Secret Tuscany

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Introduction

Tuscany is a land of ridges and jagged peaks scattered amongst chestnut and beech forest. The terrain through this ancient land allows for exceptional trails and spectacular views, and the warm hospitality matches the temperatures.

This trip consists of day hikes in the Appennine range in the Apuane Alps, around the village of Barga. The walking is challenging but with a relaxed pace. Each day you will explore a different area of this charming area. The highlight of the day tend to be the delicious ‘gelato’ at the end of each walk!

The base for the week, an organic hill farm nestled in olive groves & vineyards, makes the perfect resting place post trip and adds a touch of luxury. The professional chef prepares fabulous local dishes each evening, which are served with complimentary wine.

There is a private pool and a hot tub for relaxing at the end of the day, as well as many sunny terraces to enjoy well-deserved refreshment.

Clicking on the ‘Book Now’ button opposite, will open a new tab/window in your browser and direct you to our online tour booking system. Here you can check the course dates and availability.

SUMMER 2017 TREKS
20th May – 27th May – Available
27th May – 3rd June 2017 – Available
3rd June – 10th June 2017 – Available
9th Sept – 16th Sept 2017 – Available
16th Sept – 23rd Sept 2017 – Guaranteed
23rd Sept – 30th Sept 2017 – Guaranteed
30th Sept – 7th Oct 2017 – Available

If you have a group of 4 or more interested we can run a bespoke trip leaving on any date.

Course Details

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Location

We meet in Chamonix before departing anti-clockwise around the Mont Blanc. We will pass through France, Italy and Switzerland before returning back to Chamonix.
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Further Information

What's included
  • All accommodation including first and last night in Chamonix
  • IML Guides fees and expenses
  • Guiding fees
  • Any transfers and uplifts on itinerary
  • All breakfasts and evening meals
  • Bag drops where possible
What's not included
  • Transport to/from Chamonix
  • Equipment rental
  • Travel insurance
  • Packed lunches, Snacks, Bottled water, beers, drinks in huts
Who is this for?

The Tour du Mont Blanc Trek is well suited to fit hillwalkers, capable of trekking for 10 days in a row carrying a light (5-8kg) rucksack. We follow footpaths each day and the terrain is hilly! We stay in a mixture of mountain refuges and local hotels, gites and B&Bs during the trek, which all provide basic but comfortable lodging and good food. This helps keep our packs light carrying only snacks, clothing and essentials. There will be vehicle support during the trip where possible, so a change of clothes is never far away and this helps to keep the packs light.

Accommodation and huts

The majority of the accommodation on the trip will be in ensuite twin rooms, in hotels, Bed and Breakfasts and Gites.

What to expect from mountain huts

We have 1 night in a mountain hut: the Rifugio Bonatti, which is one of the nicest mountain huts in the Alps, and we are usually in small rooms rather than dorms. There are showers in the refuge but they are limited to a few minutes – and aren’t always warm! The refuge serves good Italian food, along with a beautiful view.

Typical Itinerary

Itinerary
We always aim to complete the itinerary as outlined below, however, the following itinerary will be followed only when conditions and weather make it appropriate, both in terms of safety and enjoyment. Your guide will make a decision on your destination based on those conditions.

Day 1 Arrival

Today you arrive at Lavacchio farm, near the tiny hilltop hamlet of Promiana. We invite you to join us in the main house for a complimentary aperitif when we can discuss the week ahead. A candlelit dinner is served in the cosy dining room amidst the antiques and oil paintings, or on warm evenings we will eat on the terrace with views of the Serchio Valley and the mountains beyond.

Day 2 Monte Croce
This first walk is an excellent introduction to the area, a gorgeous summit with a ‘cross’ at 1314m. We begin with a drive through the steep sided valley of Fabbriche di Vallico to the remote village of Palagnana, where we may enjoy a cappuccino before setting off through the beech forest. We reach the Foce delle Porchette, a pass which offers incredible views all the way to the Mediterranean and the marble quarries where Michelangelo sourced his stone for ‘David’. Then it’s up an impressive limestone gorge, before clambering out onto the grassy mountainside, and the final pull to the summit. We descend by a circular route through the beech forest and the hamlets of Pioppo and enjoy a drink at the village bar in Palgnana. Ascent: 580m. Descent: 570m. Distance 9km. 6hrs

Day 3 Pania di Corfino
A short drive to Corfino on the Apennine side of the Serchio valley shows the Garfagnana valley opening up with views to ancient villages perched on the hillsides. Starting from the ancient shepherds’ hamlet of Pruno, we wind up a trail in the beech forests and then join an ancient cobbled mule track along the south of the Pania. We pause for a sip from the Fonte del Amore – Fountain of Love – and then stop at the mountain village of Campaiana at 1,358m for lunch. Winding up to the summit of the Pania di Corfino takes us to an excellent view of the jagged ridges and peaks of the Apuane Alps to the west, before we head down the well worn trail to Rifugio Isera and back to Pruno. Ascent: 775m. Descent: 750m. Distance 12.5km. 6 hrs

