The Monte Forato has to be one of the outstanding features of the Apuan Alps – it’s a great natural arch formed by erosion on both sides of a limestone mountain, which eventually caused both east and west sides to meet and form a huge cavity. It deserves to take its place with others of the world’s great natural arches, like Rainbow Arch in Utah and Durdle door in Dorset (UK)
You can reach Monte Forato from either side of the Apuans. We started off from Fornovolasco, a lovely village we had first come across descending from the Pania Della Croce some years previously.Since we first went there it had been badly damaged by the 1996 flood which swept away all the bridges in the place and also some houses. Two people,unfortunately, also lost their lives. However, today the only evidence of such a disaster is to be seen in the pictures in the local bar recording the event.
Path 12 leads up to Petrosciana whence path 6 continues to Foce di Petrosciana where there is a maestina (little shrine which also acts as a shelter in bad weather). Here, there is a choice: path 110 can take you the easier way to the Monte Forato (that is, after a somewhat rocky start) but there is a variant which starts on the via ferrata (path where you have to hold on for dear life onto a steel cable). We decided the latter was not for us but somehow slipped on to path 131 which lead towards Scalocchia and so were forced to take a turn to the left up the steep slopes leading to the magnificent Monte. No matter, the effort was more than worth it!
Now that it will soon be upon us, the Monte Forato is a place to watch on midsummer evening as you can see the sun set twice first disappearing behind the arch, then re-appearing again and then finally setting below it. It is also a place to watch on midsummer mornings if you are on the sea-ward side for you can then see the sun rise twice over! (Best villages to see this from are Volegno and Pruno) Monte Forato is one of the largest natural arches in Italy and is 12 metres high, 32 metres across and 8 metres wide. Even if you decide not to go over the top the meadows surrounding it are quite lovely.
I caused a little concern to my wife who began to scream up to me as I decided to cross on top of the arch. It looks terrifying from the spectator’s viewpoint but actually the path across is not too narrow and as long as you don’t stray too far to each side it is quite safe.
We returned to Fornovolasco via path12 and entered the village to drink a welcome beer at that bar.
Interestingly, people in Fornovolasco speak a local dialect which is quite different from that of the surrounding villages. This is because the village was settled in the sixteenth century by immigrants from the north Italian city of Brescia, experts in mining and smelting iron ore (which abounds in the surrounding area and in which there are several abandoned mines) – hence the name “Forno” – oven or furnace and “Volasco”, presumably the name of the fellow who constructed the first of the furnaces.
If you know your Ariosto (poet and governor of the area in the 16th century) you’ll recollect the following lines:
Lo scoglio, ove il sospetto fa soggiorno,
Alto dal mare da seicento braccia,
Di ruinose balze cinto intorno,
E da ogni parte di cader minaccia:
Il più stretto sentier; che guida al Forno,
Là dove il Garfagnin il ferro caccia,
La via Flamminia ed Appia nomar voglio,
che passa verso il Mar; va su lo scoglio.
The scoglio is, of course, the Monte Procinto, that panettone shaped mountain I mentioned in a previous post. The path is indeed narrow (stretto sentier) and leads to Forno(volasco) where the garfagnin inhabitants hunted for iron (il ferro caccia).
All these pictures were taken when we first visited it in the summer of 2005 in the guidance and company of a dear friend who, alas, is no longer with us. I can’t believe it’s now five years since she left us.