Above Lerici and the Gulf of La Spezia: A Hike Exploring 'La Farfalla Dorata', Early Farming, An Abandoned Church, a Forgotten Village, and a Quarry.
|Start: Connection to 1 (1=CAI-411)|
The village of San Lorenzo is really old, but little is known of the town's beginnings or of its demise. In a discrete location hidden from the sea, we know it was the refuge for Lerici in the time of the Saracen raids of the middle ages. It's mentioned in religious records in the 12th and 13th centuries, and in the 16th century a census listed 100 households. Life could not have been easy - although the area includes some level fields for farming and at least one water source, it's also very rocky.
The Hike. The basic walk we describe in the forest and the macchia* takes less than an hour. It's easy and suitable for picnics and supervised children. There are many shady sections and some views but no steep parts, no services, and no water. The hike is a circle but it can be extended to almost any length thanks to the extensive trail network here. (see More Info below).
|Vaulted apse of San Lorenzo di Caprione. Formerly frescoed.|
(The number one here is shorthand for CAI-411).
To The Church. The road turns from asphalt to dirt as you walk south past secluded homes and small farms. You can tell some history is lurking from the random ruined walls and mounds of stones covered with vegetation. After 10 minutes, turn right on CAI-411 at a 'T' intersection, and, in another minute, the ruins of San Lorenzo church appear. (see Church History below). The scene is beautiful in its desolation, and it's hard to believe that so little history was preserved. Even the purpose of the substantial ruins around the church remain a mystery.
|'Golden Butterfly' at Solstice. Photo: Walter Bilotti, Lerici.|
Through Forest & Macchia* Returning to the church, continue on CAI-411. This is a nice section through the forest with a chorus of birds for entertainment and encouragement. The rocky ruins make it seem populated as you walk uphill. Alongside the trail there seems to be an old lane with stone walls on both sides, and there are more mystery mounds. At one point a long and large stone wall leads purposefully straight into the woods. We followed one of the many little trails leading off to the right and found a couple of small little stone buildings almost intact.
|Connecting to CAI-467 Trail Marker|
About 10 minutes from the church, just as you reach a landscape of Mediterranean macchia with views, there's a trail that connects to CAI-467 marked CAI-Collegamento 467 (see photo). This is your decision point: you can turn right to start back as we describe, or you can continue straight toward Rochetta and Campo di Gia as long as you wish. That trail is fairly level and there are views, forest, houses, and nature aplenty.
To the Quarry & the Houses. The trail is narrow for a ways and there are different kinds of vegetation in this more exposed area which looks quite rabbit friendly. Soon you start down and walk right by an old stone quarry, with blocks lying around still waiting for the last wagon out. It's clear the quarry came later, as none of the ruins you'll see have cut stone. It must have been a small operation, cutting the stone from exposed ledges. They used a wooden derrick to load the stone on wagons or sledges, and you can still see its base with two large holes in a stone along the trail.
|Abandoned house at San Lorenzo Case, Lerici, Liguria.|
Church History San Lorenzo was cited by the Bishop of Sarzana in a document in the year 1100, and also listed by the Vatican in 1296 as part of the parish of Trebbiano (on the hill opposite to the north). The church had a rectangular plan and the most identifiable remains were probably also its most prominent features - the bell tower and the semicircular apse covered with a hemispherical vault. No longer discernible, the single nave ended with a robust arch with a herringbone pattern. Other openings were beamed (not arched) - consistent with ancient construction. There is no information on the purpose of the substantial ruins around the church. Of interest is the alignment of the church - its long axis aligns exactly with sunrise / sunset on the spring and fall equinox. See more photos and info at Cavanei, Barbazzano, Storie e Notizie del Monte Caprione di Lerici (IT).
|The opening forming the farfalla.|
|Seggio (Base) for the Macina a Remo which ground grain.|
CAI - Club Alpino Italiano. Thanks to these volunteers, the Lunigiana area enjoys many well marked trails. The website for the Sarzana unit is CAI Sarzana, the office in Sarzana has many maps for sale and is open from 5-7 PM.
Maps Online: CAI Sarzana Online Trail Map.
Paper: Bassa Val di Magra Parco di Montemarcello-Magra 1:25,000. 4Land #141
Longer Hikes. Because part of this hike coincides with CAI-411, the hike can easily be lengthened. CAI-411 extends from Romito to Montemarcello and it also intersects trails to Ameglia and Tellaro and Serra / Lerici as well as CAI-AVG which circles the entire Gulf of La Spezia. (CAI-411 is abbreviated as '1' on some maps)
Thanks to Gino Cabano and his Facebook site: Cavanei, Barbazzano, Storie e Notizie del Monte Caprione di Lerici for lots of this information. Mr. Cabano has authored several books on the Caprione and has explored it exhaustively. Follow his site which helps advocate for its preservation by showing the wonders and the history of the Caprione..
Written by Martha
* Macchia is Italian for the shrubland biome in the Mediterranean region, typically consisting of densely growing evergreen shrubs such as holm oak, kermes oak, tree heath, strawberry tree, sage, juniper, buckthorn, spurge olive and myrtle. It is an intricate ecosystem, highly adapted to the terrain, rainfall, and weather.