The Apuan Alps are a chain of cost mountains placed in the Northern Tuscany among the Lunigiana, Garfagnana and Versilia areas. Unlike the winding Apennine lines, the profiles of there Alps are rough and the versants quite steep. In 1985 the Tuscany Region Administration opened the Natural Park of the Apuan Alps stretching over a surface of 543 Km2; the small towns included in this area are 22. The tourist information centers are located in Castelnuovo Garfagnana, Forno di Massa and Seravezza.
The Apuan Alps differ from the Appennine due to a marked morphologic difference. The Apuan summits, e.g. M. Sagro (1749 mt.), M. Altissimo (1589 mt.), M. Cavallo (1888 mt.), M. Tambura (1895 mt.) and M. Sella (1735 mt.) look like a parched, barren calcareous barrier standing up to the western humid winds full of rain. The steep slopes absorb the rains through the karstic hollows or pull them down along the steep chanels. There are rocky crags with a drop of over one thosand meters, thus increasing the sensation of the mountain grandeur. The most northern side of the mountain chain shows the marks of the millenary marble excavation works, where the white flows of marble drifts look like snow and glacier in the distance. I the southern side of the mountain chain, not subject to any excavation works, the landescape is characterized by features typical of the Dolomites. The following mountains, e.g. M. Corchia (1678 mt.), Pania della Croce (1858 mt.), M. Forato (1230 mt.), M. Nona-Matanna (1297-1318 mt.) look like "wide cliffs" coming out from the woody mountain basements. The green valley bottom of the Frigido river and of T. Serra and Vezza is covered with chestnuts, horn beams, oaks.
The siliceous rocks make the ground impervious and rich with springs low in mineral content, the streams flow fast in teh narrow small valleys towards the main watercourses which flow into the sea.
The Garfagnana inland versant shows characteristics different from the sea versant ones, the mountains slope softly down from the main chain to the river Serchio delimiting the Apuan region. The valleys of the Serchioright tributaries (e.g. S. di Gramolazzo, Edron, Turrite Secca, Turrite di Gallicano, Turrite Cava) host artificial lake basins used for the production of electric power. From the middle watershed ridgesshowing the highest tops, M. Pisanino (1947 mt.), Pizzo d'Uccello (1782 mt.), Roccandagia (1708 mt.), Sumbra (1765 mt.), Pania Secca (1709 mt.) and Pizzo delle Saette (1720 mt.) branch off. Marks of the glacial morphology are still present in Orto di Donna - Val Serenaia, Campocatino, Arnetola and Puntato; karstic forms characterized by dolines and sink holes are present in the area of Carcaraia, Tambura and Roccandagia. The vegetation covers very wide areas; going from the hornbeam woods upwards you can see chestnuts, beech woods and pastures up to the rocky vegetation of the mountain tops. The arboreal vegetation stops only at the edge of the villages where there are cultivated fields, other rural areas are present at the height of about one thousand meters near the mountain pastures ( Campocatino, Arni, Puntato and S. Pellegrinetto).
(by Antonio Bartelletti)