Towards Emilia: from Bocco pass to Cisa pass
In this area the Apennine main ridge looks like taking some rest, to be ready to raise again beyond the Cisa pass. In fact, the ridge lowers its height and its mountains are forested, almost up to their tops. After running for a trait withn the Liguria region limits, the ridge then marks the border between the Liguria ed Emilia regions, with a winding route: its accompanies river Vara on its left side, then turns around the upper Magra river valley head. On the Ligurian side the Vara river valley runs almost parallel to the coast line, bordered on its south side by the coastal ridge, that is the subject of a different chapter !
On the side of the Emilia region, the river Taro valley opens wide, with its main centre of Borgotaro, and with mount Pelpi prominent top, just overlooking the village of Bedonia, and raising between the Taro and Ceno valleys. On the Ligurian side, an important ridge heads S-SE, from mount Gottero, separating the Vara from the river Magra valley, until the Vara flows into the Magra, just few kilometers from the sea.
If you already walked down from the east ridge of mount Zatta, towards the Biscia pass, you left on your left the path going all the way along the main ridge, reaching the Cisa pass; if you want, you can walk all the way on this path. You should have also seen the left side of the Vara river valley, scattered with small villages until short distance from the ridge top, like Cassego. Other villages lie on the right side, and are visible from the rifdge of mounts Porcile and Alpe di Maissana. Many others are in the middle Vara valley and in the Magra valley. All them are small or very small villages, that deserve however a visit, to catch their nature and atmosphere;
and, many of them, can also be good starting points for hiking. Then you have the “capital” of upper Vara valley, Varese Ligure, a place not to be missed, and itself a good base for hiking. A second small capital, Pontremoli, is in the Magra vallay, already under the Lunigiana high Apennine ridge.
From the upper part of the Vara valley, from the village belonging to the municipality of Maissana, you may also climb up to the ridge of mount Porcile and Alpe di Maissana, that we alrady mentioned in a different chapter.
The main tops of this part of the ridge are all relatively easily and shortly reacheable from the road passes connecting the Liguria and the Emilia regions. Mount Zuccone, all forested and little beaten by hikers, from the Cento Croci pass. It is an area of open and panoramic pastures, that you can cross to the east until the Cappelletta pass, nowadays known for its wind power electric generators (enlarge the map, and you will see them well). From this pass, you can reach mount Gottero, meeting the first old border corner stones, dating back to the end of 18th century, that accompany several stretches of the Apennine ridge between the Emilia and Toscana regions.
The Foce dei Tre Confini is a historical pass, retaining a lot of suggestion, even since it is not crossed by roads. You can go from there, or from Due Santi pass, up to the forested mountains of the ridge east of mount Gottero. You can go to mount Molinatico from the Brattello or from the Cisa pass.
If you prefer, however, and this is an experience, you can also go up to these mountain tops starting from the villages down in the valleys, from either the Emilia or the Liguria sides. These are somewhat long hikes, but not difficult at all, that give you the opportunity of slowly crossing different environments and landscapes. They may also appear a bit monotonous, especially when they follow long forest tracks; however, if you afford them with the right mind, you will be finally satisfied of your choice. Even since, given the rather low heights, you can walk here already at mid spring, when the high Apennine ridge is still covered with snow. Climbing mount Gottero from its south slopes starting from the villages of Rio or Groppo, is not however a trivial hike ! Walking all the way to the ridge, starting from a place like Vares Ligure (and going back there) is an intrinsically exciting experience. A tour of mount Molinatico from the north can be a very long hike among woods, pasture lands and small villages of this part of the Taro river valle. from the mountains of this area you also see, closer and closer while going east, the high ridge of the Tosco-Emiliano Apennine and the Apuanian Alps; so, if you abandon a possible hardliner hiker attitude, you will not regret walking here.