Near the village of Cavezzana, not far from Pontremoli, the Gordana river enters a narrow canyon called the Stretti di Giaredo. The walls of the gorge are over fifty metres in height and about 500 metres in length, and at times the vertical cliffs seem to meet at the top. In the canyon you will find big rocks, small rocks, round and oblong ones, sandstone, gneiss and granite, and even red and green jasper, the rock used to sculpt many of the altars in Pontremoli’s churches. The passage through the gorge is made up of crystal-clear rock pools, rushing water and sunlight filtering through the trees at the top. At least one of the pools is so deep that, unless you are quite tall, you will need to swim across it to carry on up the canyon, drought conditions excluded. The gorge is beautiful and if you don’t mind getting a bit wet, you should visit it.
The gorge is best explored on a hot summer’s day, as you will get wet wading across the river as you make your way to the canyon, and in the gorge itself. Even on a hot day the water is ‘fresh’ as they say, or just jolly cold as I say. The walk to the canyon is on the stony river bed, so it is not for those who might twist an ankle easily or for small children. You must have shoes that grip well and are suitable for walking on loose stones as well as in the river itself.
You will need to abandon your belongings at the entrance of the canyon, unless you are tall and can carry them on your head. It is not the kind of place where you’re going to be robbed, but if you are concerned, take a dry bag along or leave your valuables at home.
Finding the Stretti di Giaredo is not that easy. The practical person will haul out their local map and look for the road to Cavezzana. Beware. The most obvious road was closed due to a landslide. And just to lull you into a false sense of security, when you arrive there, it is still signposted to the Stretti di Giaredo. You can leave your car close to the spot where the road is closed and walk up the river, but it will add an extra hour each way to your walk.
For the best way to get to the Stretti di Giaredo, take the SP39 to Dozzano (see map link below). From the roundabout in Pontremoli the road passes under the motorway a few times, rises and twists for 2.5 km. Before you reach Dozzano, at a right-hand bend take a left turn. The road is signposted ‘Cavezzana G & Valunga’. The road descends and twists through olive groves, orchards and vineyards. At two points there are forks, in both cases take the downward option. After about one kilometre there is a left-hand hairpin bend with a rough dirt road on the right. Carry straight on down the dirt road. If you look closely to the left of the entance of the dirt road, you’ll see among the bushes a tiny sign with ‘Stretti G’ on it. This road looks dodgy, but is passable with care and descends for about 400m to a small parking area with a notice board describing the local geology.
From there it is a short walk down to the river. Head upstream, and after about 20-25 minutes you will arrive at the Stretti di Giaredo.