Chapter #1

The awesome Antro: where water paints the rocks

L'Antro del CorchiaPhoto by: Emanuele Baroncelli
L'Antro del CorchiaPhoto by: Emanuele Baroncelli
Antro del Corchia: particolarePhoto by: Deborah
EMANUELE BARONCELLI4Photo by: Emanuele Baroncelli

Click click! Here I am, the Coral Chough: I have shiny feathers, black as coal, and a curvy orange beak. You'll find me in the Apuan Alps, where I nest among the rocks. Can you see them, the Apuan Alps? Pointed peaks that rise up in the bluest of skies, cloaked in a dense coating of chestnut trees. And that striking mountain that you see? That's Corchia, whose bowels conceal a treasure: the Antro, the largest karstic system in Italy. Seventy kilometres of tunnels and wells, a maze of conduits that delve down 1,200 metres, extraordinarily shaped by water into incredible and bizarre forms.

Chapter #2

A blanket of sweet-smelling stars

Panorama dal monte CrocePhoto by: Fabio Salani
Monte Corchia: le praterie di giunchigliePhoto by: Emanuele Baroncelli
Fiore di giunchigliaPhoto by: Franca Giannotti
Monte Croce: panoramaPhoto by: Franca Giannotti
La vetta del monte CrocePhoto by: Franca Giannotti

Here I am again, it's still me, the Chough. As it's a beautiful day, come with me to see a mountain I love: Monte Croce. In May its meadows that slip down steeply towards the valley floor are covered in a white, scented blanket: there are hundreds and thousands of daffodils, that wave in the wind. Let's have a day in the countryside! We'll take a blanket and lie on it, breathing in the flowers and letting our gaze: before us stretch peaks and the majestic Pania della Croce, the jewel in the crown.

Chapter #3

Sant'Anna di Stazzema: a cry of war, peaceful silence

Il Monumento OssarioPhoto by: Christian
Primule lungo la Via Crucis a Sant'AnnaPhoto by: Monja
Sant'Anna: la Via Crucis nel boscoPhoto by: Monja

I've been flying since dawn. Now I'm tired! 

I'll pause here on the branches of those plane trees, in front of the church of Sant’Anna. In the meadow there are little wooden crosses! We mark the spot where the children of Sant’Anna played Ring-a-Ring-Of-Roses on the last day of school before that terrible August 12, 1944, when the Nazis murdered 560 innocent people. Meet Enio, Cesira and Mario: they were there that day and now bear witness to what happened. In the Museum of the Resistance you can hear what happened at that terrible time, and you can also talk about Peace, something that is not difficult in this quiet village.

Chapter #4

Wolves, crabs and rare herbs: come here, so you can see them

Natura in Montagna - Tributo alle Alpi Apuane
Moltkia suffruticosa of the Apuan Alps
Altro Matanna: cavalli allo stato bradoPhoto by: Alessandro Nicoli
Golden eaglePhoto by: Gerardo Gronchi
animali al pascoloPhoto by: Franca Giannotti
Panorama della Val SerenaiaPhoto by: Franca Giannotti

It's so quiet in these ancient oak forests! While I enjoy the fresh air, my friend the wolf sneaks into the undergrowth.

"I'm looking for some moltkia for my darling," he tells me.

"I saw some close to the badger's den," he replied, whistling. It's known as rock pearl herb and has the prettiest, dangling flowers. You can find it in just two places all over the world and one of those is the Apuan Alps. The wolf prowls and I watch him. He isn't strikingly muscular, but he's nimble and that silvery fur makes him irresistible. Don't tell anyone, but the wolf is back in these woods!

Chapter #5

Gold of the woods: from peasants' bread to sweet treats

La preparazione del castagnaccioPhoto by: Sara Varlani
A "metato" to dry chestnuts
Le Apuane in autunnoPhoto by: Giovanni Mascellani
The village of PomezzanaPhoto by: Emanuele Lotti
The village of Pruno in the winterPhoto by: Giandomenico Jardella

You should see the Apuans in the autumn: the trails are covered in golden leaves that have fallen from the impressive chestnut trees. Every so often, walking beside the centuries-old trunks, you come across the remains of a metato: a small building used to dry chestnuts. There are the Apuane villages: gripping on to the rock or spread out in the sunshine. Here it's a maze of alleyways, arches and steps and... delicious recipes: castagnaccio, a chestnut cake scented with orange and rosemary, or ciacci filled with ricotta, and ballotti, sweet chestnuts boiled with fennel seeds.