Sunday, March 27, 2016

A perfect day for the first of our 50 hikes in the hills of Tuscany

Almost there--We take a selfie while gathering strength for the final assault. 
The predicted warmest day of March and a book called “50 Hikes in and around Tuscany” both shouted at us yesterday, saying we should take a hike—and so we did, spending a good part of the Saturday before Easter taking the Monte Pisano loop. It is listed as a moderately easy five-mile hike that takes about three hours, and experienced trekkers that we are, we knocked it out in a little more than five hours—we like to stop and smell the flowers, eat the chocolate chip cookies and M&Ms from our backpacks, and take various breaks for photos and to catch our breath.

We had a little trouble finding the way to the trail head, because our GPS device couldn’t find the address we put in, and the guidebook gave directions from Firenze and Pisa but not from Lucca. After fussing with the GPS for 15 minutes, we gave up and just decided to go through Buti and pick up the guidebook directions from there.
It cost us an extra 10 minutes of driving time, but hey, who wouldn’t want to go through a city called Buti (understand that the Italian “u” is pronounced like the “oo” in boot). Of course, I had to stop and have Lucy snap a photo of the sign, and she said point to the “Buti,” and so I did.

We found this a perfect time of the year to hike, because the deciduous trees still have no leaves, the plants and flowering trees are blooming and the temperature is perfect. The only problem is the perpetual haze in this area of Tuscany that prevents long-distance views. I think some of the haze is naturally occurring, but most of it is likely caused by the burning of olive branches and smoke from the paper manufacturing factories that are abundant in the region. Each of the 50 million or so olive trees of Tuscany has to be pruned to be fruitful next fall, and then the branches are burned throughout the winter and early spring. The day had almost no wind, so the haze deepened throughout the day, preventing us seeing more than about 40 miles.
A nice photo taken by Lucy. See what I mean about the haze?

Lucy coming up the trail just before we stopped to take a cookie break.

The guidebook says, “From the summit you can clearly see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the mouth of the Arno River, as well as the Tuscan Archipelago to the west, the Tuscan hill country to the south, the Alpi Apuane, Cinque Terre, and Lucca to the north. On an incredibly clear day, particularly in the winter, you can see the snow capped French Alps across the sea.” We could, with great difficulty, make out the Leaning Tower in Pisa and the towers in Lucca, but we could only see as far north as Viareggio—only about a third of the way to Cinque Terre. We didn’t even try to take long distance photos, because of the haze and the fact that we don’t have a telephoto lens and a polarizing filter.
We did see this view of Lucca, but not as clearly as the one another blogger captured and I have borrowed.

We noticed that even the scenic photos from the guidebook were hazy. However, I later went online to some other blogs and tourism websites and grabbed a couple of photos of what we might have seen on the right kind of day and with the proper equipment. We couldn’t see Montecarlo because it was either too far away or blocked by Monte Serra, the highest of the mountains of Pisa and the one with all the telecommunications antennae that we see every day from our terrazzo. We did enjoy watching three hang gliders sailing over Lake Massaciuccioli, although they were pretty far away.
See the Torre di Pisa down there? Neither do I, but we could just make it out as a little speck in real life.

Lucy commented that what impressed her the most were the bicyclists, who rode their mountain bikes all the way to the top of the mountain. “They had great stamina and fortitude, as well as giant leg muscles,” she said. “Riding down would be scary, too, with the gravel and rocks. And won’t their brakes overheat?” I told her that their bikes were probably worth more than some of our cars. Two bicyclists had bikes with electric motors to help with the climb. There were a few other hikers, but we were by ourselves for the most part. Monday is Pasquetta, a traditional day in Italy when families take hikes and picnic in the countryside, so it probably will be more crowded then.
This is also a borrowed photo. Le Cinque Terre would be just about where the sun is setting, although on the seaboard side, so on a clear day, one can see as far as the Cinque Terre, but not actually see them. In the foreground is Lago di Massaciuccioli, the lake which mostly famous because Giacomo Puccini had a home nearby and often went huting and fishing there. Behind the lake is the beach-side city of Viareggio.
Lucy refused my challenge to engage in
a pine cone fight.
We hope in the weeks and years to come to take more of the 50 routes listed in the book, especially some in the nearby Alpi Apuane—even if most of those promise to be more strenuous. We’re thankful that we’ve chosen to come to Italy while our health still permits us to take hikes like this.


  1. Paul and Lucy, I'm so glad you're posting these comments and pictures! I also am more than a little envious; I've always had an obsession about Italy--love it! Can hardly wait for the next post.

  2. Spuds, I too am enjoying the vicarious life as seen through your words and pictures! Your explorations of the "fatherland" (Italy) actually encouraged me to visit Norway last summer for my pilgrimage. Keep up the blogs!


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