Secret corners of Sibillini National Park
Discovering one of the most fascinating nature paradise of Italy
A taste of nature
Sibillini National Park brief introduction
Norcia is situated at the centre of the Sibylline Mountains National Park: the town is surrounded by mountains of more than 2000 mt, a day-trippers and skiers paradise. Between the mountains, on large flat amphitheatres are raised prized crops (most famous are the lentils from the plain of Castelluccio) and a wide variety and quantity of animals (such as hogs for the production of Norcia’s renowned delicatessen products).
Not far from the town, on the wide open plains of Castelluciio, can be found the European School of Free Flight; the many trails in the National Park are perfect for hikes, horse riding and mule treks; the Sordo and Corno rivers offer rafting and canyoning, while the striking rock faces, the Karst grottoes and the gorges that are characteristic of the whole Valnerina area are ideal for free-climbing and speleology.
Places in the vicinity that merit a visit are: the winter sports and day trip centre, Forca Canapine (20 km from Norcia, at 1541 metres); the Castelluccio high plains (Pian Perduto, Piano Piccolo and Piano Grande, a large Karst basin that in Spring is covered with beautiful alpine flowers; Monte Porche (2235 metres) with a striking panorama onto the Sibylline Mountains and the Abruzzo Mountains; Monte Vettore (2476 metres), with Lago di Pilato lake and the Grotta della Sibilla, Sybil’s Grotto; and the Necropoli della pianura di Santa Scolastica with findings from the Iron Age to Roman times.
Trekking and Hiking in the Park
The Park's territory offers several and various opportunities to those people who want to discover its treasures in the four seasons on foot. The historical itineraries lead us to the medieval corners of the villages scattered at the foot of the Sibillini, while pleasant walks reveal us the mosaic of the rural and shepherds' life. The contact with wild nature and the magic world of the summits can be reached through more demanding hikes often requiring experience, training, and suitable equipment. These itineraries will soon be signaled by the Park; however, at the moment it is possible to rely on the experience of the Park's Official Guides, who will reveal us the most concealed secrets of the Sibillini in the safest manner.
Finally, an unforgettable experience will be walking along the paths of Grande Anello dei Sibillini, a 120 km-long excursion itinerary which has been signalled for all its length. It takes 9 days of walk, and it involves the whole mountain chain.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MONTI SIBILLINI NATIONAL PARK
Nature Routes inside the Sibillini National Park
The Flowering Slope
It includes the northern area of the Park with the Ragnolo meadows, where during the summer you can admire wonderful orchid and lily blooming, and other interesting species like the Orsini fritillary, the narcissus, and the Alpine aster. In the valley of the Fiastrone, an impressive "Forra" dug by the waters, you can find the "Grotta dei Frati", an ancient and suggestive hermitage of the Claren monks dating back to 1000 AD. By following the river up to the Lake of Fiastra, in which the surrounding summits reflect themselves, you can reach the suggestive valley of the Acquasanta with its beautiful waterfalls, and the Grotta dell'Orso, a place name witnessing the past presence of this species also in the Sibillini mountains.
On this slope we find the Municipalities of: Acquacanina, Bolognola, Cessapalombo, Fiastra, Fiordimonte, San Ginesio.
GOLA DEL FIASTRONE-GROTTA DEI FRATI-LAME ROSSE
The nature enchants.
Three stunning gems encased in a corner of the national park which never stop to surprise.
Costa Lame Rosse and Gola del Fiastrone – Fiastrone Gorge
This is a fantastic spring and summer walk for the slightly more adventurous !
The paths used are good for the most part, with a little steep climbing, but the return leg follows the course of the Fiume Fiastrone, wading through the river for two kilometres.
In summer, the water is usually shallow, with occasional spots which are knee high, or just above.
Water depth will of course depend upon recent rainfall, and the time of year.
You will also need to clamber over flotsam which has gathered at narrow points in the gorge.
