As our trip was planned as 13 days of walking, we technically passed half way on our way to Petra Piana in terms of time, but there was still a long way to go.
The town of Vizzavona marks the halfway point in the GR20 due to easy access by road. Therefore it also marks the point where a significant number of people drop out, largely those undertaking the challenge without a guide. Its just to easy to stay in a hotel in Vizzavona and decide that the beach is a better choice for the rest of your trip.
We however did not have that luxury, or any luxury at all as it happens…… from cramped tents and rubbish food at Petra Piana to bed bugs for one of us at Vizzavona. But we have to get there first…..
Day 7 – Manganu to Petra Piana 8hrs 15
Distance 10km with 980m total ascent and 740m descent
We left Manganu at 7am and immediately headed uphill. The path is steep and bouldery but not really challenging and there’s even a lovely flat plateau half way up with our first sign of mud on the route.
The route heads for the large notch you can see in the first photo and as it gets nearer to the top it becomes scree and boulders. Its worth the effort though as this is Brecche du Capitellu, the highest point on the GR20 at an altitude of 2225m.
Across the other side of the Brecche there is an amazing view which called for a second breakfast stop, which of course was shared by lizards. From here we could see Lac de Capitellu and Lac du Melu below and then onwards to the rest of the GR20 beyond. The route continues on, scrambling over boulders and rock slabs to circle around below Punta a e Porta’s rockface.
To reach the rocky notch which is the next col to cross, we had to scramble down a steep gully which has a chain added and then back up the other side.
From the other side there is a yellow flash marked on the rock which indicates a diversion route down to Corte, a popular stopping place for some groups. However, we continued to follow the white and red markers of the main route, which crosses a ridge and ascends up to Bocca a Soglia before the descent down to the refuge at Petra Piana.
By the time we reached Petra Piana the cloud had descended and the temperature had dropped, which certainly added to the disappointment at finding the area surrounding the refuge was a sea of tents all very close together. Ear plugs were a definite must to get through the night!
Petra Piana is also the only refuge on the whole route where as a vegetarian I really struggled to eat well. The rest of the refuges we stayed at were generally fine at providing an alternative evening meal (the same food minus the meat). Petra Piana however, outright refused to do an alternative, so the two of us who were vegetarians were extremely grateful to a lovely french couple who gave us pasta and sauce so we had food for the night. So be warned, the guardian of Petra Piana is not friendly to non meat eaters! We also had to sit outside the very tiny refuge building to eat, and in the mist it was very cold and therefore a quickly eaten meal and an early night.
Day 8 – To Vizzavona 10 hrs
Distance 19km approx with 1060m ascent and 1980m descent (!)
It was dark when we awoke at Petra Piana, neither of us had slept well in our cramped tent and we were keen just to get moving and warm up as it had been a cold night. Breakfast was the usual bread and jam but thankfully we were able to sit in the tiny refuge kitchen to eat.
We set off walking at 6am as not only were we taking the higher level route across the ridge, but we were also carrying on to Vizzavona, making this a day of 2 legs of the route condensed into one. The higher level route is shorter and actually involves less climbing so if you’re going to combine two days into one this is an excellent spot to do it.
The higher level route is an alternative path to the main GR20 and while I’d booked this particular trekking company for it being the only one which did the whole length of the route, it was certainly worth taking the ridge route for this section as the views were fantastic and much better than any woodland would provide.
From Petra Piana we followed the yellow paint markers up to Bocca Manganellu, and along the way to the ridge we saw the sun rise and the view across the ridge we where to walk along.
The ridge is easy to walk with little scrambling and little exposure, although it was quite windy. We stopped briefly along the ridge for second breakfast out of the wind and to admire the view and the rest of the route we’d be taking.
The ridge is a fantastic walk and provides the first point on the route where you can see the sea on both sides of the island. Taking this route also provides an opportunity to bag the peak of Punta di I Pinza Corbini at 2021m.
The path descends gradually to the point where it meets the main GR20 route, just above refuge l’Onda which took us about 4 and half hours. We didn’t head down to the refuge but picked up the main route and headed upwards for our strenuous ascent of the day to skirt around Punta Muratello.
It seemed straight forward as we headed from l’Onda up the ridge, but the path is steep and winds through juniper and shrubs and eventually becomes rocky and scrambly as it turns left and heads up through bare rock to the pass. Along the way you pass a memorial to a fallen mountaineer.
As the path descends down the other side there is a lot of bare rock but nothing which really requires scrambling – and by this point we had perfected walking like Charlie Chaplin down the slabs.
The path continues down to follow the river where we crossed a bridge, before heading through the woodland on an easy path to the road.
We stayed at the Gite Monte d’Oro just by the roadside in Vizzavona, another lovely place were we had rooms between three of us, with private bathrooms. The food was also amazing and a lovely bar for drinks and our nightly pint of Pietra beer. Unfortunately the only man in our group was the victim of bed bugs at Vizzavona but thankfully this was the last time any of us were so unfortunate.
Its certainly easy to see why many GR20’ers decide to finish their trek at the half way point in Vizzavona. For us we had a nice bed for the night and another early start.