Sibillini Mountains & Valnerina
Why plan a holiday to the MONTI SIBILLINI – VALNERINA area?
Because it is where you will enjoy experiences you will never forget, because of the adrenalin rush it will give you, because it is timeless, mythical and fantastic. Depending on the season, you can indulge in cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, snow shoe excursions (even under the stars!), or go for long hikes over mountain trails with truly stunning views. Then there is spelunking, rafting, canoeing, rock climbing, hang-gliding, paragliding, horseback riding and mountain biking. Another reason is that it is rarely crowded, sometimes – especially in mid-season - you can hike for hours without ever coming across another person!
And then there is the food! Norcia is the town from which norcineria, or the art of fine cured meats, got its name: salami, sausages and prosciutto, not to mention the wide selection of unusual and delicious cheeses. Less heavy fare also comes from this area: Castelluccio lentils, for one, barley and wild honey, to name a few others. Meal times are a delight here in the Valnerina, the smorgasbord, if you will, of flavours and quality is unlike anywhere else.
The answer to the question of where to lay your head at night after a full day of activity is easy. The area offers a wide range of accommodations: from mountain refuges to B&Bs, vacation homes to fine and elegant 3 and 4-star hotels. The main hubs are Cascia and Norcia, but there is also Visso and Castelsantangelo sul Nera, just to name a few.
Apart from sports, there is also much culture to be enjoyed here, far from the ‘madding crowds’ of the more renowned art cities of Umbria. Norcia is a gorgeous town embraced by medieval walls and surrounded by mountain peaks, it is the birthplace of Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, and Cascia is where Saint Rita was born. Visso boasts the museum which houses several original manuscripts written by Leopardi, while in Montefortino you will find the Fortunato Duranti picture gallery with some 150 works dating from Gothic times to the neoclassical – a tiny Louvre in the heart of the Sibillini mountains. Then there is the museum of the coal makers, the eco-museum of deer and many others.
It will be our pleasure to serve as your guide in exploring the hidden nooks and crannies of these valleys for a few days. When possible, we’ll hike up to tiny hermit caves and ancient sanctuaries, even sleep there, so that you can completely immerse yourself in the mystical and intimate atmosphere of this unique region. Take a look at our programmes
The still wild and pristine area known as the Valnerina is entirely within the boundaries of Umbria, while the adjacent Sibillini Mountains, the heart of the central Apennines, spill over into the Marches.
The majestic landscapes here are truly breathtaking, steeped in history and dotted with ancient hamlets and towns perched on steep hillsides. Needless to say, it is a haven for sports lovers. The highest and most characteristic peak of the Sibillini mountains is the imposing Monte Vettore at 2476 m, followed by Monte Bove and Monte Sibilla, which gave the chain its name.
Many legends are attributed to these mountains, making them even more mysterious and fascinating. The grotto just below the peak of Monte Sibilla was already famous in the high middles ages and there are even depictions of it in several frescoes in the Vatican Museum in Rome. According to the legend, made famous by the Andrea da Barberino novel Guerin Meschino and by Il paradiso della regina Sibilla written by Antoine de la Sale, the cave housed a fairyland where wondrous creatures lived in a sort of perpetual feast, only to become terrifyingly monstrous creatures one day a week. It was a source of many mythical pagan tales about this chain of mountains, thought to be the ideal spot for the consecration of texts on black magic, and that the grotto – now collapsed – was the infernal cove of the Sybil, who, according to scholars, went into hiding there after the Roman Empire had converted to Christianity.
Lago di Pilato, or Pilate’s Lake, is located in the conch of nearby Monte Vettore at a height of 2000m. They say that the soul of Pontius Pilate came to rest there after no other place on earth would take him, hence the name.
But let’s come back to us! The National Park of the Monti Sibillini covers some 714 square kilometres in Umbria and Le Marche and is a hub of sporting activity all year round. In the winter it is a haven for cross-country and alpine skiing and snow shoeing, while in the spring, summer and fall the many trails make for wonderful safe and exciting hiking excursions of varying levels of difficulty, all with stunning views.
The Valnerina, or the “valley of the Nera River”, is also rich in nature, history, popular traditions and culture and has its own culinary tradition. As one goes up along the river one reaches the high plains which still show the traces of thousands of years of man’s presence. There are fortresses and medieval towers, fortified abbeys and the hidden-away caves of solitary hermits, tiny hamlets with steep narrow streets and endless woods and clear streams. A visit here is a step backwards into time surrounded by pristine nature of breathtaking beauty.
The heart of the region is, without doubt, the 165 metre Marmore waterfall constructed by the Romans. It is here that the waters of the Velino River dive over a cliff into the Nera River below, a breathtaking spectacle that has been going on since the year 217 BC! Surrounded by lush vegetation, the waterfall and its immediate environs are a haven for hikers and rafters, for those who love canyoning and hydrospeeding, and, of course, for those who simply want to take a really great walk in nature.