It is therefore recommended that you plan to do this walk the day before a rest day or two, so that your walking boots have a chance to dry out.
Alternatively, you could carry a sturdy pair of walking sandals to change into.
Do not attempt the wading with unprotected feet.
• Fiastrone Gorge: The gorge of the Fiastrone river (Gola del Fiastrone) is arguably one of the most beautiful gorges in Italy.
In places, its rock walls tower over 50 metres above the river, which runs in the bottom of a steep wooded valley.
The channel the river passes through, and through which you walk, is sometimes only a few metres wide, and at one point the rock walls actually meet above.
Other points of interest on this route include the Lame Rosse (‘red blades’), and the Grotta dei Frati.
• Lame Rosse: The Lame Rosse is a spectacular formation of eroded pink rock, which has been carved into blade like buttresses on one side of a large ravine.
• Grotta dei Frati: The Grotta dei Frati is a small 14th century chapel built in a remote cave.
On certain religious festival days, there are still services held at the chapel.
The Gola del Fiastrone is understandably a very popular spot on hot summer days, and the more easily reached parts of the gorge can get very busy.
The Fiume Fiastrone was dammed in the 1950’s, creating the Lago del Fiastrone, which lies upstream of the gorge.
The water of the lake is used for electricity generation, but it is not dropped into the Fiume Fiastrone, but piped elsewhere to the hydroelectric station.
You will however see signs warning of the possibility of sudden flooding, and falling rocks are a danger, particularly in spring.
The Flowering Slope Main Places List:
• San Ginesio
The Magic Slope
During the Middle Ages, the Sibillini mountains were known in Europe as a realm of demons, necromancers, and fairies. Among the many legends, the most famous deal with the existence of the "Sibilla", the "illustrious prophetess" living in a cave on the homonymous mountain, and of Pilato, according to which the dead body of the Roman procurator was dragged by some buffaloes in the red waters of the "devilish" lake in the high valley going through the massif of Mt. Vettore.
Not very far from there, you find the Gola dell'Infernaccio, where the memories of old wizard rituals and the suggestive examples of the erosion activity of the river Tenna on the limestone of the area are still alive. You can find wonderful high trunk beech tree woods, with some rare species like the edelweiss and the gentian. It is also possible to see the wolf, the goshawk, and the golden eagle.
On this slope we find the Municipalities of: Fiastra, Bolognola, Amandola, Arquata del Tronto, Montegallo, Montefortino, Montemonaco
“Gola dell’Infernaccio” (The hell's gorge) brief description and the Eremo di S. Leonardo.
Google Maps Satellite Coordinate Title: Gola Dell’Infernaccio – The Hell’s Gorge
Original name: Località Ambro, Montefortino - Geographical location: Perugia, Umbria, Italy, Europe - Geographical coordinates: 42° 57' 2.77" N 13° 17' 8.02" E - Longitude: 13.285561 - Latitude: 42.950769 - Optimal zoom level: 13
A spectacular walk following the course of the River Tenna through the narrow gorge between Monte Sibilla and Monte Priora.
By the calanchi there is an interesting view of the cracks formed by crashing meteorites. Another stunning view is of the broom flowering by the rivers that flow through the region. The rivers are a focal point with many wonderful sections of the Aso and Tenna, while just a walk along the Ete reveals the scource of all this beauty. The Sibillini mountain National park is within easy reach Santa Vittoria, and here there are endless routes for fabulous scenery and challenging hiking. The easiest excursion in the park leads to Madonna dell’Ambro and Gola dell’Infernaccio.
The Magic Slope Main Places List
• Arquata del Tronto
The Historical Slope
The Alto Nera slope and its "Guaite"
Tradition wants that Visso, which houses today the National Park's seat, was founded 907 years before the Roman period, and that from its recognition as a free Town up to the Napoleonic invasion was divided into five districts called "Guaite", among which Castelsantangelo and Ussita. It is a territory rich in castles and look-out towers characterizing still today the structure of numerous villages built by the local population to defend themselves by the Saracen raids. From a naturalistic point of view, the Gole della Valnerina dug by the impetuous river Nera are interesting and can be traveled over by car. Mt. Bove, with its Dolomitic aspect, houses all the vegetable species of high altitudes which are typical of the Sibillini mountains.
