Foto trekking in Val Trebbia

What does Val Trebbia look like seen through the eyes of an “outsider”? Photographer Enrico Pelos walked the ancient routes of Val Trebbia and documented its different landscapes in his foto-trekking publications Paesaggio Fotografico di Liguria, Passeggiate a Levante e in the guidebook Alta Via dei Monti Liguri. 

The first question is quite traditional: how and when did you discover Val Trebbia for the first time?

I visited  Val Trebbia for the first time on a trip with m friends, the classical trip (almost an obligation for a Genoese person) to Torriglia and lake Brugneto.

Did you already walk the routes of Val Trebbia portrayed in your book before shooting the pictures for it?

I started shooting in Val Trebbia, and become interested in its landscapes, people and history because I was looking for places, itineraries and subjects with a photographic interest and value. I continued my visits later while I was shooting the pictures published in the official guidebook Alta Via dei Monti Liguri. The Alta Via (high route) runs along the borders of the valley in the Scoffera, Sella della Giassina and Barbagelata stations of the walk, and can be reached from the bottom of the valley through some side paths. The book was published in 1999 and was followed by a multimedia CD in 2000 produced by me and supported by UnionCamere di Genova.

The old mule track to Monte Antola (credits: Enrico Pelos)

I then went back to Val Trebbia other times and in the last months I walked some of the itineraries described and portrayed in my new book Passeggiate a Levante, among those the routes to:

  • Al Monte Antola da Casa del Romano
  • Al Monte Antola da Bavastrelli
  • Le fioriture del Pian della Cavalla
  • Al presepe di Pentema da Torriglia
  • L’anello del Lago del Brugneto,
  • L’anello di Fontanigorda ai monti Gifarco e Roccabruna in Val Trebbia

Which routes and places impressed you the most?

There are many places which impressed me and they all have their distinctive features. I don’t want to name particular towns or villages because it would mean naming all of them and not making justice to some, both in the Liguria and Piacenza areas. I will just quote some sites: mount Antola and lake Brugneto, the “Bosco delle Fate” in Fontanigorda, a magic and bewitched place of chestnut, beech trees and dark rocks, all very dear to the great poet Giorgio Caproni who dedicated the famous poem Ballo a Fontanigorda to these woods, the area of the old mill at Trebbie Burche, the wonderful canyons of the river Trebbia, meeting the Aveto river and then the panoramic landscapes you can see from the top of Fontanarossa and Zeppado.

Fontanigorda, il bosco delle fate (credits: Enrico Pelos)

The route that impressed me the most is the one leading from Fontanigorda to the tops of mount Gifarco, with the peculiar sword of San Galgano on it, and Roccabruna, from whose top you can see, in sunny days, beautiful panoramas over Val Trebbia, Val d’Aveto and all the way to the sea. This route is very interesting also due to its peculiar rock formations, geological features and naturalistic elements.

Have you ever considered creating a photo book portraying the villages of Val Trebbia and their daily life in different seasons?

Yes and I started it already some years ago but the draft is still in my drawer, or better said in my computer, with some finished chapters and the relevant pictures while others are still waiting to be developed further.

Mount Gifarco and its symphony of colours (credits: Enrico Pelos)

Some of your works were on display in Montebruno, can you tell us something about this exhibition?

I organised three exhibitions in Val Trebbia, all of them in Montebruno around 2000 and thanks to the interest of historian Giovanni Ferrero and the enthusiasm of the former mayor Federico Marenco (who back then was the youngest mayor in Italy).  The exhibitions were organised in the frame of the events linked to the anniversary of the Sophie Blanchard‘s flight over Val Trebbia. Giovanni Ferrero published the book Sophie Blanchard, Amazzone del Cielo while the mayor organised the festival Il Volo di Sophie Blanchard in Mongolfiera, celebrating her landing in Montebruno. She was one of the first women to fly a hot air balloon.

The exhibition Alta Via dei Monti Liguri Montebruno (credits: Enrico Pelos)

The exhibitions Vita e Cultura Lungo l’Alta Via dei Monti Liguri and Vie della Fede e dei Pellegrini in Liguria were organised for one week, for two consecutive years, in the former canteen of the sanctuary in Montebruno, a beautiful room with arched ceilings and an important fresco depicting the Last Supper. Many visitors attended the exhibition and showed interest towards the pictures and the topics they portrayed. The response of the visitors was so good that the exhibition took place again the following year. Some of the pictures showed the mountains Blanchard flew over and it is worth noticing that the people who saw her back then thought of her as an apparition of the Madonna.

Visitors at the exhibition in Montebruno (credits Enrico Pelos)

Do you think Val Trebbia has a particular charme landscape-wise seen from the perspective of a photographer?

Alta Val Trebbia surely has a particular charm and is one of the most beautiful valleys of Liguria. From its mountaintops you can take pictures of multicolored woods in autumn, landscapes with tiny villages dotted in the snowy mountains like little pearls in winter, the beautiful blossoming of spring and interesting elements in summer all along the river banks or around the lake.  People too can tell you many interesting stories which are worth listening to because they can become source of that kind of inspiration, which you will not find in any book, that will allow you to shoot beautiful pictures. Then, for someone like me who is fascinated by Kerouac,  travelling along Route 45 is always a way to “explore” and “re-interpret” his books, as it was for Caproni, and a surprise can be hiding around every corner.

Lake Brugneto and Mount Antola (credits: Enrico Pelos)

What are your future projects and hidden dreams?

Perhaps a second volume of “Passeggiate a Levante” if my book meets the appreciation of the public and trekking lovers. Also a cooperation for a book about Genoa and, as a hidden dream, a big-sized photographic book whose earnings I would now partly give to the victims of the floods which hit Genoa and Cinque Terre in the past days.


Note: pictures of the mill in Costamaglio in loc. Trebbie Burche and of the mill in Ottone and Calendasco (Piacentino) are published in the book Il mulino di Neirone (Lulu publishing, 2007),  other pictures of Val Trebbia are to be found in Paesaggio Fotografico di Liguria (Italian and English, ed. Lulu Publishing 2006 ). More pictures to be found on the website Portale degli Appennini e dei Monti Liguri.

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