EXPERIENCES

Carro-Mattarana hiking trail: a walk in the heart of Val di Vara

TECHNICAL DATA:

Difficulty: medium-easy

Trail number: 622then 630

Recommended period: all year round as long as the weather is good and it hasn’t rained heavily recently

Duration: about 3 hours

Suggestions: you can walk the path going there and back, it will be about 15 km. Alternatively, you can get there in 2 cars, leaving one in Mattarana and the other in Travo, the starting point. The hiking trail is also very suitable for mountain biking.

A well-kept trail, suitable for everyone

Charming abandoned buildings along the way

During the 2020 summer, we all came out very stressed from the lockdown and an irrepressible impulse to run away from the walls that kept us confined for almost two months. Most of the people went to the sea, crowding the coasts. Even before the pandemic, I never loved places full of people. Therefore I opted to spend my free time in the hinterland, especially in Val di Vara when possible. I was able to discover and rediscover new hiking trails, surrounded by greenery and not well known, far from the crowds and the chaos.

I found the hiking trails in the Carro area very interesting, very well-kept, and with impeccable signage. Recently the municipality of Carro has worked by making improvements to the hiking network, making them recognizable and clean.

What I’m going to talk about is one of my favorite hiking trails in Val di Vara. It starts from Travo, a very small village close to Carro, and reaches Mattarana, not far from Carrodano.

Except for a steep 15-minute climb in the first part, the hiking trail is simple and easily accessible, even for children. In fact, last autumn, I got there with my 11-year-old niece.

Tip: if you are with children, you can opt for a shorter loop trail, starting from Travo; after Ziona, you will find the locality Casa Luxiata. From there, take the road indicated by the CAI (Italian alpine club); it will bring you back, gently descending into the grove to the point where you started.

How to reach the trail

The best way to get to the Carro Mattarana hiking trail is by car. Driving along the A12 motorway, take the Brugnato or Carrodano exit and follow the signs for Sesta Godano. You will cross a village straddling the Vara river, Ponte Santa Margherita. Right after the bridge, there will be a junction; turn left. Following the road to Carro, just ahead of a restaurant, you will find the road to Travo on the left.

You can leave the car in Travo on the side of the road or start from Carro, making the hiking trail 1 km longer.

The start of the Carro Mattarana walking trail in Val di Vara

Carro and Travo, mystery and nature in Niccolò Paganini’s village

Carro is a small village in Val di Vara located between Brugnato and Sesta Godano. The origins of Carro date back to the Roman era. The town was an ancient possession of the Vicariate of Framura. It ended up under the Este family and later under the Malaspina family, who gave it to the Da Passano at the behest of the diocese of Brugnato. In 1229 Carro became independent and entered into an alliance with the Republic of Genoa. Carro was in a strategic position for Genoa on the road to Piacenza. Having entered the French domain of Napoleon Bonaparte, the village became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815. After the unification of Italy, Carro was part of the province of Genoa and that of La Spezia, established in 1923.

Fact: the village is the homeland of the violinist Niccolò Paganini; his parents were both from Carro. Every summer, from July 14 to August 14, the town is home to the “Festival Paganiniano,” 9 evenings with musical events. One of the festival’s guests is the winner of the Paganini price of Genoa.

Travo is a very small village, not even 2 km from Carro. It takes its name from the stream on which it stands; in ancient times, it was a farming land exploited by farmers for the presence of the watercourse. Furthermore, in ancient times along the Rio Travo, seven mills used the mechanical energy of the water to grind wheat and chestnuts. But the most exciting thing in Travo is the mysterious appearance of abandoned buildings. You can see abandoned houses and a church, which has recently been deconsecrated. The beginning of our hiking trail will be near the watercourse, after the fields of the La Valle Della Luna farmhouse.

An ancient church

The first part- a climb surrounded by the greenery between Travo and Ziona (622 hiking trail) 

Carro viewed from the trail

We go from Travo, following the indications of the hiking trail, towards the stream, cross a small bridge, and walk along a small flat section with the stream on the left. 

Fact: this clear stream is the habitat of the river crab, while much of the area is populated by the yellow-bellied toad, an amphibian with a characteristic yellow color, similar to a salamander. It happened to me sometimes to come across this cute little animal during my excursions in Val di Vara.

After a few minutes, we begin the climb. This is the only steep section of the path, but as you go up, the view of Carro on the hill opens up. At the end of the climb, you will continue a flat stretch and then resume climbing for a small section in the driveway up to the small village of Ziona.

Second part: a walk through woods and meadows from Ziona to Quattro strade junction (hiking trail 622)

Shortly before the Ziona sign, there will be a junction with a CAI sign; (in theory, a driveway, but I have never seen a car on it). After that, with a slight climb, you will arrive at Casa Luxiata. There is a farmhouse with two ponies walking around its enclosure. After some stroking, we went on. Alternatively, in Luxiata farmhouse, it is possible to return to Travo by closing the loop path.

We continued uphill, following the signs of the CAI and the red-green ones (symbol of the hiking network of the municipality of Carro), until we got, leaving Carro behind us, to Quattro Strade.

Third part: the beautiful view from Quattro Strade to Mattarana (hiking trail 630)

Quattro strade means Four Roads, a junction where four paths meet. Thanks to recent signage in this area, it is possible to change the hiking trails to your liking; you can even get to Alta Via delle Cinque Terre. In our excursion, we headed towards Mattarana, following the hiking trail number 630. After a comprehensive start, the path becomes a bit narrower. The landscape is stunning, we are on a ridge, and the sun filters through the leaves and trunks of the trees giving us a pleasant light. You pass an artificial lake and descend towards Mattarana; once you arrive at the village, you will see the actual Mattarana lake, which is artificial too.

The trails are well signalled all the way long

After a walk around the reservoir, we went to the village and stopped for lunch in a local restaurant. My favorite part of the excursions in Val di Vara is an excellent lunch based on typical products after a nature hike. 

Mattarana is all bikers fav

This village is based on the ancient Bracco pass, once very busy, used to connect the city of Genoa with the town of La Spezia. By playing an essential role in connection, this road made sure that the coastal towns traded with those of the hinterland: in fact, fish, seafood, and salt were used to arrive from the sea, which was exchanged with meat, agricultural products, and chestnuts. 

Mattarana, once an important stop along the road, with taverns and inns, lost most traffic when the highway was opened in the 1960s. However, the village has become a much-loved stop for bikers that venture on Monte Bracco riding their motorcycles. The road across Mattarana has beautiful views and is very suitable for mopeds. 

USEFUL TIPS: 

-a water flask 

– layered thermal clothing, especially in autumn and winter. The hiking trail starts from a cold-humid climate in the first part to become drier and more pleasant as you go up

-in summer months, I recommend a repellent for mosquitoes and ticks

hiking boots or sneakers