Grotta del Vento

The Grotta del Vento, wind cave, is a cave in a mountain in Garfagnana, an area in the Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany. It is near the towns of Fornovalasco and Vergemoli. (About 35 minutes from Bagni di Lucca) The cave has 2 entrances, one at 642 metres above sea level and another on the other side of the mountain at 1400 metres.

It is a wind cave because air is able to blow through the cave from one entrance to the other. The direction of the wind depends on the temperature outside the cave. In summer, when the air outside is warmer, the air is drawn through the higher entrance and out of the lower entrance. In winter the reverse happens and the air flows upwards. If the temperature outside is the same as inside there is no wind. The temperature inside the cave stays at around 10.7degrees C all year. A heavy door has now been installed to stop the flow of air, but you can certainly feel it once the door is open.

The cave is open for visitors. There are 3 guided tours available. The first is the one I did. It takes about 1 hour and explores the part of the cave lined with limestone formations. Fascinating stalactites and stalagmites glisten as you walk along the narrow path which takes you deep into the cave.

The entrance.
Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Just for fun a large skeleton of a bear has been installed near the entrance.

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Soon the door is opened and we enter the cave.

The narrow paths are lit and you can see the stalactites and stalagmites and pools of water. There are steps occasionally, but it is not too strenuous and there are hand rails for safety.

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

Grotta del Vento

You can see some tiny ones beginning to form. It would be necessary to come back in a few hundred years to see much of a difference. Most take about 1000 years to grow 10 centimetres.

Grotta del Vento

At one point the guide turns off the lights so that you can experience total darkness. It is quite an eerie feeling.

The second tour takes 2 hours and a descent is made into an area without limestone formations but interesting forms of erosion on the walls. The third one takes 3 hours in a vertical shaft which is climbed from the bottom to reach a final chamber at the top, followed by a short underground tunnel.

The cave was first discovered in 1989 by children exploring the area. The only one small enough to climb through the entrance was a 4 year old girl. The others opened the entrance a little, but were too frightened to go further than 20 metres into the cave.

The first expedition for research purposes was organised in 1929 by the Florentine Speleogical Grouo of the Italian Alpine Club which stopped at about 60 metres from the entrance by water.

The Bolognese Speleoligical Group got further in 1961 after a prolonged dry spell. Other expeditions followed until 1975 when the explorations extended to 2470 metres and the cave was opened to tourists. Now there are 4 galleries known with at least another 20 branches to be explored.

The guided tours are well organised and the guides are very knowledgeable. There is a shop and a restaurant nearby, so it would be easy to spend several hours here.

See more on the Grotta del Vento website…grottadelvento.com

Montefegatesi in the autumn sun

If you take the road to Montefegatesi that goes past Monti di Villa and keep your eyes peeled you will spot a perfect place to stop to get excellent views of this gorgeous village. I went with friends in November and was rewarded with this lovely sight.

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Montefegatesi

 

Montefegatesi

Mintefegatesi

Montefegatesi

Every time I visit Montefegatesi I am reminded of the tenacity of the early settlers to these mountain villages. They must have been made of stern stuff.

 

Guest post by Belinda

Lovely Belinda, who is currently living at Ponte a Serraglio, has written a post for us about a walk she did in August with guides Franz Della Mea and Francesco Foschi. Francesco took the beautiful photos of the scenery along the way.

A long walk to Lago Nero…by Belinda

Luckily the August day we chose for our long walk to Lago Nero was not too hot. Our destination is quite high in the mountains so we had to be careful to dress appropriately, you can never be sure of the weather in the mountains and it can change suddenly.

Our journey began at the base of Prato Fiorito. I was promised a long walk and my guides certainly gave it to me. Our uphill walk lasted for 5 hours.

Lago Nero is close to Abetone and we passed gorgeous scenery along the way. Sometimes looking over the edge towards Orrido di Botri was a bit ‘hairy’.

Admiring the view

Admiring the view

The upward journey seemed endless at times, but we stopped often to take in the magnificent views and to eat our Mars bars for energy.

A standout tree

A standout tree

More stunning scenery

More stunning scenery

We finally reached Lago Nero. The lake definitely looks black…hence the name. We were very close to Abetone, in fact we could see the cable cars and ski run tracks.

Happily on a downhill bit towards the lake

Happily on a downhill bit towards the lake

The lake is small and at quite a high altitude, 1,730 metres elevation. It is in the Provence of Pistoia in northern Tuscany.

The lake comes into view

The lake comes into view

Beautiful Lago Nero

Beautiful Lago Nero

Guide number 3, Rino, cooling off in the lake

Guide number 3, Rino, cooling off in the lake

We really deserved our lunch at the rifugio where we dined on cheese, bread and red wine. These rifugios are dotted through the area and do a great job for a small donation.

After an hour rest we struggled to get our tired legs moving for the 4.5 hour return walk…the only way home.

On the way back to Prato Fiorito we took in different details of the landscape. For instance,the many variety of mushrooms and colours…and found it fun hunting down a bag full of the small bright yellow ones which are a flavoursome ingredient with the right pasta. We also noticed patches of ‘dug-up ground and rustled leaves, evidence of chingali, but luckily the wild boar were nowere to be seen in the daylight.

The 9.5 hour walk was a bit gruelling at times but fabulously rewarding. A return visit is in order for next summer.

There are lots of amazing walks in the mountains around Bagni di Lucca. I will tell you soon of some others I have done.

Crasciana

Crasciana is 799 metres above sea level and is about 12 kilometres from La Villa. The winding road to the village takes you through lovely forests. The chestnut forests close to Crasciana are particularly beautiful.

The name Crasciana comes from the Roman colonist Carsius. The town has a long history, beginning around 800 AD. At one time it had a large population and was important strategically in the years of fighting in the area.

It is delightfully sleepy now, a peaceful and beautiful place to visit. We drove up in late spring and the road was lined with wildflowers.

There are some fine old houses and decorations, narrow streets, and a collection of green doors.

A lovely little piazza in the centre of town makes a great place to gather for a chat.

The gardens are well cared for…there are flowers and vegetables growing all over the village.

As with all of the mountain villages, the views are spectacular, even on a hazy day.

We really enjoyed our walk through Crasciana and spoke to a few of the lucky locals who call it home. One resident pointed out that there is a Crasciana Alta…a good reason for another visit.

To reach Crasciana, take the turn off from the SS12 towards Casabasciana and follow the signs to Crasciana.

 

 

Our first snowfall

The weather has turned cold and there is a fierce wind blowing through the mountains. There have been some dramatic skies and we thought we could see a light dusting of snow on the distant mountains.

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As we got closer we could clearly see snow on the top of the mountains.

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I think it is beautiful. Perhaps it will snow again tonight. It seems cold enough.