Last Tuesday was my birthday, and I felt the desire to do something a little bit special, I wanted to go for a nice walk somewhere new. I chose the Passo del Lagastrello, one of several passes that cross the Appennino Tosco Emiliano. I’ve always liked the sound of that name, “Lagastrello”, it has a magical sound, like a cross between “lago” (lake) and “rastrello” (rake). Il Passo del Lagastrello, at an altitude of 1200 meters, is situated at the meeting point of three province (counties): the southern slope belongs to Massa Carrara on the northern tip of Toscana, and the northern slope is divided between Parma to the west and Reggio Emilia to the east, both in Emilia Romagna.
Looking at the road map it seemed a pretty straightforward route, and not too far to get to, but what the over simplified map doesn’t show you are the innumerable tornanti (hairpin bends) that turn the journey into a funfair ride. However, the road was in fairly good condition and almost empty, so we enjoyed some stunning scorci (views) over verdant valleys and craggy mountains. After over an hour’s drive we reached what we thought to be the pass, although it was difficult to tell as the road sign had been completely erased by the weather. We parked the car next to a wooden chalet, which is a bar-restaurant, and went inside to ask about maps and walks in the area. The nice young lady at the counter, che inganna il tempo facendo barchette origami con gli scontrini (who kills time making little origami boats with the receipts), didn’t have any maps left, but told us about several sentieri (footpaths) that were worth checking out. We decided to follow the trail just behind the bar, which led down to the lake.
After a few minutes walk through beech woods we reached the shores of Lago Paduli. The views were mozzafiato (breath-taking): the incredibly deep blue sky, the mountains cloaked in woods reaching down to the shoreline of the blue-green lake. The distant sound of cattle bells provided a magical soundtrack to the sense of timelessness, of total stillness and peace. In single file, a family of horses made their placid way down to the lake to refresh themselves. Too beautiful to be true! As we stood transfixed watching them, one of the horses decided to have a shower: with his front right leg he began stamping and kicking in the water, creating great sprays and showers. The other horses didn’t seem too impressed however, and moved away from him mumbling horse obscenities.
We decided to follow the shoreline around the lake, and along the way we savoured a few mirtilli (blueberries), not yet perfectly ripe unfortunately, and a couple of fragoline di bosco (wild strawberries). The invigorating mountain air was perfumed by the scent of maggiorana selvatica (wild marjoram) and menta (mint), and we marvelled at the hundreds of grilli (crickets) hopping around our feet. Il Lago Paduli is an artificial lake, and in the distance we could see la diga (the dam) that supplies water to the hydroelectric power station. At this time of year, after a couple of months of siccità (drought), the lake is a bit shrunken in dimension, creating a wide marshy shore, but in winter the water reaches right up to the edge of the woods.
Near the dam, we crossed a high bridge with spectacular views down into Emilia Romagna, and followed the almost deserted road until we got back to the bar where, we treated ourselves to a restoring cappuccino and left our receipt for the lady to convert into yet another little boat! Whilst walking along the road we had seen a sign indicating another lake a bit higher up, so we decided to make our way there with our panini. We followed a nice easy wide track, probably the old strada comunale, that ran through beautiful beech woods standing tall and noble like columns in a cathedral. And then after a couple of km we arrived at Lago Squincio. This small lake, almost a pond really, is clothed in giunchi (juncus, a spiky reed like plant) and set in a natural amphitheatre enclosed by high peaks. We found a nice shady spot with comfortable rocks to sit on, where we enjoyed our panini al formaggio (cheese sandwiches), whilst listening to the gentle sound of the breeze caressing the leaves and watching delicate bright yellow farfalle (butterflies) fluttering around in search of nectar.
And then it was time to head back home. Driving back we chatted about our day out, and the fact that we feel privileged to live in a part of the world so abundant in beautiful places, and all within a short distance from our house!