The countryside in Lunigiana is scattered with enchanting hillside villages, lush green hillsides covered in olive groves and as one goes further north to the foothills of the mountains there are hidden meadows in flower, chestnut woods and eventually shady pine forests. A meeting point for various types of plants of the Mediterranean and even alpine regions. Paths lead through narrow village streets with stone houses rendered beautiful with simplicity. For walkers this is a paradise offering some of the most dramatic landscape in Tuscany.
There are numerous parks and nature reserves to discover in the Lunigiana, here is a selection:
The Parco Appennino-Tosco-Emiliano is the youngest Italian national park: in fact, it was only established on 21st May 2001 and includes two regional parks (one of which is Parco del Gigante) and four state nature reserves (one of which is Parco Orecchiella).
Between the Cisa and Forbici Passes, the woodland ridges separating Tuscany from Emilia Romagna give way to a mountainous environment. The summits of Alpe di Succiso, Mt. Prado and Mt. Cusna in the Appennines are higher than 2,000 metres; forests give way to rocks, lakes, and high-mountain grasslands. At lower altitudes, on the Emilia Romagna side, the surly Pietra di Bismantova dominates the landscape with its vertical walls. The sheer of altitudes and exposures leads to the presence of a particularly varied flora. At lower altitudes, the woods are formed by chestnut trees and oaks, at higher altitudes by beech trees and silver firs; beyond the higher range of these species there are the bilberry moorlands typical of the Northern Apennines. The list of herbaceous plants and flowers includes dozens of rare and endemic species. Fauna found here includes animals like wolf, mouflon, roe deer, and the golden eagle.
Waters, grazing lands, and woodlands have drawn man to these mountains since the dawn of time. The importance of the roads climbing over Lagastrello, Cerreto, Pradarena and Radici Passes is witnessed by the presence of imposing medieval fortresses. In the woods there are small churches, ancient paved streets, and stone and straw buildings like the so-called "tegge" characterizing the Reggiano valleys.
In the grazing lands at the foot of Pania di Corfino, the State Corps of Foresters has created the Botanic Gardens of Orecchiella (see paragraph below), one of the most interesting destinations of the Apennines if you are fond of rare plants.
For more information visit: http://www.parks.it/parco.nazionale.app.tosco.emil/Eindex.html
Parco delle Alpi Apuani (Apuane Alps)
The Alpi Apuane Park mountain range in north western Tuscany, expands for 60 km along the Tyrrhenian sea coast in the Versilia, Lunigiana and Garfagnana areas. The area is a huge ecosystem and the Alpi Apuane marble, a high quality limestone exported all over the world derives from here. The Apuane mountains consist of Monte Pisanino, surrounded by the sharp summits of Pizzo d’Uccello, Monte Grondilice and Monte Roccandagia to name but a few. The Apuane Alpi is a complex mountain range; with several series of very striking caverns with underground streams and amazing stalactites as well as stalagmites.
For more information visit: http://www.parks.it/parco.alpi.apuane/Eindex.html
Parco di San Rossore
Parco di San Rossore extends southwards from Viareggio to Livorno - along the coastline and slightly inland. This Park was established with the aim of protecting natural, environmental and historical resources of this special part of the coast, by promoting scientific research and education. The Estate is about 23.000 hectares along 32 kilometres of beach.
For more information visit: http://www.parks.it/parco.migliarino.san.rossore/Eindex.html
Parco di Montemarcello-Magra
The Regional Park of Montemarcello-Magra was founded in 1995 and embraces the hills that divide the Gulf of La Spezia (Golfo della Spezia) from the Magra and the Vara river (Magra's main tributary) up to Ponte Santa Maria. Stretching from Punta Bianca, the southern end of the Caprione promontory which is surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation, to the green valley of the Vara river, the Park encompasses 3,660 hectares of land rich in history and nature. The fluvial area is characterized both from cultivation and wetlands where aquatic birds nest. If you don't like swimming in the sea, you can swim in the Magra river, one of the cleanest of all Italian rivers; until a few kilometres from its mouth it doesn't cross any industrial centre.
For more information visit: http://www.parks.it/parco.montemarcello.magra/Eindex.html
Parco del Gigante
The Parco Regionale dell'Alto Appennino Reggiano, or Parco del Gigante, according to the name which is currently used, is one of the largest parks in Emilia Romagna and encloses a great variety of places and environments of high naturalistic and landscape value. Within it you can find some of the highest peaks of the northern Apennines, from where you can enjoy wide views over steep valleys, large woods, and large mountain grasslands.The protected environment, typical of the Alto Appennino Emiliano, has a great naturalistic value. Among the most interesting features, there are several evidences of the whurmian glaciation, from the morphology (cirques, lakes, arches, morainic deposits) to the flora, and to old alpine fauna. As far as the woods are concerned, there are precious beech tree woods and particularly valuable reforestations with conifers.
For more information visit: http://www.parks.it/parco.gigante/Eindex.html
The Orecchiella Park is a National Reserve in the Garfagnana region that stretches north to Monte Prado and Monte Vecchio both of which mark the Appennine border between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. The beech forests provide an amazing landscape that is common along this part of Appennine range. Large grassland and rocky faces with precipices on narrow gorges (typical habitat for birds of prey) are also present. The Park includes a huge upland as well, lying west of Pania di Corfino and between the Corte and Corfino river valleys. Beech, chestnut and oak woods are spread all over the park and, in the undergrowth, blueberries abound. The huge grasslands are rich in juniper, broom and the wild rose. As well as being rich in flora, the park is also rich in fauna with deers, row deers, wolves, wild boar, squirrels and birds of prey roving freely in the wilderness. Inside the park it is possible to visit the botanical garden, the mountain garden and an area for visitors which houses exhibits.
Location of the Orecchiella Park - be aware that distances take a long while in this area because of the small and winding roads