A wild itinerary that takes in picturesque villages, forgotten roads, dazzling marble caves, and lots and lots of green.
We set off in a group of 3 from Aulla in Garfagnana, north-western Tuscany. Ahead of us, up to Querceta-Forte dei Marmi, awaits a vertical climb of 2,000 m and 107 km of extremely tough and sudden ascents.
50 and 50
The most difficult section is almost all in the first half: the 50 km to Lake Vagli, which you arrive at after a steep and demanding descent. You climb to a maximum altitude of 885 m in this section.
The route then continues on without difficulty to Castelnuovo in Garfagnana, before the last big effort of the day: the immense climb up Cipollaio and its namesake tunnel (well lit thankfully), followed by a quick descent into Querceta.
Additional details: The route isn’t particularly difficult but it’s still challenging because of the overall vertical climb and constant changes in pace. It’s best to tackle it well-trained. And don’t underestimate it, especially if it’s hot.
From Aulla station, leave the SS 63 after 10 km and head towards Canova. After about 4 km, take a left onto an isolated but scenic road (SP 12) which, after a tough 13 km of ups and downs, leads to Monzone.
We went wrong at this point—having to retrace our steps via a long and circuitous route—but from here you need to take the (poorly signed) left to Ugliancaldo. The initial section is very tough, but it’s extremely beautiful and completely deserted. From Ugliancaldo—a stunning stone village perched on the mountainside—follow the signs for Lake Vagli (we asked the way to avoid further errors…). From there it’s a scant and relatively easy 20 km, except for the sudden and unexpected climb with a gradient of almost 15%, which did our legs in for the rest of day…
Have you checked your brakes?
An adrenalin-fuelled descent to Vagli di Sotto, then a fast but steady downhill to the crossroads with the SR445, and from here to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. At this point only 500 m of the vertical climb of Cipollaio (altitude 800 m)—which marks the border with Versilia—remain.
The struggle over, it’s downhill all the way to Querceta-Forte dei Marmi, where our wives await us with cars to take us back to Aulla.
A brutal history
If, when you get to the end, you have the time and energy (we had neither on this occasion) it’s worth making the return trip to Sant’Anna di Stazzema (32 km in total with 6 km of tough climbing). A country forgotten by God and man, but unfortunately not by the Nazi-Fascists, who, on 12 August 1944, carried out one of the most heinous massacres of the Second World War here, slaughtering hundreds of civilians. A healthy interlude of reflection that merits the extra effort.