Chapter #1

A place in-between reclaimed by nature

Treppio ValleyPhoto by: Daniela Niccolai
CornioloPhoto by: Angelo Celsi
Bellavalle ValleyPhoto by: Daniela Niccolai
CaprioloPhoto by: Angelo Celsi
Via FrancescaPhoto by: Daniela Niccolai

Come! Let me tell you of a beautiful small town, in a place in-between, still in Tuscany, but nearly in Emilia, and of its vast and sparsely populated land that is difficult to inhabit but where, if you listen, the nature will reveal sounds, history and stories. I will tell you of four green valleys, narrow and steep, and of how they were reclaimed by nature and wildlife once the people had moved on. The rivers, trees, animals and the green of the woods, the blue of the water and the sky left to take their place. Let’s keep walking, for only on foot can this place be discovered.

Chapter #2

The Selvaggia Fortress

Selvaggia FortressPhoto by: Dino Borgognoni
Sambuca 1Photo by: Daniela Niccolai
Sambuca 2Photo by: Roberto Neri
The VillagePhoto by: Roberto Neri
Sambuca 3Photo by: Angelo Celsi

Look up, to the top of the sharp slope that rises from the Limentra River, to the village of Sambuca. We’ll make our way there along this windy, centuries-old mule trail, up to the town’s steep stone streets that can only be managed on foot, into another dimension, which commands respect and calls for silence. A handful of houses still clinging to the rock face serve as evidence of a bellicose past and an ancient fame. Above it all stands the magical Selvaggia Fortress, while beneath sit the ancient church, fountain and washhouse and the Via Francesca, which cuts through Sambuca the same way pilgrims once did. From here everything can be reached on foot on ancient trails across forests and rivers.

Chapter #3

Memories of chestnuts and stone faces

Bellavalle Valley under the snowPhoto by: Daniela Niccolai
PavanaPhoto by: Sara Lodovisi
TorriPhoto by: Paolo Tamburini
FacePhoto by: Daniela Niccolai
PianezziPhoto by: Francesca Ciuti

Let’s go! We’ll keep walking, descending back down the ridge towards the Limentra. There’s a town down below, rising just beyond the dam where the valley widens and the landscape changes, becoming softer, gentler. Almost Emilian. The village of Pavana is like a memory left among the chestnuts of the Apennines, as Francesco Guccini once sang. Let’s keep moving, back up the mountain towards the east. From the ridge the view opens onto two more wild, isolated valleys. Through the dense forest lay other enticing villages such as Treppio, with its particular dialect and ancient church organ, and Torri, a stone village known for the stone faces carved into the sides of its houses.

Chapter #4

A pristine forest outside of time

Forest 1Photo by: Angelo Celsi
Acquerino ForestPhoto by: Angelo Celsi
Adult buckPhoto by: Angelo Celsi
Badia TaonaPhoto by: Sara Lodovisi
Roe deerPhoto by: Filippo Zobbi

Further down, we’ll continue our walk along another river and beyond, until we reach the Acquerino Forest, a true marvel of biodiversity full of conifer and beech wood trees, small clearings, flowers, streams that empty into the bed of the Limentra. All of a sudden we stumble upon the ruins of ancient abbeys and mysterious engraved stones and their etched arcane symbols that seem to come from a time beyond time. Yet these places truly belong to the bucks, does, wolfs, roe deer. Can you hear them around us?

Chapter #5

Small, wonderful things to discover

Villages and people 1Photo by: Francesco Corsinovi
Villages and people 2Photo by: Francesco Corsinovi
Chicon MillPhoto by: Stefano Giberti
AcquerinoPhoto by: Angelo Celsi
Rocca 2Photo by: Sara Lodovisi

Now let us stop. I must tell you about those of us who live amongst these hills that nature, crude, savage and demanding, has turned into mountains, and us with our humble ways and traditions into mountaineers. With our cooking that, like our land, is somewhere in-between, with our chestnuts, mushrooms and berries from the underbrush. And our simple celebrations, full of life and enthusiasm, like the one that takes place in Sambuca, the village from where we set off. And now it’s time to move on. Let’s keep walking. There’s still a long way to go. There are still things to discover.

Photo by: Daniela Niccolai