Tuscany is a veritable winter wonderland during the colder months. The Christmas lights, the nativity scenes dotting the region’s myriad medieval villages, the snow-capped mountains calling sports lovers to take up their skis, snowboards and snowshoes for a weekend getaway on the slopes. If (or when) the snow melts, you might be left wondering where the entertainment lies in these highlands. Hiking, mountain biking, zip-lining: all these activities are as plentiful as anything you might find when the snow blankets the ground.
Our day begins in Cutigliano, an hour or so north of Pistoia by car and the perfect base for anyone in search of a holiday in the mountains, connected as it is to popular sites like Doganaccia, Abetone, Libro Aperto and even Monte Cimone, in Emilia-Romagna. Our first stop is Doganaccia, a well-known hotspot (or should that be “cold spot”?) for winter sports, but topographically ideal for snow-less activities too. Marco Ceccarelli, the owner of Doganaccia 2000, accompanies us on our hike through the forest, along a trail that leads all the way to the Libro Aperto mountain. “When there’s snow, this trail is used for cross-country skiing because of its fairly flat terrain, but when the snow melts, it becomes a hikers’ paradise.” Weaving our way through the birch and fir trees, Ceccarelli talks more about the different kinds of trails to be found on the mountain, each colour coded for their level of difficulty, offering visitors several days of hiking.
For the more adrenaline-minded, the area is also a spectacular spot for a bit of mountain biking when the ground is dry. We hop on our own bikes to traverse the Doganaccia – Croce Arcana – Libro Aperto trail, whipping through the woods at full speed. The trails aren’t as steep as you might find at nearby Abetone, but they are several kilometres long and thrilling in their own right.
Our guides want us to experience the views from the top of the mountain, so off we go to CAI trail n. 00, which runs along the ridge and offers spectacular views of Tuscany on one side and Emilia-Romagna on the other. As if the day hadn’t already been action-packed enough, we finish at Doganaccia 2000 Adventure Park. It’s an outdoor gym galore with its bridges, ropes, zip lines and stairways, to say nothing of the 700-metre-long bobsledding track. From the walking trails, horseback riding and zip-lining, a holiday on Doganaccia is a safe bet for the whole family. (Visitors take note: in the winter, the Adventure Park is only open on Saturdays and Sundays when there’s no snow on the ground. Visit www.doganaccia2000.it/en for more information.)
About 20 km from Doganaccia, Abetone is a skiers’ paradise and many a vacationer’s preferred winter destination. Vaunting nearly 50 kilometres of ski trails branching any which way, the thrilling piste are popular for their mix of sharp gradients and smooth planes, offering adventurers the chance to test their skills in downhill and cross-country skiing. The resort is an excellent option for first timers on the powder too, including children, due to the ski school and nursery slopes. If high jinks are your thing, come back in the summer season when the exhilarating Gravity Park (www.abetonegravitypark.it) serves up amazing enduro biking experiences among friends and family.