Camaiore is a gem hidden in the Tuscan hills, just below the limestone covered peaks nearby. Climb overlooking a small medieval village, a lush valley and majestic limestone cliffs, with the Apuan Alps behind you and the beautiful Mediterranean sea in front of you. Locacted only a 20 minute drive from Pisa and its reclining tower, 10 minutes from the beaches of Versilia, 30 minutes from the famous Cinque Terre and 40 minutes from the Chianti wineries, climbing in Camaiore is a truly unique experience. You will find thousands of routes, ranging from beautiful long and athletic tufas to scenic multi-pitches overlooking the sea. You can even check out the crazy crimps on the 9a+ Naturalmente freed by Adam Ondra in 2017, which he described as “one of the best routes I can imagine”, or challenge yourself on a big-wall adventure on the 700m-tall Pizzo d’Uccello. And the best part is that you will most probably enjoy this paradise on your own, away from the crowds.
Climbing was developed here from the ’80s by local climbers from Tuscany and the neighboring villages in Liguria. It was a well-kept secret until five years ago when Roberto Vigiani, one of the most prolific bolters, and his wife Grazia decided to settle here and raise the profile of the area. They moved to the small village of Camaiore and opened a B&B, a guiding agency, and a climbing shop, launching the project “Tra mari e monti”- Between mountains and the sea. The first guidebook of the valley was published, and in 2017, climbers of the caliber of Adam Ondra and Seb Bouin made trips here, attracted by the small crimps and athletic moves of the San Rocchino crag. In 2017 the first edition of the Climbing & Trekking festival took place, a 3-day event happening every September which includes a fun street boulder competition on the walls of medieval houses in Camaiore and neighboring villages.
A climbing holiday in Camaiore means going for an adventure in a place where nature is still the protagonist, and where rock-walls have yet to be conquered. But even if you cannot finish your project, it’s hard to get frustrated when you climb with sea view! And when you need a rest day, well, you are spoiled for choice. Aside from the best beaches, restaurants, and night-life by the seaside just 5 km away, Tuscan wine and food can be found in every small village around the hills. If you feel like some history, Pisa and Lucca are just around the corner. Not to mention all the other outdoor sports on offer: downhill and mountain biking, cave exploration, breathtaking treks among the famous Carrara marble mines, scenic via ferrata, and diving and canyoning in natural pools.
After landing at Pisa airport, head to Camaiore village. If you want some easy mileage for your first climbing day, go to the beautiful crag of Sant’Anna di Stazzena, secluded among the hills and offering a stunning sea view. Here you can find lots of easy routes, from 3+ to some in the 6b-6c range. You can reach the crag by foot (20 minutes) from Camaiore.
If you feel like starting with a bang instead, then hike 40 minutes to the beautiful natural area of Procinto, with its majestic tower. This areas is roughly 1000m a.s.l. and offers some good climbing temperatures even in summer. You must try the beautiful multi-pitch routes going up the tower, with grades starting from VI. The most classic one is the Dolfi/Melucci route, opened back in 1955, and now completely re-bolted in sport-style (4 pitches). The best way to discover the tower is to go with a local mountain guide: you may even learn a couple of new knots and anchors on some of the more old-school routes! If you don’t feel like a multi-pitch, you can reach the top of the tower by climbing up Italy’s oldest via ferrata or explore the single-pitches in the crags nearby. You definitely should stop at the cozy hut Forte dei Marmi for a snack/lunch after climbing; you won’t regret it!
For strong climbers, of course, Camaiore's crown jewel is the San Rocchino crag. Here routes range from 7a (5.12a) to 9a+ (5.15a). The wall is heavily overhanging, starting from 30°, and the harder lines also have small crimps, requiring interesting pinches and shoulder movements. Needless to say, the climbing is gorgeous and unforgiving: Adam Ondra had to come back twice to close the 9a+ Naturalmente.
Yet another unmissable area is the Candalla crags (divided into Candella Alta and Candalla Bassa), which offer over 100 routes amidst incredible scenery. The key jaw-dropping features of Candalla are the steep, long, black-and-white-tufa infused limestone walls. Routes range from 5+ (5.10b) to 8c (5.13d), but are mainly in the 7th (5.12+) range. We recommend Alaigro hombre (6c), the technical Và lentino (7a+), and the intense and continuous dihedral of La ribadita (7b). Hiking there is also amazingly beautiful. The trail begins at an ancient water mill, fed by a stunning and rugged mountain river where people fill giant water jugs for their homes. Right next to the mill is a neat little waterfall lapping into a pool, where locals go on hot summer days - the rope swing is testimony to that.
