"What a wall!" - I kept exclaiming when hiking the east ridge to the summit of Monte Sumbra, a limestone mountain at the southern end of the Alpi Apuane northern sector. I was talking about the south face, which drops for more than 700m almost vertically into Val Torrente Turrite Secca. The face is about 1km long and bends into a big amphitheatre of vertical rock. The north and east faces, while not as high, display similar qualities and it seems strange that the summit of this mountain is something of an anticlimax: round-topped and bald.
There are two routes to Monte Sumbra a short ferrata of dubious quality through the south-west face starting at Passo Fiocca and the east ridge, a wonderful balancing act above the abyss of the south face. The latter is the recommended normal route and though exposure is huge the actual dificulties are limited. The ridge is a very blunt knife edge but for one spot, where a small peak has to be climbed where, however, you need all your skill and courage. The actual route avoids this peak but snow conditions on the north face, where it runs forced us back to the ridge. The rock on the ridge is solid and the most dangerous passages are those where you have to step on the grass on the steep north slope. Wet conditions or - in early spring - last years hay can make these spots very slippery indeed.
While the real attraction of Monte Sumbra is the ascent along the east ridge itself together with the south face views, the mountain also is an excellent look-out point. Its location high above Lago di Vagli in the north and Val Turrite Secca in the south ensure wonderful views. Especially the southern view towards Pania della Croce, Uomo Morto and Pania Secca is the best you can get on these signature mountains of the Alpi Apuane. The northern main ridge of the range is set behind neighbouring Monte Fiocca and Monte Altissimo rises to the west above the Tyrrhenean Sea. To the east the long chain of the Appennino Tosco Emiliano can be seen above Garfagnana.
The Alpi Apuane are famous for their marble and at the base of Monte Sumbra's south face you can find several of them. Strangely enough, from the summit only a few can be seen (and none heard, which is much more important), the only visible ones being the abandoned quarries in the Monte Altissimo east face. Most of the still operating marble works can be found on the far side of Monte Fiocca and Monte Sella thus hiding from view and offering an almost unspoit view from the mountain
360° Summit Panorama
The closest trailhead to Monte Sumbra is the hamlet Vilanova, which can be found on the ridge which rises between Isola Santa in the south and Lago di Vagli in the north. There are other possible trailheads which, however, are both far off and deep underneath the summit. To reach Vilanova, follow the instructions below.
- Stazzema Trailhead:
- From Pisa or Firenze (Florence) take motorway A11 to Lucca
- Switch to SS12 in direction Abetone
- At Borgo a Mozzano switch to SP2
- At Castelnuovo di Gafagnana switch to SP69, direction Careggine
- The road turns right at an intersection, take the straight road, which takes you to Vilanova
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
Accommodation 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