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The Apuan Alps are a hidden gem of Tuscany, bringing stunning scenery without the crowds, so read on to find the best hiking routes and more.
Map of Hikes in the Apuan Alps
The Apuan Alps is the name of the mountain range in Tuscany stretching north of Lucca for 40 km, just inland from the Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre. The mountains reach almost 2000 metres, and while it’s sweltering at the coast it can be a pleasant temperature high in the hills.
Hiking is the best way to explore the Apuan Alps. To get to the starting point of hikes it’s easiest with a car, though there are often a few buses per day to even the remotest mountain villages. Apart from hiking, visiting the Carrara Marble Quarries is a popular activity in the Apuan Alps.
Best Mountain Hikes in the Apuan Alps
- Monte Sagro Hike – 9.5 km, 600 m climb
- Pania della Croce Hike – 16.4 km, 1600 m climb
- Monte Tambura Hike – 12 km, 950 m climb
1. Monte Sagro Hike
Hike details: 9.5 km, 600 m climb, relatively easy
Walking up Monte Sagro is one of the most rewarding hikes in the Apuan Alps. The route is fairly easy, there’s not that much climb, yet the views from the top are absolutely stunning.
Tips: There’s very little shade on this hike, so make sure to take a sunhat and sunglasses. In summer it’s best to set off early. However, in Autumn or Spring it can be a clear day, yet be windy and cold at the top so make sure also to bring warm clothes.
Shortening the Hike: You can drive further along the road (it becomes gravel) to reach a car park closer to the mountain. Starting from here makes the hike 5 km with 450 metres of climb. The downside is that you miss out on views of the quarries and a nice woodland and meadows walk.
Nearby Excursions: There’s a lovely hilltop town called Fosdinovo thirty minutes drive away, definitely worth the detour. You can also stay overnight in the castle* here! In Carrara, far down below, you can tour the marble quarries and marble museums. Note that some tours close in the winter season. To restock on lost energy, visit the village of Colonnata, world-famous for Lardo di Colonnata, a delicacy made of pork fat (yum!?).
2. Pania della Croce Hike
Hike details: 16.4 km, 1600 m climb, strenuous with a lot of climb, a few fairly easy sections of chains.
This long hike up Pania della Croce is worth it for the views and diverse scenery. The walking itself is mainly fairly steep up or down, so hiking poles* are definitely recommended. There is one section on the way up, and one on the way down that involves walking along a very narrow/rocky path and holding onto chains. Apart from those sections, there isn’t much exposure and the top ridge is fairly broad. In summer or on weekends in winter, you can break the hike up by staying at a Rifugio. This mountain refuge is just off the trail, in the heart of the Apuan Alps.
Tips: Start early as this hike is long, the horizontal distance is deceptively short. Since you’ll only be hiking 2-3 km per hour it will probably take 7-10 hours to complete the walk.
Shortening the Hike: For a shorter, easier hike, you can just walk the lower loop (9.7 km, 800 m climb). It’s a great hike in itself. You don’t reach the top of the mountain, but do enjoy great views, a beautiful ridgeline walk and a magnificent natural arch.
Nearby Excursions: The Cave of the Wind (Grotta del Vento) is a famous cave close to the start of the hike and open all year round. Down in the main valley, the Historic Centre of Barga is worth looking around if you have time.
3. Monte Tambura Hike
Hike details: 12 km, 950 m climb, moderate hike, one section of slightly difficult chains.
The hike up Monte Tambura starts at the beautiful hamlet of Campocatino. It’s a moderate hike that’s not too far and doesn’t have too much climb, though is still a serious mountain hike. The path is fairly easy apart from one section near the end. This involves scrambling down a rocky cliff while holding onto the chains.
Tips: The weather can be variable, and it can be much windier and colder than expected on the top ridge. Make sure to bring warm clothes.
Where to Stay when Hiking in the Apuan Alps
Near Carrara, the Quarries and the Monte Sagro Hike
There are several options for places to stay in this region of the Apuan Alps. They vary from castles in hilltop towns to apartments in villages and hotels in the larger town of Carrara.
Castello di Fosdinovo* – Stay in a renovated medieval castle, with rooms full of character and access to all the great public rooms. There’s a great breakfast and amazing views, set in the lovely hilltop village of Fosdinovo.
L’Canton B&B* – A fully-equipped apartment in the middle of Colonnata. This little village is located on a little hill among many marble quarries and is famous for its pork fat delicacies.
There are also many places to stay in Carrara*. The town has a nice centre and is convenient for going on a tour of the marble quarries.
Near Fornovolasco and the Pania Della Croce Hike
There are a couple of places to stay in the valley leading to Fornovolasco, or on the surrounding hills, with many more options down in the main valley in towns such as historic Barga.
Rifugio La Mestà* – A hostel with several private rooms with shared bathrooms in Trassilico. This is a lovely hilltop village with amazing views. Out of season, the Rifugio is still open but the adjoining restaurant is only open on the weekends (and there is no other food in the village). To get to Trassilico village you have to drive for 15 minutes up a windy little road, and then back down again the next day. If you think you’ll be too tired for this after the hike, the following option is better.
Holiday Home in Fornovolasco* – A renovated, fully equipped old stone cottage. It’s just opposite the Cave of the Wind and next door to a little restaurant. Minimum two-night stay. This place is very convenient for the Pania Della Croce Hike and Fornovolasco village.
Down in the valley, there are many more places to stay in Barga*, a cute town with a historic centre.
Around the Northern side of the Apuan Alps
There are not many places to stay around the northern side of the Apuan Alps. Most of them are small cottages or occasionally larger villas. Highlighted below are two convenient places. The first is in the cute town of Equi Terme and the second is close to Campocatino and the start of the Monte Sagro Hike.
Casa Silvana* – A self-catering house in the village of Equi Terme. As the name suggests, there are natural thermal baths in the town. There are also a few caves and an old section of the town to explore nearby.
Home in Garfagnana* – A fully-equipped house with a mountain cabin vibe, and hikes starting right from the door.
If you enjoyed our Hiking in the Apuan Alps Guide, check out our Cinque Terre Hiking Guide. See our 1-week Cinque Terre & Apuan Alps Itinerary, or our guide to Hiking in Italy.