#bikefriends #bikepacking #cycletouring

A weekend in Garfagnana

It has been a long time since I started thinking about climbing Abetone, but since it was too far for one day trip from Bologna, where I’m staying at the moment, I waited to have a few more days to go and explore a bit of Garfagnana too.  I was also thrilled to try my new camping gear, in fact during the lock-down I’ve got a full new set: light tent, a small sleeping bag and a cheap but comfortable inflatable mattress. The full camping gear including my toilette trousse fit into the saddle bag, which makes it very easy to pack.

Camping gear in saddle bag

Day one: Bologna – Valico del Poggilo – Cutigliano  (100  Km – 1,454  Elevation – Rain & Clouds)

I was almost tempted not to leave because the weather forecast was showing black clouds for all day including sporadic violent afternoon thunderstorms. Then I fought I’ve to get out of Bologna and I’d have to cycle along Porettana, it could get very hot, so better take advantage of the rain, so I did, I left Bologna with my raincoat on. This was my first day with the full bikepacking bags filled and mounted on my bicycle, as I thought the two front-fork-bags needed some longer zip ties than the one I had to fix them better, after 10km I stopped for a hardware shop and I’ve longer zip tires that were perfect to fix my bags properly. It is always advisable try a new set before leaving, however I had enough time to do all my small adjustments on the way.  After that stop bags were fixed and I could relax and enjoy my nearly cold ride. I rode in and out Porettata (which is usually very busy) passing small villages and secondary roads. I’ve also met two cycle-tourists in Bromoton but they were going in the opposite direction.  After Porretta Terme the sun came out and I could admire the bright spells coming from the trees, reflecting on Reno river.  The trip from that point until the arrival was just perfect, the colours, the smell of the mushrooms after the rain, the beauty of a nice and gentle climb. I was getting to understand better what carrying camping gear means, I could feel the weight on my bicycle, very different than travelling only with a change of clothes. I stopped at the crossroad in the direction of Abetone, there I met a French guy who was travelling with a trolley fixed behind his bicycle and he told me he couldn’t climb Abetone with that. He was travelling for 4 months, so of course, he needed a lot more things with him. I thought I was doing well until I reached Cutigliano and I had to go to the top of the village, about 100mt in less than a kilometer, a slope between 10 and 12%, there I fully understood how my camping gear was dragging me behind. I managed to arrive at THE BIRCHES CAMPSITE. A very basic camping, I set my tent in a corner and I felt happy and relaxed. Apart from the cold shower, it was just a perfect quite place at the end of a perfect day. I had time to go back to Cutigliano centre and walk around the panoramic path before it got dark. I seated in a local pizzeria for a pizza observing the local life moving around me. 

Day two: Cutignano – Abetone Pass – Radici Pass – Caselnuovo in Garfagnana  (74  Km – 1,848  Elevation – Mild & Sunny)

Rain woke me up around 6am, I decided to stay put until it was diminishing, at 8 o’clock I was ready for breakfast, unfortunately, the bar wasn’t open until 9am. So I packed my tent and my staff before breakfast, honestly a bit annoying packing before a coffee, anyway, I was happy that I managed to close everything in a short time and properly, the full equipment was fitting again in my bag without having to struggle with it.  Today was the day of the 2 passes, I was a bit anxious in the morning, I always look at difficult and long climbs with a bit of fear before I make it. Abetone first and then Radici, 27km climb in total. The first 12 km up to Abetone were pretty easy and fast, I stopped for a few pictures and I was ready to proceed, the temperature was nearly cold but enjoyable, especially uphill. The second pass Radici, was longer 15km, with easy parts at 3/4 %  and other parts harder especially the last 3km when it got between 10 and 11%.  Without hesitation, slow but persistent I reached the top and stopped at the water fountain where I met some “ulta cyclists”, they recommended another street to go downhill, according to them it was more panoramic than the one I’ve tracked. I had lunch and I followed the recommendation, I should say, they were right. The view above Garfagnana was breathtaking. I stopped many times for a picture, a video, a moment to explore with the gaze the beauty of unrevealed Italy.  I arrived in Castelnuovo in Garfagnana after a couple of hours, I felt very tired after the long climb and with this new heavy asset on my bicycle, I tried to find a way to reach the campsite without having to climb another hill, but I couldn’t, so I gave up and I hit the last tough slop, until it got to impossible above 17%, so I’ve decided to push my bike for 300m, up to the entrance of LA PIELLA AGRICAMPING. Another quiet place with an amazing view.  I’ve been instructed by a young lady ( I guess the niece of the manager) where to place my tent and quickly it was up, I’ve got a shower (hot this time!) and then I walked to a nearby village for shopping, in fact the place didn’t have a bar, so I needed to get some breakfast for next morning. Luckily the manager of the place recommended a nearby Agriturismo for dinner, so I called them and  I could go there and see one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen, a traditional cottage with very green grass and a full view above the city of Castelnuovo. Deers were running a few meters from where tables were set for dinner, classic music was enriching the atmosphere and when the owner started to explain our dishes accompanied with the house red wine, whilst colours changed with the sunset, it became just perfect. I’d definitely recommend this place for a short stay, if it happens to you to be around that area look for AGRITURISMO AI FRATI. The night passed fast, eating good food and having a chat with the rest of the diners, I walked back to my tent under a starry sky.

Day three: Caselnuovo in Garfagnana – Val di Lima – Valico del Poggilo – Riola   (74  Km – 1,848  Elevation – Sunny & Warm)

Sleeping in a tent is not like sleeping in a bed, many times I woke up to find a new position, however, I manage to rest enough to be ready to hit the road. I had my breakfast before packing while I waited for the humidity to rise from the tent. I left the campsite at about 8.30 am, I went down to Castelnuovo and soon I had to climb Monteperpoli, a short climb but pretty stiff especially for my tired legs. From there I’ve followed the main road towards Bagni di Lucca, but always going in and out using small roads instead, from Bagni di Lucca, I entered Lima Valley, an unexpected rocky valley with a lot of sports activities like canyoning and free climbing. I stopped to look at the river gorge many times, the morning was passing along pretty fast, I reached the highest point of the day climbing from a different side Valico del Poggiolo at about 1pm. The day was getting hotter, I went down along Reno Valley, where the atmosphere was very different from the sun. I should say I liked it better when I rode it just after the rain, the smell of mushrooms wasn’t there anymore. I reached Porretta Terme in solitude, from there there was more traffic, so  I decided to carry on a bit more before catching a train to go back to Bologna avoiding the long Porretta road again. I stopped in Riola, I got ice cream and I waited for the train, tired but happy.


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