Where the trees are so high they reach the skies, that’s where I find my soul. Where the air is so fresh, you enjoy every breath, that’s where I come to life. Where the birds sing and nothing else matters, that’s where I am happy.
I love mountains, forests, woods. Explorations, travelling, new people, new places. Running, racing, hiking. And Italy. And hidden gems. Like National Park Foreste Casentinesi. The amazing people from Soul Running invited Never Stop London and fellow Never-Stop-Girls to get a taste of what the region has to offer. Arriving Thursday evening in Bologna I finally met in person Marlen from Never Stop Munich, Camille from Never Stop Paris and Sara from Never Stop Milan. Guided by Francesco from Soul Running and accompanied by other bloggers and influencers we jumped on a bus and the weekend started.
Day one started bright and early under blue skies. We met with our guide Stefano and after short drive with mini bus we were in the middle of Parco Nazionale Foreste Casentinesi. The National Park is located between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany regions. We were following part of the route of Sacred Forest (Il sentiero delle Foreste Sacre) – a 90 km long, 7 day stage hike from Lago di Ponte to La Verna. We managed to cover 21 kilometres starting from small parking next to Faggi, crossing through the highest point Poggio Scali, through Monastry of Camadoli. Stefano shared his great knowledge about the region, nature and environment with us and I’m pretty sure we couldn’t get any better guide than he is. The hike was rather long but time passed quickly by and after two food stops and five and half hours we arrived in Badia Prataglia -charming picturesque Italian village surrounded by mountains.
Straight away we rushed to Poppi where the opening ceremony for Trail Sacred Forests championships was taking place. Luckily the ceremony was both in English and Italian, so we just sat down and cheered on our teams. After that the athletes went to pasta party and we rushed once again, this time back to Badia Prataglia to collect our own bib numbers for 24k race which was about to take place the next day.
Saturday came too early, with 6:00 am alarm clock and no coffee. And in case, you don’t know me, be aware I never leave the house without coffee. Add my usual car sickness and serpentine roads, no proper breakfast, tick bite, lack of sleep… and you can imagine the upcoming race wasn’t meant to be the most pleasant experience. In fact, it turned out to be a very bad day indeed. Race start at 3 pm gave me just enough time to decide at 1 pm that I’m going to DNS (do not start). I was pretty clear about my decision. Until a little red fox crossed my way and said with her lovely heartwarming voice: ‘sure you can do it, go and run it.’ So I went into the shadow, sat down, put the number on and decided to do it. For those who can’t. For me. For the journey rather than finish line.
And I did. The field of runners cleared quickly enough and most of the time it was just me and the nature. Surprisingly as I ran more and more I felt better and better. I still can’t say I had a great time though. Reaching the town, I’ve heard the music, crowds, shouts and excitement. And there I was, running on the red carpet crossing the finish line 3 hours and 17 minutes. Surprisingly I din’t finish as badly as I thought I would.
After the race we were free, which meant beer time, celebration time and pool time. We were staying in Roseo Euroterme Wellness Resort in Bagno di Romagna and the pool in the evening was just spot on. We were treated to a late night dinner with Francesco and by dinner, yes, I mean pizza! Last minute stroll through the town on Sunday morning, pack the duffel bag and off to the airport. I just wish we had more time to explore!
Big thank you goes to Francesco and Davide from Soul Running for inviting us and taking care of us. And to Stefano for showing us the beautiful forests. Hope our paths will cross again in the close future. As I will be definitely coming back. 90 kilometres of paths through sacred forests sound too tempting… time to plan next adventure!
For more pictures: Stefano Belacchi @ Quota 900 and Runningcharlotte To find out more about Soul Running visit: www.soulrunning.it Information about the region: http://hikingeurope.net/destination/emilia-romagna/parco-nazionale-foreste-casentinesi www.parcoforestecasentinesi.it