do they get back?

Old bridge crossing the Torrente Freddana Flat road at last
Back among the trees Another bridge
Villas near Ponte della Maddalena

In no time at all I arrived back at Lucca's northern outskirts.

Traffic snarled up in Lucca's Via Borgo Giannotti

The motor traffic was completely snarled up in Lucca's Via Borgo Giannotti as I made my way back to Porta Santa Maria.

It was a pleasure to pass under the medieval walls and arrive back in the quite centre ...

... now I was now spoiled for choice for cafes ...

The Ciclidea bike shop Lucca's Porta Santa Maria
Piazza Anfiteatro Bikes in Lucca
 

Kirby James

 
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