Day 4 Pania della Croce
This is a “big mountain day” which begins with a short drive to Piglionico at 1,008m where there is a memorial to WWII partisans who fought a fierce battle on Monte Rovaio. We then traverse round the north side of the Pania to the Refugio del Freo before beginning our main climb of the day on a steady zig zag path. Gaining the ridge we are offered a vista of a rugged, wild landscape, with impressive faces and cliffs as well as glimpses of numerous marble quarries. The Gulf of La Spezia can be seen in the distance and on a clear day Corsica is visible. An easy path takes us along the ridge to the summit ‘cross’ at 1858m and a well earned picnic lunch. Our situation provides us with views of all our summits done, and still to be done during this week. You may be quizzed on where you have been! The descent of the Canale d’Inferno, across meadows and down through the beech forest is direct and swift. Ascent: 940m. Descent: 890m. Distance 11.5km. 7 hrs

Day 5 Free day for relaxing, or enjoying a short hike from the house
Today you have a free day to either enjoy the beautiful grounds of Lavacchio, relaxing by the pool and resting tired limbs, or undertaking a short hike (3-4 hours) with lunch at a local trattoria or exploring the provincial capital. The medieval walled city of Lucca is absolutely stunning and a great place to relax or engage in some serious retail therapy! It is the birthplace of Puccini, and the museum documenting his life is definitely worth a visit. A complimentary taxi to the railway station will be offered in the morning with a return service late afternoon. Massage is also available as we have an excellent local masseuse who can come to the house. In the evening, you can prepare a meal in the farmhouse or stroll along to the local restaurant, Il Sassone di Fobbia.

Day 6 Monte Giovo
We head across the Serchio Valley and up through the foot hills of the Apennines to the village of Renaio, before stopping at Vetricia, at 1,308m. The walk climbs through sun dappled beech forest before emerging on the Apennine pasture and along the hillside to the pass at La Porticciola, at 1,700m. Here we drop down via Hannibals camp (yes, he got everywhere!) to another pass, where we start our climb of the ridgeline. A steep climb, but nothing difficult or exposed, and with excellent views of the blue green waters of Lago Santo to our left. We aim to have lunch at the summit of Monte Giovo, at 1,991m. A ‘gelato’ stop in the historic town of Barga is an essential part of the day; even those who profess not to like icecream have usually succumbed by the end of the week! Ascent: 930m. Descent: 920m. Distance 11.3km. 6.5hrs

Day 7 Monte Forato
A brilliant end to our week as we head for the ridgeline which boasts the impressive archway of Forato. From the quintessential Italian village of Fornovolasco we take to the cobbled streets, before joining the trail through the forests. A steady climb takes us to the pass at Foce di Petrosciana and breathtaking views of the rock tower of Monte Procinto, and of the mountains all the way to the Mediterranean. We follow the ridgeline until the huge limestone archway, below the summit of Monte Forato. A compulsory photostop, before a short climb to the summit itself for lunch. After our picnic we continue along the ridge until Foce di Valli, and a descent through the meadows and forest back to Fornovolasco, and a well earned drink at the gelateria in Gallicano! Ascent: 915m. Descent: 895m. Distance 10km. 6.5hrs

Day 8 Departure Day
Today you head home, having experienced a week of exploration which revealed the wilder side of the mountains of Tuscany.
Please be aware that the itinerary is flexible and at the discretion of the guide, and that changes may be made due to weather and conditions.

Training

To maximise your enjoyment of the Secret Tuscany it is important to get as fit as you possibly can, though you do have the benefit on this trip of opting out for a day if you feel the need. Having said that, good fitness will also make it more fun and less exhausting! The process of training for your goal will help you focus on your goal and having a goal will help you focus on your training. So all in all training is good!

Trekking is all about being able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours (typically 5 to 12 hours) and your training should reflect this. Probably the best training is going on long days hill walking as this simulates the real thing and prepares the mind (exercising for long periods in poor weather requires mental strength!). However not everyone has the opportunity to do this and so alternatives such as jogging, cycling and gym workouts are good.

The focus should be on training Cardiovascular Endurance and so if in the gym, cycling / running / rowing machines are much better than weight training. Try and exercise for up to a couple of hours at a time, 4 times a week. Remember to build up your workouts over time. If you are not used to exercising much, your muscles and joints need time to build up to avoid injury. Try and choose an activity that you enjoy and keep a note of what you do and your times – this really helps with keeping the motivation up. If you are not used to training then your local gym will be able to advise you on a plan and schedule to help you achieve your goals.

Training does not work overnight! The fittest athletes train as part of their lifestyles and have been doing it for years. Consider training for a good couple of months before coming out to the Alps.

Kit List

Essential items:

Rucksack – approx. 30-40L
Hiking boots – it is possible to do a lot of the TMB in walking trainers, but you should make sure they are trekkingspecific trainers (or trail-running trainers). For the June trips, hiking boots are definitely recommended as there is usually a lot of snow on the passes. Sandals are not appropriate for mountain walking so please do not bring these for trekking.