On this slope we find the Municipalities of: Castelsantangelo sul N., Pievebovigliana, Pieve Torina, Ussita, Visso.
The Historical Slope main places list:
• Castelsantangelo sul Nera
The Sacred Slope
Norcia is the heart of this important section of the Park and the home of the patron of Europe, St. Benedetto. The town is famous for its charming historical center, the square with the church dedicated to the Saint (14th-18th centuries), the Dome (18th century), and other interesting historical buildings. Many excursions leave from here, like the one leading to the water meadows (the so-called "marcite") in Piani di Castelluccio, the original irrigation system existing since the time of the Benedictine Monks. The meadows are made up of two wide original karst plains in the middle of which lies the town of Castelluccio. There is also the one leading to the Abbey of St. Eutizio (18), founded at the end of the 5th century, which became famous thanks to the monks' ability to heal with precious and medicinal herbs gathered on the Sibillini mountains.
On this slope we find the Municipalities of Norcia and Preci.
The Sacred Slope Main Places List
Castles and Fortresses on the 4 Slopes of the Park
The origin of some of the settlements in the Park depends on the role played since prehistorical times by the people who passed through these places because of work (transhumance), religion (pilgrimages), and power (wars). There are several evidences of the populations who inhabited this territory even before the foundation of Rome and who left the precious signs of their culture. However, the most evident mark is the medieval one, as the urbanistic structure of most
Towns of the Park witnesses.
Compact, sober, and isolated, many settlements organized in that period within fortified walls with towers and entrances situated around the most important buildings of the town, like the church, the noble palace, and the square. The people living in isolated areas used to build real "fortress houses": as a matter of fact, there are several examples of house-towers, nuclei surrounded with walls, and villas.
The Religious Buildings
An interesting key to reconstruct the history of the people who inhabited the area in the past is given by the widespread presence of religious buildings in the Park.
This extremely charming territory has always been an ideal place both for religious communities who created here important centers of ascetic life like abbeys and monasteries, and for the hermits who found on the high summits or in the ravi nes isolation for their meditation and the mountains for company.
Moreover, several small centers have been places of spirituality and at the same time essential points from where traditions, religion, arts and professions widespread. A representative example is the Abbey of Sant'Eutizio, in Preci, where the Surgical School developed and spread throughout Europe
from the 16th century.
From the many Romanesque churches to the imposing Sanctuary of Macereto, to the Basilica di San Benedetto, build on the rests of the house where the Saint was born, in the territory of the Park you can discover an extraordinary cultural heritage which gives the possibility to revive history and to retrace the thick net of paths along which Saints, monks, and humble pilgrims went through.
Norcia brief introduction
St. Benedict’s Birthplace, founder of Western monasticism and patron of Europe, Norcia is proud of its historical and artistic heritage that makes it one of the most important art cities in Umbria.
On the main square are visible the oldest and most important buildings in Norcia. In the middle of the square is the statute of San Benedetto; while framing the square is the Castellina, the monumental fortress designed by Vignola in 1554 and today home of the Museo Civico e Diocesano, civil and religious museum; the Palazzo Comunale,Town Hall, with its double loggia; the Basilica di San Benedetto, erected on 1st-century Roman remains, with a Gothic facade from the 14th century, and in the crypt can be seen the ruins of a Roman building that according to tradition was the paternal home of Saints Scholastica and Benedict; and the Portico delle Misure, the measuring porch, built in the 1500s as a covered cereals market. The Palazzo dei Cavalieri di Malta, the Knights of Malta palace, presently the Museo dell'Arte Contadina, farm life museum; and the church of Sant’Agostino built in the 14th century.