My in-laws have a summer home at Cinquale, a beach town on the thin strip of flatland between the sea and the Apuans, and if you swim out a ways and look inland, you'll see (on a clear day) a mountain with a spot of blue in it: it's called Monte Forato, The Holed Mountain, and over the years I spent quite a bit of time looking at it.
One day I asked the people at the next umbrella, who live in nearby Montignoso year round, about it. "My father laid out the trail, came the reply. It's an easy hike from Stazzema. Takes about 3 hours."
So I procured a map, got my hiking shoes, and decided to go one morning. A hike is not the sort of thing one can write volumes about, but one can accompany notes with pictures. Briefly:
If you are driving to the area, you will want to take the A 12 (Genova-Collesalvetti) and exit at Versilia. From there, follow the signs for Stazzema, which lead into the mountains, stopping at some point to fill your water bottle and buy lunch (I got a sandwich and 2 peaches).
You can drive all the way up to Stazzema (439 m ASL) and park in the square, and I did, driving past Santa Maria Assunta, a pretty Romanesque church built where the Madonna is said to have appeared, whose foundations date to the IX century, while the façade has a 14th century rosette.
However, parking in Stazzema means you will have to walk through town -- there are some pretty houses, some dating to the 1700s, and there's a bell tower with the Medici coat of arms, dating to 1739 -- because the road narrows considerably, and then up a steep hill, adding about a hundred (or so it seemed) meters to your climb.
So I suggest you bear right at one of the hairpin turns below Stazzema, following a sign for Casa Giorgini, an Agritursmo located in what was once the home of Admiral Giorgini, who wanted a place that offered spectacular views of mountains and sea.
The road leads up past a sawmill, and you should park where it becomes dirt, at the mouth of the number 6 trail (you'll see a red and white CAI (Club Alpino Italiano) maker with a 6 in it). The trail is the old mule track that led up, over the pass, and down to Fornovalasco, a town in Garfagnana, and as such it is paved, with steps in the steeper parts, and though it does climb steadily it is easy going, also because it is almost entirely in shadow in the morning.
Initially you'll be walking though woods, but after about 45 minutes you'll come to Casa Giorgini (735 m ASL), and begin to see the mountains (Pania and Corchia) on the other side of the valley though the trees. A bit a bit after that you'll note that the bedrock has changed from black to white; you are now walking on the calcareous rocks that form the backbone of the Apuane and are responsible for both the marble quarries and - where water infiltrates and dissolves - the region's spectacular caves.
More beautiful views, a spring with bracingly cold water, and you will climb steadily; remain on the number 6 trail until you come to the pass, the Foce di Petrosciana (960 m ASL) and behold all of Garfagnana laid out below you.
By the time you reach the pass you will have walked for about 2 hours, and be 2/3 of the way there. Exactly at the pass you will see, to your left, trail 110, which goes up the naked rock. Scramble up (at least I did), and the first quarter mile or so is steep, with a couple of sections I did on hands and knees, and one section with a rope to hold on to, and then the trail becomes wooded again and easy, though it again climbs steadily. After about 45 minutes you will come around a bend, and see a cliff. Look closer and you'll realize you're looking at the arch, and it is big.
The trail circles around to the back of the arch, where I found a great many people, including a church youth group, relaxing and having lunch.
I climbed up the scree slope to slightly above the arch, found a spot (at about 1200 m ASL) with a beautiful view, ate, and relaxed for about a half hour before starting back down.
(A brief aside: The arch is impressive, at least 50 meters (150 feet) in diameter, and though one could cross it I decided not to. Legend has it that the mountain was pierced in the course of a battle between demons and hermits, or perhaps demons and the Madonna. As you behold the span, the legend doesn't seem so far-fetched.)
The walk down took about the same as the walk up - 3 1/2 hours, and was noticeably warmer, because by then the sun had come around and was shining on the trail.
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.