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Italy has Tuscany, whose spring from March on, would do well as Finnish summer. They have the world's best, but affordable restaurants and excellent wineries. As if this would not be enough when you get used to this gentle life, they have ski resorts in the Apennine mountains, almost comparable with those in the Alps.

 

- Dear passengers, captain speaking. We’ll be landing in 10 minutes to Florence. The weather is sunny. Temperature is 19 degrees, a weak wind.
Well well. I have two pairs of skis along, alpin and cross country. Should I have gone to Lapland. The flight would have cost the same, but I think I have had my fair share of sautéed reindeer.
       The warm breath of the sun greets me at the Florence airport. It’s almost embarrassing to carry a skibag out of the terminal. The termina cafe, however, is filled with familiar foreigners, who are coming to the same annual meeting. We find the Abetone winter sports coach, whose cellar is beginning to fill up with ski bags and luggages. We seem to have more of these strong-in-their-faith.  

Did I take the skies along in vain?
We've driven an hour and the surroundings still look far too springish. The road starts to steepen and distots to serpentines. Then, between the trees I catch a glimpse of snow-peaked mountains. We continue to rise and see patches of snow in shadowy spots, then even on the sun-side, the roofs of houses. As we approach the Abetone, the roofs have half a meter of snow and the road sides at least three meters! It is the first week of March and we are in Central Italy!
       Abetone became a popular recreation area, where the aristocracy fled the city heat, when this passing through road between Tuscany and Modena was built in 1776. For example Giacomo Puccini had a villa in the village of Boscolungo in the early 1900s.
       Most of us have our bookings hotel Le Piramide, whose comes stone pyramides marking the boundary between municipals, has been built to its current form in 1989, but part of the building is from the 1300's.
       After having accommodated I find the hour too late the even for the illuminated ski piste and recognise my hunger. The restaurant is with familiar people and I decide with give Piramide chef a chance. Pasta corta setaro con cavolo nero su fonduta di pecorino locale or something like that is pretty molto buono, or something like that, and Tutto mandarino or something like that is cold and hot lemon sorbet and, once and for all is yummy. Grappa tissutellessa eyelids begin to weigh so much that I decide awaits a little small unoset before the conquest of the disco floor.
       I wake up at seven o'clock. What do you mean seven? After all, I went to take a nap at eight.
       Well well, that was like putting money in the bank, eleven hours of sleep.
Must stay calm. Morning sauna, breakfast, and so forth. The sights in the gym didn’t look interesting. Maybe I’ll give it another chance. Some day.

Lift capacity at least adequate
Abetone’s first ski lift was built in 1936. It was an eccentric, 20-seater sleigh, in the summer on wheels. Although cord-driven, it was steerable. The verticle climb was some 323 m, and the upper peaks and off-points were reached with the skis on shoulders.
I considered the most intelligent way to start the ski was by take a free ski bus to Monte Gomiton gondola station. A mistake! To reach the lift station one has to climb from the parking lot to a height of about three-storey building with one’s skis on one’s untrained shoulders. Is one supposed to be some kind of a sportsman? Well, maybe it’s good to warm up the muscles.
       The clock has a couple of minutes to nine and the lift doesn’t move. Not even a queue to the lift has been born yet. Adam from Ireland and myself hardly form a queu.
       The Italians generally come at 10-11, ski for an hours, go for coffee, ski another hour and go for lunch, which lasts until the ski lifts close. At lunch, they usually discuss the excellent meals they’ve had before. The Finns have their own variant of the discussion. They drink and brag laughing how drunk they’ve been before. This doesn’t even necessarily require a table. We are quite flexible about the props needed.
        Finally the gondolas start their daily work, and we jump to the first one. In a moment we rise above the trees and the spectacular scenery opens to us. Raps Raps Raps Raps the camera raps, and a digital memory card saves sights for the friends at home to envy. But then we dive into a cloud. We notice the upper station at the last moment and are a it busy to collect our gear.
       We enter the heavenly bliss of the Apennines and feel like wrapped in cotton wool. The slope map is barely visible through the clouds. There are five pistes to choose from back to the lower gondola station.We try to find the one closest to the elevator line. There, after all, we saw something. Adam is here for the second day and knows the pistes. I aim at his red jacket.

