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The mountainous Apennine chain, forming a rugged spine along the slender Italian peninsula, is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Nearly 400km in length, and ranging between 400m and 2000m above sea level, the exhilarating Grande Escursione Appenninca (GEA) spends just over three weeks criss-crossing the central-north section of the range, following routes established by long-gone traders, pilgrims and shepards.
Dipping in and out of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, the trek makes its way northwest up Italy traversing two national parks. Peaking at 2912m, the range runs northwest-southeast along the entire length of the country and covers some 1400km (870 miles) from its link with the Alps close to the French border, all the way south to the strait of Messina, even extending over Sicily. For walkers this glorious range provides thousands of kilometres of marked walking trails over stunning panoramic ridges and explores stupendous forested valleys and quiet communities, little affected by tourism.
The trek described in this guidebook follows the central mountainous spine of Italy, journeying through a vast wooded swathe of the country, miles from the well-beaten tourist trail. It spends 23 wonderful days snaking its way northwest along the ridge of the central-north Apennines with numerous diversions to valley-based villages. It follows (for the main part) the established long-distance walking route, the Grande Escursione Appenninica.
The route is straightforward, on well-marked paths and forestry tracks. The odd brief tract negotiates exposed crest, usually avoidable. The terrain ranges from thick carpets of flowered meadows through to rock slopes and woods. The initial southernmost sections of the Trek traverse the 364sqkm Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, which boasts magnificent, spreads of ancient chestnut, fir and beech wood. With accommodation in comfortable guesthouses and refuges, it is suitable for a broad range of walkers.
To aid planning, the route has been divided into stages which correspond roughly to days and each concludes somewhere with accommodation and meals. Don’t underestimate the Apennines and treat them as a younger sibling of the Alps: there is surprisingly dramatic high-level terrain. Beware that they are also prone to surprising extremes of weather, don’t be caught unprepared.
It is well suited to being split up into single- or multiple-day walks thanks to the excellent network of public transport that serves the Apennine settlements and passes. To facilitate walkers who don’t have 23 days available for the entire trek, a selection of shorter sections encompassing highlights is outlined in this guidebook. Each begins and ends at a location served directly by public transport.
Anytime from April to October is possible and recommended, although there may be snow early in the year. July-August are finest but also busiest.
Access via the main towns of Northern Italy. Start is Bocca Trabaria, north end is Montelungo. Good accommodation in huts and inns, but few large towns along the route.
Surprisingly rugged, 400km long and between 400m and 2000m in height; not for softies, this is a fairly tough 3 week trek.
Perhaps Italy’s best-kept secret, wonderful walking, wildlife, flowers – the scene for Eric Newby’s 'Love and War in the Appenines'