Hiking The Ortonovo Fontia Ring

Ortonovo Surrounded by Nature.  
Ortonovo, Liguria
Ortonovo, Liguria.
We've done this hike 5 times and it remains a favorite. In 2017, the local CAI branch (Club Alpino Italiano) did a lot of trail maintenence so the trail's in good shape.

Please promise you won't judge this hike by the word count. Our article is short, but this is a very nice hike and it's circular with the easiest part last You won't have to climb a lot, but you'll get excellent views. You won't have to drive into the high mountains, but you'll be all alone in a pretty forest..

Santuario di Nostra Signora di Mirteto
Visible for miles, the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Mirteto.
Basics. The hike takes no more than  2 hours, plus time to investigate Ortonovo and little Fontia. We recommend doing it in the morning since most of the views are to the west.  It's great for a picnic, and good for children accustomed to hiking in the woods and along a rural road. The hike will still be enjoyable on a warm day since it's very shady.

Park just before reaching the old center of Ortonovo, which is in the foothills between Sarzana and Carrara. See Getting There below. Begin the hike by following the red and white CAI markings for Trail 368 and a sign for the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Mirteto. The trail and the path to the church coincide.

This Santuario is a shrine, commemorating a 1537 miracle when a painting of the Madonna at the Crucifixion began to shed tears of blood. The resulting crush of pilgrims quickly overwhelmed an earlier oratory, so in 1540 the Confraternity of Disciplinati began construction of a larger church. The building you see has been reconstructed in various ways since then. One striking addition inside is an octagonal 'tempietto', a kind of holy gazebo added to the interior in 1796. This addition and the rest of the church display lots of precious marble stonework - very suitable for the Carrara area. There are also numerous votives, some in expressive folk art, placed by visitors to convey remembrance or prayers or gratitude.

CAI trail sign
CAI Trail 368 sign.
From the Santuario, the trail continues out the other side towards the right, as you'd expect. You'll walk through an olive grove first and then through pretty wooded areas with views of the coastal plain. Sometimes there are muddy areas where springs emerge, and we noticed that there was often stonework to help make the water accessible in times past. Then you enter the forest and views of the sea and the coastal plain begin as you walk along this modestly uphill section.

This part of the walk circles the top of Monte Boscaccia on the ocean side without climbing to the summit. Slowly you'll notice old terraces appear and the woods thin somewhat as civilization nears.  After a pretty 45 minutes you'll reach an asphalt road. The CAI 368 Trail is well marked and continues across the road and down a rocky trail to the little village of Fontia. If you prefer, Fontia can also be reached on asphalt.

There lots of shade and views. We saw oak, chestnut, olive, fig, pine, carpino (hornbeam), corbezzolo (strawberry tree).

Sidetrips. If you turn to the right on the asphalt road, after about 10 minutes, you'll reach the Hotel Ristorante Radar. Turn left and this dead end road leads into Fontia. If you keep on another 10 minutes without turning, you'll reach the Church of Santa Lucia. From the churchyard there's a phenomenal view of the coastal plain and the sea. It's a nice place to relax and enjoy a picnic. From there you can continue past the church to the road between Fontia and Ortonovo as described below.

As you reach the tiny village of Fontia. Now you'll begin to see views of the Carrara plain and the quarries. We suggest you walk down through the village to the asphalt road. Turn left and it will take you back to Ortonovo. There's not much traffic because of an extremely narrow road passage in the center of Ortonovo.

Flower on the Trail
Watch your step, flowers ahead.
Alternative. In the center of Fontia you'll see a red-and-white CAI blaze indicating a left turn. This will lead, via a pleasant wooded walk with a modest up-and-down, to the aforementioned asphalt road about halfway between Fontia and Ortonovo near the Ristorante Mauro. (Note: along the road after this, there's a CAI sign indicating a woods path to Ortonovo, but the path is overgrown).

Getting There

Google Map: Ortonovo-Fontia Ring & Ortonovo-Castelpoggio

From Sarzana exit of the A12 Autostrada (Genoa-Livorno) drive south on the SS1 - the Variante Aurelia and Via Aurelia for about 9 km and turn left at a sign for Ortonovo on Via Larga or Via Dogana. Follow that road as best you can as it looks increasingly unsuitable. There's no Ortonovo sign, just a Nicolo sign to be ignored along the way. The road will finally turn sharply right and cross a little stream. Thereafter it's uphill with hairpin turns until Ortonovo comes into view.

You may want to explore the pretty village of Nicola while you're in the area - you can see it from this hike.
If your timing is right, and you have a reservation on a weekend, there's an excellent restaurant in Nicola. See Eating Well Above the Plain in Nicola

Travel Tip_____________________________________________________________________
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In them, we recommend the car hire broker Auto Europe where you can compare companies, reserve with a low price guarantee, purchase no deductible insurance, cancel easily, and have 24/7 customer service before and after the car hire. If you will rent a car and want to do us a favor, please use this link: Auto Europe.
Written by Martha