One's legs are one’s eyes in the fog
We proceed cautiously from one piste sign to the next. Sense of balance does it’s tricks and I fall at low speed. Below, however, the visibility improves and the landscape opens up. Suddenly we forget all caution and speed down the groomed runway meandering through the forest back to the lower station, still almost empty of people.
       We had five great runs on almost untouched slopes before almost every gondola brins people up. However, the lift capasity is so good that never have to queu.


Then we will continue to the top and pass some easy pistes on the way to the eastern runs. There, the slopes are almost entirely within the forest and the visibility is much better. Slopes are continuing, however, a few hundred meters lower than the gondola line and the snow there is wet and makes one push some to get all the way down.
       The next day, foggy weather continues, but it’s been snowing all night long and the sky continues it’s good work throughout the day leaving us half a meter of new snow. The lift accessible off-piste areas in Abetone are large enough for a small army, but in the foggy weather the deep-snow guerrillas are not many. The hasty intake of our lunch surprises our friends, who have spent their day in the restaurant. We don’t have time or enthusiasm to explain our haste.

Having fun on the back slopes and off
When the next morning we get to the Mont Gomito in bright sunlight, a new ski paradise opens to our eyes and to our skis. The long-long slope to Val di Sole, on the ski map coloured to be of moderate difficulty is so wide and meandering, that everyone can enjoy it according to his skills. There’s also a shorter and narrower fast lane down. There is a risk of death for everyone on such a narrow slope. There is always someone in front of you or coming fast from behind. Fortunately, helmets have become fashionable even in  Italy and the Scandinavians are no longer laughed at.
       From Val di Sole we take the easternmost lift. At the right side of the lift line a broad off-piste spreads with only a few signs of carving. At the top of the liftline I notice two boys climbing with the skis on their shoulders. We follow them.
       We pant for twenty minutes to get over the ridge, and: Voila! There is an extensive shallow bowl with at least 30 cents of new snow. We hit the slope and do some divine turns. The wind has re-spread the snow to it’s own taste; in some places it’s so deep that one can almost lean on it. In other places the hard surface is in sight. Whatever the reason, the next moment I find myself inside a pile of snow. So, this is how it feels to be in an avalanche. I get my upper body easily above the snow, and break to a lunatic laugh. That’s a masculine way cover one’s embarrasment. Turning and getting up is not easy, for the dindings didn’t open. Neither did the knee ligaments, thank gods. And neither did the poles, so I don’t have look for then in the snow, but my thumbs are more than a little sore.
       I open my jacket to leave twenty litres of snow where it came from and I continue my ride as elegantly as before but much less arogantly and enjoying every moment to huge granite building. The building is a hotel-to-be from the thirties. The project was cut by WWII and was never finished. Only a café is open at the basement and we think we have earned a coffee break.
       Two lift lines lead northwards from Val di Sole and one back to Mont Gomito. The latter line is so long and slow, that in cold weather, if much perspirated, one should avoid it. Otherwise the Mont Gomito lift boys have the unplesant duty to raise the frozen tourists from the lift seat. Better alternatives are, either to dry up in the bar of the granite castle or ski down to the parking area, and take a bus to the hotel.
       Abetone slopes are mostly so called red, that means moderate or blue, that’s easy, but their length give enough challenge to ski down nonstop. The only black piste, that is difficult, starts at the right side of the upper station of Mont Gomito, but off-piste areas give enough challenge to the powder freaks. The longest run starts at the highest point of the Val di Sole area and pass Mont Gomito and Selletta and ends up in Le Regine, the western-most village of Abetone. Before you start that longest run, you should climb a few metres to a natural terrace and enjoy the scenery on the Mediterranean See and Sardegna.
       The best place to stay is in the village of Abetone, where the best services are, as well as a chair lift to Sellettan in two drives. From there you can ski down to the lower gondola station of Monte Gomino, and thus conquer the whole skiable area of the Abetone ski resort.
       All the restaurants and cafes are in the village of Abetone. In other villages, they are in the hotels.

Springtime skiing in
Abetone

A bitter effucion by Rauli Storm

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Post tour in Siena, San Gimigniano etc. Just let them roll or click in middle to enlarge.

 

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