A day at the Climbing and Trekking Festival in Camaiore

Climbing and Trekking Festival of Camaiore. Finally a beautiful initiative to promote the Apuan Alps and the territory of Versilia: as part of the actions of the Region of Tuscany aimed at slow mobility and the discovery of nature, here is the three days Camaiore: Between Sport Climbing and Trekking in what could become a paradise for mountain lovers in all facets.

Trekking, climbing, conferences and meetings organised by the Versilia Tourist Promotion Consortium, the “ProRock Outdoor” Association of Mountain Guides, the “Ciclica” Association and the Camaiore Natural Shopping Centre within the Slow Travel Fest circuit linked to the Via Francigena.

Camaiore climbing festival-prorock
The staff of Prorock Outdoor

So many events scheduled in the three days of Camaiore dedicated to the mountains and I couldn’t miss such a delicious opportunity: I didn’t take part in any of the climbing trips because of a backache not yet completely healed, but above all – I won’t deny it – because of the difficulty of the walls chosen for the climbing contests starting from grade 7.

Among the many excursions planned, however, there was one in particular that awakened my memories of my youth and I could not miss it. It had been more than ten years since I had last been to Grotta all’Onda so I decided to follow Prorock’s guides on the route over the mountains above Camaiore.

Veronica, expert guide of “ProRock” and the “Apuane Guide” Association, accompanied the group of about twenty people along the whole itinerary and in the evening, after taking advantage of the initiatives and the equipped stands in Via di Mezzo, in the beautiful S.Bernardino square in Camaiore, I literally enjoyed the exciting (and passionate) interview that Roberto Vigiani conducted in Manolo, the myth of climbing especially for those of my generation!

Trekking from Trescolli to the mouth of the Pallone and back, passing by the prehistoric site of Grotta all’Onda.

It is an easy walk, not long lasting, but extremely interesting.

After the meeting in front of the beautiful Badia di Camaiore, the start of the route took place from Trescolli (526 mt. above sea level), just above the hamlet of Casoli – Camaiore.

Once arrived at the starting point, the entrance of the path (via n° 106) is very easy: it is located near one of the steep hairpin bends drawn by the road, just before a bar and right next to a small dirt area usually used as a car park; on a rock is clearly visible the white-red sign CAI with the number 106.

Proceeding in the wood on easy rocks we come out, in 5 minutes, back on the asphalted road: we follow the climb until we meet again the sign n° 106, always in evidence on a rock; from this point on the path is well signposted and we reach, in a mixed path in the wood among rocks, stones and dirt, to recognize a stone wall containing a difference in height of the ground; here we keep right towards Mount Matanna.

It is an easy walk, not long lasting, but extremely interesting.

Farmhouse Il Paesaggio
Farmhouse Il Paesaggio

In a short time we arrive to the mouth of S. Rocchino (with the inevitable little church) from where we take, always on the right, the path n° 3 that leads, with an hour or so of quiet walk, first to meet the agriturismo “Il Paesaggio”, then to the important mouth of Grattaculo and, then, to the mouth of the Pallone (about 1.100 mt).

Mouth of the Ball
Mouth of the Ball

An hour and a half has passed since departure; not all participants know the Apuan Alps and not all of them are regular trekkers; some do not even live here but are on holiday in Versilia.

The astonishment, therefore, can be read in the eyes of many: in the young South Tyrolean couple, in the blonde Masha, as well as in a Roman boy who, together with his girlfriend from Abruzzo, is now approaching the mountain.

Along the way we arrived at one of the stage points of the itinerary: La Foce del Pallone. This place is so called because it is known for the first attempt, back in 1910, to combine nature and tourism: in fact, a connection was created, by means of a balloon, between the Camaiorese hill and the Foce from where, later on, it was possible to reach the nearby Albergo Alto Matanna.

Grotta all’Onda tells the story of prehistory

Ivy Wave Cave
Ivy Wave Cave

Veronica now leads us along path no. 101 to the Mouth of the Crocione and then along path no. 2 in the direction of Grotta all’Onda. We quickly lose altitude, we enter again the oak wood when, at a very evident junction, we leave the CAI (CAI) white and red signs (path no. 2 goes down decisively towards Casoli) and we start to follow the red tracks on the right: now the Grotta is really close.

