High-Rise Hotel

The Albergo Alto Matanna is situated high up on the slopes of Mount Matanna at the top end of the valley leading to Fabbriche di Vallico. Oddly enough, it does not belong to the comune di Fabbriche di Vallico but to that of Camaiore which is right on the other side of the Apuans. This means that although the Albergo is only a thirty minutes journey from Fabbriche di Vallico it is a full two hours away from its town hall in Camaiore!

The mountain refuge was built by Alemanno Barsi in 1910 and is located at a height of around 1000 metres. Barsi with his son Daniel was the originator of a “balloon funicular”; a hot-air balloon which rose from near the sea to the height of the hotel but was secured from flying away by a cable. It was a grand scheme to get seaside holiday-makers to enjoy the freshness of the mountains in the summer in less than an hour. Unfortunately, the year after the balloon-funicular’s inauguration a violent storm destroyed it and its cable fittings and the balloon is only remembered today by the name of a nearby area which is called “il passo del Pallone”.

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In 1923 the Lucca section of CAI was founded here. The Albergo was bought by a Camaiore family who, in 1973, sold it to the town of Pietrasanta which used it as a summer camp for children. In 2007 Pietrasanta decided to sell it privately for 653000 euro. I don’t quite know what’s going to happen to it now but the hotel is in a splendid position with three major trails starting out from it: 3 (Palagnana – Foce del Pallone – Foce di Grattaculo), 5 (Callare di Matanna – Stazzema), 109 (Le Porchette – Foce di Petrosciana). It is also a starting point for the ascent of the Nono and Matanna mountains.

Outside the Albergo is this plaque unveiled in 1893 recalling the inauguration of the Stazzema – Palagnana mountain path by the Florence CAI section under its President, Richard Henry Budden.

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Who was Richard Henry Budden?

Now largely forgotten in favour of other more dramatic figures like Whymper Richard Henry Budden was one of the pioneer Victorian apostles of the new sport of alpinism. He was born in Stoke Newington, London in 1826 and died in Turin in 1895. In the Val d’Aosta there is a peak named after him: the Punta Budden (3,630 metres).

Born into a wealthy family, he studied first at Bonn and later in Paris, travelling extensively in Europe and finally deciding to settle in Italy, eventually in Turin, where he joined the CAI, or Italian Alpine Club

Budden did a lot to develop alpine tourism in the Val d’Aosta area, building paths, opening refuges and hotels and helping to save forests from overexploitation.  But he was active in the Apuan Alps area too and did much to promote the Apuan Alps as fully worthy of attention as the Alps themselves.

Budden also promoted the protection and use of rivers with fish farming and the creation of dams; the opening of small industries in disadvantaged alpine areas. As a result of his endeavours Budden was awarded honorary citizenship by the municipality of the Val d’Aosta.

The Albergo Alto Matanna bar is usually open, sometimes erratically, and its interior is rather quaint.

Meanwhile outside piglets and boarlets (?) run around in a small farm complex.

I’ve done many walks from this Albergo and all of them are enjoyable and worthwhile.

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