Socks
Underwear
Trekking trousers – bring something lightweight.
Shorts
T-shirts – wicking t-shirts are better than cotton as they are lighter and dry faster.
Mid layer – fleece jacket is good
Sun Hat
Sunglasses (essential as we will spend some time walking on snow)
Suncream (small bottle to save weight) • Lip protection (with sun protection)
Water bottles / camelback – you should have the capacity to carry at least 2 litres of water, but on very hot days you could need 3L.
Walking poles – These often go in the “optional” section, but for June trips they are essential for the snowy sections.
Basic first aid kit – your leader will carry a large first aid kit, but you should bring a small first aid kit containing plasters, blister treatment, painkillers and diarrhoea treatment (rehydration sachets and immodium)

Booking info

To find out more about our course, availability, or to ask any questions, please get in touch through the website or by phone on +33 (0)845 527 58 12.

We take a £400 deposit to secure your place on one of our courses, and we ask for the balance to be paid 6 weeks before the course start date.

Insurance

We strongly recommend getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue.

Make sure that it covers glaciated mountaineering and climbing. We recommend the Dogtag (www.dogtag.co.uk) – they have comprehensive policies and a good reputation.

Getting to the farmhouse

It is best to book flights and airport transfers well in advance of your departure.

Easyjet have many cheap flights to Geneva from all over the UK. Swiss Air have cheap and convenient flights from London to Geneva.

Booking a place on a minibus airport transfer service is by far the best way to get from Geneva airport to Chamonix (it takes about an hour or so, is cost effective and is a door to door service). We can book your airport transfers at a competitive rate – just email us with your flight details…

FAQ's
Will I definitely make it round the Tour du Mont Blanc?

In short, no. Whilst we will always strive to get you around the trek safely, sometimes the weather or other factors like your personal fitness will prevent you from completing the trek. The lead guide will always conduct a meeting with the clients and other guides each evening to check how everyone is doing and to field any questions or concerns. All decisions will have client wellbeing as a top priority. But in 99 out of 100 cases you’ll make it! We will always provide vehicle support if necessary.

What type of boots do I need for the trek?

You will need comfortable, durable trekking boots. Something like the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 Gore-Tex boot. Gore-tex will ensure your feet stay dry and warm.

Is there wifi in the lodges?

Occasionally yes. Not all lodges will have wifi but some will, especially in in the bigger towns like Courmayeur and Champex.

What are the lodges like?

The lodges are fairly basic but comfortable. You will sleep in dormitories on a shared basis, sometimes up to 6-8 per room. The lodges offer breakfast and dinner as well as a few snacks.

What kind of fitness level do I need?

You need to be able to hike for 6-8 hours at a moderate pace. Trekking is all about having good cardiovascular endurance to be able to continue being active for long periods.

Do I need to have previous experience?

You don’t need any previous trekking experience but it is worth having some hill walking experience behind you. This will help prepare you for the amount of walking we’ll be doing on this trek. You must be able to walk comfortably on mixed ground for long periods of time.

What size backpack should I bring?

Your backpack should be between 20-30l. This will be your day pack and must be a comfortable fit, you’ll spend many days with it on your back. It must fit your essentials like water, snacks, extra layers, camera, etc. Your other luggage will be carried by our porters (max. 15kg)

What are the guides like?

Our IML guides are all super friendly and knowledgeable and know the tour do mont blanc route like the back of their hands.

What will we do if the weather is bad?

This depends on a few factors and how bad the weather is. We’ll always aim to continue the trek even if it’s raining/snowing as long as it is safe to do so. The weather in Summer is generally very reliable with clear skies and dry conditions following the monsoons. If the weather is truly terrible for a day or two we will rest in the lodge until it passes or use our vehicle to move you along to the next stop.

How many clients per guide?

Our trekking ratio is 10:1.

Confirming bookings

We need a minimum of four trekkers to run this course. Your booking will remain pending if you are the first to book onto a course and we will send you a confirmation as soon as a the course is confirmed. We recommend not booking flights till the course is confirmed. We will confirm the course at the latest 6 weeks before the start date. In order to increase the chance of confirming trips as soon as possible we team up with another couple of small suppliers, so you may be on the trip with trekkers who booked from a similar company.

Why choose Adventure Base for Tour du Mont Blanc?

1. Experience – We have been guiding trekking clients for the past 18 years and have built up a strong, reliable team of local suppliers and local knowledge.

2. Our guides – Our guides are carefully selected and hand picked over many years. They are full of energy, fun facts and big smiles. They help create lasting memories.

3. Word of Mouth – Over 70% of new clients have been recommended to us by a friend or colleague. We don’t spend big on marketing campaigns, we stay true to our product, we pay attention to every detail and then let you do the talking.

Emma Jack
“Navigating Mont Blanc in summer is spectacular – travel through 3 countries and take in all the best views of Mont Blanc from every angle. It never get boring!
Emma Jack, IML Guide

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