[Photo: Along the GEA, the view from the Passo di Pradarena on the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano.]
On a few recent hikes in the Apennines south of Bologna, where I live, I kept seeing signs of the ‘Grande Escursione Appenninica’ (abbreviated in GEA), which made me curious: the name itself feels inspiring, the ‘Great Apennine Excursion’; and, as the passionate hiker I am, I feel increasingly drawn to long-distance hiking.
I remembered I had a guidebook at home about the Apennines; as it turned out, it is entirely dedicated to the GEA, “Trekking in the Apennines” (Cicerone Press), authored by travel writer and walker extraordinaire Gillian Price.
The GEA is a 402-km trek along the Apennines, the unsung mountains of Italy, which so often take a back seat to the most popular Italian Alps, of which the Unesco-inscribed Dolomites form a part.
Price herself describes the Apennines as “Italy’s best-kept secret”, providing walkers with beautiful trails over ridges and among forests in areas unaffected by mass tourism, which have often retained an authenticity hard to find in more favored destinations.
The GEA, which covers approximately a third of the total length of the Apennine chain, can be walked in its entirety in 23 days, but the great thing about it is that, if you don’t have that amount of time off, you can still walk parts of it (as I did without even planning it!), taking advantage of the excellent public transport network serving several locations along the route.
The trek starts in eastern Tuscany, at Bocca Trabaria, near the border with Umbria and Marche, then makes its way into Emilia-Romagna, where it ends at Passo Due Santi, right at the border with Liguria. It winds its way through numerous protected areas, including two national parks, the Foreste Casentinesi Park and the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano Park; it crosses into small medieval villages, woods and highly panoramic ridges; it uses ancient trails once walked on by pilgrims, traders and bandits. It ranges in altitude from 400m to 2,054m, its highest point, which coincides with the summit of Monte Prado.
To prepare for your GEA trek, or to pick a one or multi-day trek along the route, make sure you get a copy of 'Trekking in the Apennines', available in our online shop; it features detailed descriptions of each stage with mapping, and a comprehensive introduction, covering history, plants and wildlife and practical information including where to stay, what to bring, and more.