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Explore Local, Protect Global

A project to finally rediscover in a sustainable way the wonderful nature a few steps away from us.

The forced period of isolation, imposed by the health emergency, has temporarily prevented our journeys, however, almost triggering the need to return to the environment, to nature, to the mountains. As we gradually returned to normality, with regard to travel between regions and states, we thought that the concept of Explore Local, Protect Global was the right message to share: to return to living nature starting from the rediscovery of the beauty and places we have close to home, with the possibility of reconnecting to it, appreciating what we have without the need to make long journeys, rediscovering a new dimension of travel, respecting the territory and the sustainable choices to be adopted to protect both the environment and others.

We therefore decided to start our project starting from the Sibillini Mountains, a mountain range between Marche and Umbria, a land of legends and magic in the heart of central Italy.

The starting point of our adventure is Forca di Presta, one of the most evocative places in the area of the Umbrian-Marches Apennines, located at 1,550 m above sea level.

We decide to spend the night here, so that we can enjoy a fantastic sunset with an extraordinary play of lights that at dusk illuminates the plain of Castelluccio and the entire chain of the Sibillini Mountains, and be ready to start our journey very early the next morning, accompanied by a wonderful sunrise over the Adriatic Sea. This area is part of the National Park and in order to preserve the territory and the animals that live there, it is allowed to bivouac only in dedicated areas. We are therefore looking for a place downwind where we can set up our tent and enjoy a starry night in the middle of nature.

Although in the period before 1300 the practice of erecting forks had the motivation to discourage access to the area, this is the southernmost and most direct access point of the mountain range. We decide to challenge the legend and start our journey here. From this gallows we climb easily and quickly, the path is sometimes steep, sometimes embedded in the ground, sometimes with a rocky bottom, but offers on the one hand suggestive views of Castelluccio, on the other hand on what remains of the medieval villages unfortunately destroyed by the earthquake of 2016.

We reach the crest of the Ciaule and then continue and descend towards the Lake of Pilate, a place of magicians and necromancers, where the local tradition says that the cart pulled by oxen carrying the body of Pontius Pilate fell. Precisely because of this legend, already in the Middle Ages, the lake became a cursed place and the ecclesiastical authorities issued bans on its access to contain the demonic powers. In reality it is a lake of glacial origin of Monte Vettore where the Marchesoni’s chirocephalus lives, the small primitive red endemic crustacean, which unfortunately is at risk of extinction due to the severe drought of recent years. It is sad to see the lake almost dried up and reduced to two small ponds (for this reason also called “lake with glasses”) and to see how climate change is changing so quickly some places on our planet, as beautiful as fragile.

Although in the period before 1300 the practice of erecting forks had the motivation to discourage access to the area, this is the southernmost and most direct access point of the mountain range. We decide to challenge the legend and start our journey here. From this gallows we climb easily and quickly, the path is sometimes steep, sometimes embedded in the ground, sometimes with a rocky bottom, but offers on the one hand suggestive views of Castelluccio, on the other hand on what remains of the medieval villages unfortunately destroyed by the earthquake of 2016.

We reach the crest of the Ciaule and then continue and descend towards the Lake of Pilate, a place of magicians and necromancers, where the local tradition says that the cart pulled by oxen carrying the body of Pontius Pilate fell. Precisely because of this legend, already in the Middle Ages, the lake became a cursed place and the ecclesiastical authorities issued bans on its access to contain the demonic powers.

We continue our journey and the landscape begins to change. We pass from the severe environment of the Valle del Lago, made of rocky ridges and scree, to the steep but grassy and full of flowers slopes that we cross heading towards the Priora and then towards Pizzo Berro. The valleys facing north-east below us are lush and full of vegetation.

The contrast between hard and rugged ridges, where the wind hisses continuously, and valleys with lush vegetation and water, finds its perfect fusion in the gorges of the Infernaccio: a narrow gorge that winds through high rocky spires, from Passo Cattivo to Monte Fortino, crossed by a torrent that flows at times impetuously between waterfalls and rocks, at times gentle almost without making noise. The vegetation is incredibly green, the beech forests draw perfect lines, the mosses on the trunks of the trees look like a painting. Here the feeling is that everything is in order, in balance. However, even though one of the many landslides following the 2016 earthquake blocked the path of the stream creating a small lake, the area of Infernaccio (contrary to its name) infuses a sense of peace, quiet and deep connection with nature: a wonderful sight.

Getting back to the top after so many kilometres is quite tiring because the differences in height are always important, but getting to the northernmost part is the goal we set before going back. Pizzo Berro with the summit characterized by rocks that look like sharp blades is the last peak we decide to climb.

From here you can enjoy a crazy view of Monte Bove where you can admire the chamois, the Val di Panico, the Priora and looking south you can see the entire route we have done in recent days. Below are the Infernaccio gorges that we can admire from above and above them the Sibilla, the summit from which the whole mountain range takes its name. Legend has it that on its summit there is the entrance to the “fairy cave”. It is said that the Sibyl witch was surrounded by numerous fairies, who used to go out for the mountain, during the night, going to the valleys to meet the young shepherds and teach the art of spinning wool to young women. According to the ancient legend, once the human beings had met the fairies, they would have acquired immortality and, taken away from the world of normal living beings, they would have been forced to live in the enchanted world of the Sibyl Mage, also going out only at night.

We descend towards Monte Rotondo where the grass caressed by the wind, in contrast to the grazing light of the setting sun again, makes the landscape quite suggestive. After more than 40 kilometres on foot we reach the Fargno refuge satisfied, we take our e-bikes, turn on the front lights and go back towards Castelluccio. The return journey through the plain of Castelluccio is a must: it’s June and it’s time for the famous blossoming. The expanse is like a painting of a thousand shades because the bands of different colors follow one another like large but delicate brushstrokes given on the surface of the earth: magnificent.

But even more beautiful is the classic phenomenon of fog that we admire at dawn. Leaving the tent we can see the Sibillini Mountains rising from the white mist that covers the plain making them similar to islands. It is something ethereal that gives them a mysterious but light aspect: the fog floats under the slopes of the mountains as if it wanted to caress them when we wake up.

Sibillini Mountains, a place of wonders and mysteries, legends and magic. We have been lucky enough to admire them in all their splendour, on a journey of sustainability and respect for the environment, walking or riding an electric bike and using sustainable and plastic-free equipment, from water bottles to solar panels to charge our devices, and spending the night in a tent in complete connection with nature. Now it’s time to go, but we’ll be back soon to talk about the next trip of our project Explore Local, Protect Global. The borders gradually open up, as does the desire to explore our wonderful country. See you next time!

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