June 25, 2010
There were dozens of sights to see in the area, rivers, caves, bears, etc… but we opted to try going for a natural arch. I had never seen one and it seemed like the hike would be fun. The photo from the tourist guide is shown at right.
We got there after an hour or so of torturous roads and started up the mountain. It was a beautiful day. In fact, we had gorgeous weather the entire time we were in Tuscany. The wildflowers were beautiful and we even saw some unique butterflies. There was a little house tucked along the side of the path at one point. In Italy, we saw houses grouped in villages, like France, but also a strong culture of people wanting solitude and privacy. We saw little houses all alone all over the place – and, outside the towns, all the houses were far apart.
It was a really fun hike, a rugged path with twists and turns. We stopped when we saw a cave and, being us, decided to explore it – I always have a flashlight and Daddie had his new one as well. It was really fun because, once we went in around 100 feet or so, there was an underground river! It ran onward and, being me, I decided to follow it up further – you only live once, right? The water was icy cold but the rewards were spectacular – after a few feet of stooping, the ceiling opened up and then, about another 50 feet further there was a giant cavern complete with underground waterfall, stalactites and stalagmites. It was so incredible I went back to get the rest of the family. Callie and Griffin were too scared, so they stayed behind while Zander, André and I went back. Definitely one of the neatest things I’ve ever done during our travels. As usual, our cave photos suck (the only good one I stole from here), but you can see how amazing it was, if you wish, by clicking on the you tube link below. We did not go very deep into the cave – since Griffin and Callie were waiting – but what we saw was awesome… The name of it was Tana Che Hurla – or Tana Screaming – since the force of the river makes the cave emit a moaning wail much of the year – we missed out on that, unfortunately!
We soldiered onward, enjoying the hike. We even found a giant earth worm – you can see how big it was by checking out the photo of it lying on my arm below. We had read about these living in the Black Forest, but found them in Italy!
We were also pleased to see a small shrine in the middle of the forest. The Italians really, really, really love Mary and there are little altars everywhere – even in the middle of the woods. The way the rocks are piled on the roof is pretty standard here as well. It seems the rocks can replace broken tiles, hold slipping ones steady or just keep the tar paper tacked down.
Finally, about 2 hours in, we ran into some other hikers – they told us it was at least another 90 minutes up to the arch. Since it was nearly 4pm, we decided to bail. We wanted to be home for dinner and not get stuck on the mountain in the dark. I was really disappointed – who knew it would take us so very long to hike 2km? We headed out, deciding to go a new way back home and were really glad we did because, as chance had it, we got to see beautiful mountains AND the arch from afar! It seems there are many legends on how this arch formed. My favorite is this one: “It seems that when the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Jesus ran away from Erode, they reached Versilia and started looking for a shelter. All they could see were the mountains all around them. Then, the Madonna, with a knock, opened a passageway that led easily down to the Serchio valley. That mountain is nowadays called Mount Forato.” Go Mary!
Seeing how large it is from a distance made me really sad we hadn’t seen it, and also made me curious about natural arches in general. André, with his Utah roots, has been to Arches National Park. We wondered how big this one was in comparison to those. Turns out that natural arches are not that uncommon and this one, “with a span of 105 feet and a height of about 82 feet” doesn’t even make the top 13 largest arches in the world. They all have spans of over 200 feet! It is still pretty awesome though – I mean, look at what I could have seen if we weren’t such wimps? (Thanks) This arch has legends and it is near the quarry where Michelangelo got his marble for most of his sculptures…. Well, someday I will come back – or maybe just head to China to see Fairy Bridge – the largest arch in the world….