The southern sector of the Alpi Apuane, Tuscany's second highest mountain range, differs considerably from the remainder of the mountain range. While the three northern sectors consist of nearly 2000m high limestone and marble summits with almost Dolomite-like character, the southern mountains appear to be much less intimidating. When seen from afar or above, the southern sector appears as a rolling hillcountry with lots of greenery around its summits. Most of the mountains don't even reach the mark of 1000m though you have to admit that even this elevation can be formidable when tackled from a trailhead on the nearby Tyrrhenean Sea.
When seen up close, however, the mountains lose their "tame" appearance. Like the rest of the greater range they are made up from limestone, which during the course of the centuries has been cut away by wind and weather to now form impressive karst formations. Canyons and gorges have been cut into what must have been a high plateau in former times, leaving table-top or tilted summits in their midst. Quite often, caves and towers have been formed and Monte Forato is the best known example for a mountain with a giant rock window.
Of all these smaller mountains Monte Matanna with its 1318m is the highest one. It stands on a ridge between Satzzema in the west and Fabriche di Vallico in the east. The mountain itself has a steeply sloped face to the south-east and a vertical face to the north-west. Together, with its neighbour Monte Nona it forms a close entity, the summits separated by a slightly pronounced saddle: Callare di Matanna.
The shortest ascent to either of the mountains can be done within 30 to 45 minutes. It starts at Rifugio Matanna a rustic agriturismo (farmstead / inn / hotel), immediately to the east of the mountain and about 300m beneath its summit. Still Monte Matanna is rarely climbed which is mostly due to very steep slopes you have to scale. There is no marked trail, only a barely distinguishable path, which in the lower parts of the ascent from Callare di Matanna cuts through thorny brushwork. The upper slopes are more or less devoid of vegetation, if you ignore the multiple flowers which grow in the karst-like crevices between the limestone slabs. With the right timing (which we didn't have), Rifugio Matanna is an excellent lookout mountain, mainly thanks to the view to the Pania della Croce / Uomo Morto / Pania Seca trinity.
There are two possible trailheads, one at Stazzema directly to the north-west of Monte Matanna, the other at Rifugio Matanna to its immediate south-east. From the latter trailhead the climb to the summit of Monte Matanna is a 30 minute affair.
From Pisa or Firenze (Florence) the itineraries are as follows:
- Stazzema Trailhead:
- Take motorway A11 to the coast
- Switch to motorway A12 north
- At the exit Pietrasanta take SP9 through Seravezza to Stazzema
- Rifugio Matanna Trailhead
- Take motorway A11 to Lucca
- Switch to SS12 in direction Abetone
- At Borgo a Mozzano switch to SP2
- After 10km turn left onto SP37 through Fabbriche di Vallico and follow the signs to Matanna
The Parco Naturale delle Alpi Apuane was established in 1985 to protect the nature as well as culture of the area within which the Alpi Apuane are located. Its overall size amounts to almos 21000 ha. A constant challenge is the presence of roughly 300 marble quarries which their impact on the environment. A hiker might easily find himself inside one of the quarries and is requested to follow signs and rules there (especially for the start of the western route).
The park's official website
AccommodationAccommodation is relatively easy to find along the coast of the Tyrrhenean Sea. Viareggio, Massa, Carrara and La Spezia offer lots of hotel rooms as well as campgrounds. Either book them by travel office or go for a google search.
On the other hand, to stay closer or within the range you can make use of Agriturismo, farms, which offer food and lodging. The site of the Natural Park has a selection of all kinds of accommodation of the area:
Maps & Books
- Alpi Apuane - Garfagnana
- Geological Map Parco delle Alpi Apuane
L. Carmignani, P. Conti, L. Disperati, P.L. Fantozzi, G. Giglia and M. Meccheri
- Tuscany North / Toskana Nord
Wolfgang Heitzmann / Renate Gabriel (translation: Gill Round)
ISBN: 978-3-7633-4812-1 (English)
ISBN: 978-3-7633-4115-3 (German)
- Guida al Parco delle Alpi Apuane
Edited by: Giuliano Valdes
Series: Guide Felici
- Guida all’Alta Via del Parco delle Alpi Apuane
Felici Editore Srl