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The Apuan Alps

The Apuan Alps are known throughout the world for their fine high-quality marble, quarried since Roman times and widely used by the great sculptors. They also occupy a chapter in the history of Italian mountain-climbing, and fully deserve to be called Alps.

Established in a much older geological era than the Apennines, their bold precipitous forms contrast sharply with the gentle Lucchese hills from which they arise, and from the plain they appear to be a mass of spires piled on top of each other. Although they are less than two thousand metres high, these peaks have vertical calcareous rock faces which have long provoked the interest of men living in Pisa, Lucca, and Firenze, above all that of naturalists, who ventured onto these mountains from the 17th century onwards to search out and classify plants, flowers, and animals. They range from the maestro of Galileo, Andrea Cesalpino, to the botanist of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Father Silvio Bocconi, who went to the Panie range to seek out herbal plants and remedies. These mountains have generated the scientific fervour of geographers, geologists, and naturalists, who were the first to grasp the peculiarity of these mountains which, though within sight of the Mediterranean sea, still today preserve a rare Alpine flora which dates back to the glacial period. It is interesting to note that Dante Alighieri and Boccaccio respectively called them Petrapana and Petra Apuana Mons, and the etymology of the name Apuan Alps lies in the term Pania that derives from the lexical root Pen (penna = peak). And there is little doubt that the two southern peaks are the most imposing and majestic of the whole range.

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Text and pictures Gianfranco Bracci
Translation: Jeremy Carden


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