If you like the style, then head to the overhanging tufas in Cannelot. Strength, good technique, and endurance are all needed for these 20-25mt lines, mostly in the 7b (5.12c) to 8a (5.13b) range. Roberto Vigiani is the main bolter of these crags and the host of the Ostello Camaiore B&B (together with his wife, Grazia). Stay there for first-hand advice on how to get ready for your next days’ projects and to fully enjoy the natural, rustic vibe of Camaiore.
Since Camaiore has seen continuous route-development, no guidebooks offer a truly comprehensive overview, and we recommend joining one of the pro-rock alpine guides. They all climb above 8th (5.13) grade and used to compete: it is your chance to learn some tricks from the pros and bridge to the next level. Why do that in the gym if you can train on some breathtaking tufas with a sea-view?
Last but not least, if you fancy some alpine climbing then a trip to the Apuan Alps is not complete without the climb of Pizzo d’Uccello, known as the Matterhorn of the Apuan Alps. Its sheer 700m north face makes it an impressive big-wall climb in alpine style. There are multiple routes climbing up the 1781m summit, mostly trad, and it is typically possible to do the climb in one day, even if you have to be always ready for a last-minute bivouac. The beauty, grace and the strict alpine aura of the peak makes it one of the greatest goals for all local climbers.
THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
Pro Rock mountain guides
The beauty of the Apuan Alps (and the sheer number of climbs in the 8th grade) convinced a group of six experienced climbers (all certified mountain guides) to settle here and make Camaiore their base-camp for mountain adventures in the area.
Roberto Vigiani is a one of the most prolific italian climbers and bolters. He made numerous important first ascents of sport and trad multi-pitches, such as Hotel Supramonte (8b) in Sardinia, the Vigiani/Larcher route (8a) in Marmolada, Dolomites, La Svizzera (8a+) in the Wenden massif in the Swiss Alps and most recently the 7-hour long C'è poco da ridere in the Tuscan Appennin. He has travelled and climbed around the world, collecting some important repetitions such as Free Rider on El Capitan in 2017 (90% freed on-sight with Rolando Larcher and Maurizio Oviglia), freed the West Face route and climbed The Nose back in the ‘80s. He has also participated in many mountaineering expeditions, such as the Cerro Aconcagua, 6962m, in Argentina. He is one of the key developers of climbing in Camaiore and one of the most competent route-setters in Italy, being also the first italian mountain guide holding a bolting course.
Cristiano Virgilio also has a pretty impressive portfolio of extreme ascents across the whole Alpine range. He started mountaineering when he was 12 and he is now a certified national instructor of mountain guides. He climbs on every terrain and style, but has a soft-spot for rock and ice. He participated in an expedition to conquer the 8100m Manaslu summit in Nepal: the crew had to stop at camp 4 due to an unexpected snowstorm, but they achieved the mission to bring the very local lardo di colonnato cold cut and some didactic material to kids of a village at 2500m.
You will also meet Pasquale Equizi, a guide since 1986 and Iyengar yoga teacher since 1989, awarded by Mr Iyengar himself in India. Iyengar is a purist style of yoga, placing the emphasis on precision and alignment, and suitable for all levels, age and flexibility. The practice is all about the details of your breath control (pranayama) and posture (asana) and is excellent for building strength and flexibility. He’s your guy if you want to combine rock climbing/mountaineering with this beneficial and meditative type of yoga.
If you want to focus on improving your climbing level, we recommend the “pro-elastic rock” workshop held by the guide Carlo Malerba. With his very elegant climbing style he has climbed many of the routes in the 8th grade of the area. His method of teaching rock climbing techniques using elastic bands (P.E.R) is creative and easy to follow, yet extremely effective.
If you seek a true veteran alpinist, meet Fabio Palazzo, with 35 years of mountaineering experience, 23 years in mountain rescue services and life-long skier. He splits his time between Tuscany, the Mount Blanc, Massif des Écrins and the Dolomites. He is a professional agronomist and an advocate for safety and respect in the mountains.
Franco Laudanna del Guerra is the youngest of the crew. He holds a PhD in meteorology and, after some years at the Weather Forecast Research Center focused on the Dolomites mountains, he made mountaineering his career by becoming alpine guide. Besides being a strong climber, he is a passionate freeride skier and ice-climber, travelling between his home mountains, the Apuan Alps, and the Dolomites, Norway and Iceland.
If you'd like to find out more about the region's climbing potential, check out this guide to climbing in the Apennines.