Suffer now to enjoy it later! It isn't easy to keep your shape unless you are a pro athlete and even in that case a serious injury or illness can require a long rest and as a consequence a long hard work to get fit again.
Intellectual people like me spend a lot of time siting at the desk writing or reading, editing pictures or watching a race, preparing a lesson or correcting students' papers. It's very important to keep your body in the right position during a long intellectual work, and it can even result in a good exercise. Still intellectual people like me need a regular real workout to stay fit, especially if they mean to decently perform cycling, hiking, skiing or climbing. Adventure is phisically and mentally demanding: its element is the umpredictable, you must be ready.
I have been hiking and skiing in the mountains all my life: as a child with my family, mostly in the Dolomites, as a young woman with my husband who's a wannabe alpinist, mostly in the Occitan Alps between Italy and France, more recently on my own. My sport as a girl was artistic gymnastic, I'm used to discipline. I have traveled a lot, in Europe but also in Iran, Turkey, Central America... always on a badget, on foot, bike or public transport. It's a great way to travel but not an easy one.
I can say I'm usually in an excellent shape, however I had two big setbacks: the first one when my son was born, in 2002, the second one in 2011 when I suffered for a severe anemia. Pregnancy itself is no problem but it happened to be a dramatic turnpoint in my life, I was having too much in my plate and I cracked. It took to me a while to be completely back but I was 27. In 2011 instead I was 37 and I didn't see it coming. As a consequence of anemia I lost a lot of my muscular strength and gained a few kilos. Now I'm fit agin but still slightly over my optimal weight.
Hic rhodus, hic salta! I'm working hard again for the next adventure! And it's include hiking but also a merciless gym training. No pain, no gain! And what's better than a good uphill hiking after a hard cross training session?
Monte Secchieta (1450 m) is one of higher peaks in the mountains between Valdarno superiore and Casentino, together with Croce del Pratomagno (1592 m). The top of Monte Secchieta overlooks the splendid forest of Vallombrosa with its Alboreto Sperimentale and the ancient Abazia.
Poggio Firenze is by the other side of the valley so on Friday I drove to Vallombrosa – you can also take the bus from Florence SMN rail station – parked next to the Abazia and bought a sandwich by the last kiosk. It was quite early in the morning and not the week-end, the village looked dead, abandoned, shot down. It used to be a very popular holyday place, invaded every summer by families, group of youths and rich old ladies. Now the hotels are almost empty. Only few regulars still spend their holidays here and the most are retired people. On Sunday though the large field of Vallombrosa still get crowded. On Friday it was empty and vaguely sad.
I put on my boots and walked to the Abazia and turned right to the entrance of the Alboreto where there is a fountain. I filled my bottled and started climbing on the CAI 10 path to Secchieta, a beautiful ancient muletrack crossing a superb forest of firs. It's relatively short but definitely steep!
The ambiance is magical: straight high old trees let few golden light filter on the bare reddish ground, green soft moss grows on the ancient cobbles of track and everywhere is silence. Eventually the CAI 10 path meets the CAI 12 path coming from Saltino and heading to the crest. Beeches take the place of firs as the altitude increases. The light is brighter. I stopped to drink a sip of water. Nobody on sigh.
It was a uneventuful excursion! I got to the crest and walked a little further to reach some wind turbines. The top of Monte Secchieta is occupied by some military installations but from the crest the view is stunning. Unfortunately it was misty becauseof the recent rain but I could discern the main monuments of Florence! By the other side the view includes Bibbiena and the mountain of Casentino. Following the crest, the CAI 00 path reaches the Pratomagno and its Croce, marked by a high iron cross.
It was very hot up there! I walked past the wind turbines on a smaller path and bumped into a small
building, a kind of refuge made of just one room with a fireplace, a table and few chairs. I sat under the trees in front of it and ate my sandwich pondering my next step. It was early, about 2 pm, but the there on the crest the heat was awful. I decided to start my way back enjoying a little more the fresh enchantment of the forest.
Time: 4 hours
Elevation: 500 m
Where: Valdarno, Tuscany, Italy
Start: Vallombrosa (958 m)
End: Monte Secchieta (1450 m)
Signals: CAI 10, 12 (red and white)
Things to see: Forest, view, Alboreto Sperimentale, Abazia di Vallombrosa.