The Stone Villages Remember, Camporaghena to Torsana Walk

Above the high valley of the Taverone river, deep in the Lunigiana region of Tuscany, the stone towns of Camporeghena and Torsana have stood for more than 1,000 years.  At least 40 generations of humans have lived out their lives here, each with noble aspirations and petty worries equal to our own.  The evidence they've left is here for you to see, some obvious, some subtle, some austere, and some proud.

Cherry blossoms in Torsana. May 4th.
This is a wonderful and fairly easy walk with a modest climb - about 90 minutes round trip.  It is pretty, with good views, and the villages are evocative.  The path between the villages is forested and there is a lovely waterfall. You don't really need a detailed map, as the trail goes in direct fashion between these two towns which have an altitude difference of about 400m.  It may be most pleasant when the trees have leaves, though the waterfall will be best in April and early May.  The trees will have full leaves roughly about May 15 since the villages are at an altitude of about 900 meters. This walk would not be a good choice if it's rainy or very windy.  However, it will be refreshing when the valleys are hot. Perfect for a picnic, or see the restaurant lunch ideas below.

Arrival.  See our Overview Map in the Hiker's Toolbox adjacent for reference. Exit the A15 autostrada (Parma-La Spezia) at Aulla  and head up the valley toward Villafranca (SS62) then turn toward Licciana Nardi (SS65) after which you branch off toward Comano.  Follow the road signs as the narrow road winds up and up to Camporaghena.  Park when the road reaches the stone houses of Camporaghena.

Early May, a native Narcissus blooms in the understory.
Path.  Begin the walk by heading left (north) along a small road toward Torsana (no sign). You can explore Campoghena now or later, as you will return by the same path/road.  It is less than a 45 minute walk each way, and Torsana has a piazza in front of its deserted 12th century church with nice views, perfect for a prosciutto, bread, and cacciotta cheese picnic.   You could encounter temporary barbed wire fencing across the path.  There was some on the approach to the bridge, and you need to keep an eye out, since it's rusted and a little hard to see.  It is used by shepherds to control the flock, not to stop you.

The walk is generally flat through chestnut woods, with just a few ups and down. . The trail is marked with old red/white blazes, but we had no problems figuring it out, as it is the most used path. The only odd routing was just after leaving Camporaghena, the path/road reaches a small settlement called Castello and the path ducks behind a large building.  The blazes here are on the walls and still legible.
You'll pass two waterfalls and one moderately old mill.  In the spring, one of the falls was the prettiest we've seen at a reasonable altitude in this area, and you can almost walk up to it.  The pool at the base of the falls would have been used for clothes washing and other purposes. The mill below the falls was probably for grinding chestnut flour seasonally. There would have been a pond upstream of the mill, and the water would be diverted through a millrace to the grinding wheel. See More Info below regarding a local museum with a good mill exhibit.

In the forest, it is notable how large many of the chestnut trees are. These trees were severely pruned over many, many decades in order to optimize chestnut production, resulting in their oversized trunks. Chestnuts were an important food source, even though their lack of protein contributed to the short stature of the population - still evident in a few of the older people hereabouts.  The lack of olive trees or extensive terracing at this altitude is evidence of the limited crop choice. The local cucina tipica has many chestnut specialties, often seen at sagras in the fall.

Villages. The villages of Camporaghena and Torsana are pretty special.  They are monuments to the depopulation of rural and mountainous Italy.  Almost no one lives here and there isn't much vacation home activity. The stone houses are well preserved and there is some excellent stonework forming many of the doors, arches, and windows - evidence of the carving and stone-laying abilities of the remarkable stone masons that this area was known for. This grey stone is called Pietra Arenaria - a sandstone nicely suitable for carving since it is uniform and not prone to fracturing.  Some of the stones are dated, and it's possible to see the increasing sophistication of the carvers.

Be on the look out for a 'facion', a dialect word for a grotesque facial/head figure mounted near a door or window and  used to ward off evil spirits.  These are unique to this area, and worth your attention.  See below for a link to one of the few photos on the internet, at the admirable site (partially in English and five other languages, most extensive in Italian). Also visible are several types of carved geometric designs which are common throughout Lunigiana.

Prominent in Camporaghena village is the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul from the 12th century. On the church piazza there's a very moving tribute to a parish priest, Don Lino Baldini, who was executed by the Nazis.  On July 4, 1944, the priest rang the church bells to warn the population of an impending Nazi reprisal, an action for which he was murdered, along with four other civilians.

In the center of Comano is Miramonti. This modest restaurant has a very good chef/owner, so you will be pleased. Local specialties such as testaroli and torta d'erbe, as well as pasta and secondi such as grilled lamb.

Ristorante Galetti is in the Comano frazione of Crespiano, which you drove through on the way up before reaching Comano,  0187-484257  Ristorante Galletti. The local EMTs were eating here when we came, which speaks well of the place.

In the Licciana frazione of Tavernelle, a very evocative old village laid out linearly on the trade route to Emilia Romagna, is the Bar Capriolo which has a restaurant attached. 0187-425038.

In the Licciana frazione of Apella, for a Sunday lunch (or as a hotel) with good views from the outside tables, Agroturismo Montagna Verde is highly regarded. You'll need to reserve at 0187-421203. See our review at: The Italian Sunday Lunch

More Information.

Villafranca Ethnographic Museum
  Excellent small museum - interesting displays on chestnut cuisine, hemp clothing, a grinding mill, peasant furniture, etc.  0187-493417

C.A.I. Club Alpino Italiano This walk may correspond to a section of C.A.I. Trail 106 from Canale Trauli to Punta Buffanaro, but we couldn't confirm the reference.

Facion Photo

Camporaghena (alt.842m)  44.3033 10.1692
Castello Turn  44.305165 10.16670
Waterfall (est.)  44.31231  10.16451
Torsana (alt.1260m)  44.3126  10.1629
Written by Martha