First we meet some walls where some bolts shine (actually a bit long for my beginner’s taste); then, suddenly, a surprising spectacle: a huge ivy plant literally “climbing” up the wall until it ends, up there where a “stop” could be placed, in a thick green foliage. I stay five minutes with my nose up, ecstatic, as if following the “climbing route” drawn by ivy. We continue our journey. In five minutes we finally reach the Grotto: huge, deep and protective.

An hour has passed from the mouth of the Pallone, it is hot and some take advantage of a jet of water that comes out overwhelmingly from the depths of the rock to the outside, about fifteen metres high. Veronica explains to me that it is a jet of water that gushes out, abundant, during all seasons.

Wave Cave
Grotta all’Onda (Wave Cave), a prehistoric cavity, along whose outer walls small waterfalls slide, about 40×60 m. wide, an ancient human shelter and today object of scientific investigations. It can be reached after about an hour’s walk along an easy C.A.I. path, among the oak woods of Mount Matanna.

Grotta all’Onda, on the other hand, is known to have been an important prehistoric site: the first users of the cave, as the site of the Municipality of Camaiore well illustrates, were the Neanderthals, about 40,000 years ago today, who practised hunting in the surrounding area. The cave was later inhabited, about 5,900 years ago, by farmers and shepherds in the final phases of the Neolithic Age, who practised the manufacture of terracotta pots, the grinding of cereals, sewing and spinning, the processing of hides and bone as well as the manufacture of polished stone tools.

It is getting late and we take the road back towards Trescolli; in the opposite direction we start to follow the well-known red signs and then the concrete slabs of the aqueduct that will accompany us until our arrival.

Let’s proceed quickly: some of us, at twenty-one o’clock, have an appointment with Roberto Vigiani and Manolo in Piazza San Bernardino and, while the emotions of the afternoon are not yet metabolized, we prepare for the magical evening meeting.

Manolo, the “Wizard” of climbing!

A little before twenty-one they are in Piazza a Camaiore; this is the atmosphere of great occasions: little by little numerous groups of young people and people of all ages, families with small children and climbers who, perhaps, have just finished climbing, approach the stage; all of them waiting for the interview that Roberto Vigiani (Mountain Guide and himself a famous mountaineer) will propose to Manolo.

Manolo

There is an electric atmosphere and great cheerfulness; people who see each other again who knows how long afterwards and start to talk thickly: the last route taken, the last trek in some part of the world, the last peak to tell.

I meet someone, a moment and we hug; it had been a while since we had seen each other, Paolo and I, my companions of the basic climbing course held by the CAI of Viareggio. Like so many people in the square, we tell each other and propose new adventures; it is really surprising, I think, how the mountain is able to unite people!

On tiptoe, suddenly, a man in jeans makes his way through the crowd: Manolo.  Thin, tanned, grey hair and heavenly eyes; accompanied by applause he goes on stage together with his friend Roberto for the interview.

The occasion is given by the presentation of his book “Eravamo Immortali” (We were Immortals), but it immediately becomes a chat as informal as it is deep and exciting:

Don’t challenge the mountain! Sometimes I have gone a little over the top and I’m here because I also had ass.

It really gives you goose bumps to think you are looking at a man who has climbed hundreds of metres of free climbing walls, without rope and protection, He and His Mountain!

And to those who ask him about the relationship with fear he answers, with disarming simplicity and humility:

At a certain point I realized that I needed the emptiness… with or without rope was indifferent.

Then there is the “romantic” side of Manolo, the relationship with the years of his early youth, with the first disillusions; I am moved when he says:

Hopes for revolution are dashed, we gave our soul for the mountain.

At first I didn’t want to write the book, he confesses, then I gave in to the insistence of a publishing house manager. He came, I think, a beautiful story and at the end of the evening I approached him for an autograph. “What’s your name,” he tells me. “Massimiliano, I discovered climbing when I was 50 years old and even though I’m a klutz, I love it”; he looks at me, smiles at me and then writes: to Massimiliano, hurray for the 50, Manolo.

“Thanks Manolo, bye!” The appointment is at next year’s Festival.

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