A stage with not an excessive mileage but with an important difference in height that leads us into the heart of the Sibillini. The crest (and possibly the top!) of Monte Vettore (2,476 m, fourth highest peak of the Apennines) and the sight of the magical Lake of Pilato are the gems of this magnificent day, one of the most beautiful in the whole central Apennines.
The section up to Forca Canapine represents a variant of the Sentiero Italia (which runs along the western side of Pian Grande), preferred for the landscape interest of the Vettore group.
The stage is relatively short, but the height difference is challenging: not to be underestimated, especially considering the total absence of shade.
In the last stretch of the ridge after Punta di Prato Pulito, before Sella delle Ciaule, the path is almost non-existent and difficult to identify: it requires experience and caution, the bottom is crumbly and it is easy to slip.
Only two fountains at the start of the stage, then there is no water until the arrival.
We start descending from Castelluccio (approximately 100 m drop) towards the northern border of Pian Grande. From Fonte Cagnolini, we begin the slow ascent towards the Forca Viola (approximately 600 m height difference), heading towards Capanna Ghezzi, a mountain lodge made unusable by the earthquake: the landscape is bucolic, among flocks of sheep and attentive Maremma shepherds. On a traverse path, we cross Le Pianacce and slowly gain altitude, without sudden climbs; the track is narrow, but in excellent condition.
Once in Forca Viola (1,936 m), after admiring the landscape on the internal valley of the Vettore, we face the second part of the climb (approximately 500 m height difference), towards Cima del Redentore. The path climbs steadily but constantly, keeping under the ridge on the western side. Near the Cima dell'Osservatorio we take the ridge and reach the Cima del Redentore (2,448 m): in front of us, beyond the steep debris valley, we spot the Vettore.
We continue descending on a slight slope until we reach the short climb that leads us to the Cima del Lago (2,422 m), from where we see the underlying Lake Pilato - or what remains of it, given the increasing scarcity of water. The following stretch, towards Sella delle Ciaule, is the most complicated: the path across the southern side (just below the ridge) is uneven and not easy to identify.
At the pass (2,250 m) is the Rifugio Zilioli, rebuilt after the earthquake: it is the perfect point to recharge our batteries before the ascent to the Vettore (about 200 m height difference), which can be accessed via an easy path from the south-west ridge. From the summit (2,476 m, the fourth highest in the whole Apennines, after Etna, Gran Sasso, and Majella), the eye wanders far away until it embraces the expanse of the Adriatic Sea.
Back to the bivouac, we take the easy descent (approximately 700 m height difference) to Forca di Presta (1,534 m), where we cross the asphalted road. We take it to the left and follow it for about 2 km until we reach the beautiful Rifugio Mezzi Litri, home of the Monte Vector Association.
The Sibillini Mountains owe their name to the legend of the Apennine Sibyl, whose oldest origin seems to be linked to the goddess Cybele, imported to Rome already before Christ and replaced over time by the Sibyl, honored as a prophetess. The myth of the Apennine Sibyl started in medieval times: sorceress and enchantress, queen of an underground world which could be accessed from a cave on the top of Monte Sibilla (the shape of the rocky crown on the summit of which would resemble a polos, a sort of headdress that adorns the head of the goddess Cybele in traditional icons).
The Sibyl fully represents the two side of nature in these places. On the one hand benevolent, bewitching, dispenser of advice; on the other hand, perfidious, destructive and vengeful - the numerous seismic events that have occurred over the centuries have also been explained according to this myth: under the peak of the Vettore, towards the valley of the Tronto, the fairies of the Sibyl descended in the neighboring villages to dance (tradition has it that the Saltarello from the Marche was born in this way), but one night a villager lifted the skirt of one of them, revealing the goat legs. Laughed at by the population, the fairies fled seeking refuge in the cave; the infuriated Sibyl took revenge by causing a terrible earthquake that collapsed part of Monte Vettore and generated a landslide that destroyed the town of Colfiorito.
The Sibillini Mountains have always been a place of mystery cults that have attracted adventurers from all over the world and, at the same time, many condemnations from the church and the clergy: some even claim that the Grotta della Sibilla was blown up because it was a place of pagan cults. The names of the surrounding peaks, on the other hand, seem to have been chosen to counter this pagan influence: Cima del Redentore (Redeemer’s Peak), Monte Priora (Prioress’ Mount), Monte dei Tre Vescovi (Three Bishops’ Mount).
Under the summit of Monte Vettore, between impervious and vertical walls, there is Lake Pilato, a mirror of water of glacial origin of an alpine type (one of the few in the Apennines), the habitat of a very rare and very small red crustacean (about 1 cm long) swimming with the belly facing up: the Chirocephalus marchesonii.
In summer, a period of great presence of water, the communicating and accessory reservoirs of the lake take on the shape of glasses and for this reason it is called "the lake with glasses".
Unfortunately, due to climate change, the water level is decreasing and recent seismic events also seem to have contributed to the increase in the rate of infiltration of the lake water into the subsoil.
The lake owes its name to the legend according to which the body of Pontius Pilate, executed for not having prevented the crucifixion of Jesus, was transported on a cart pulled by buffaloes to the Sibillini Mountains and finally thrown into the lake from the Cima del Redentore.
Over the centuries, the Lake Pilato has been a meeting place for many necromancers who came to celebrate their rituals. Such was the crowd that in the 13th century the political and religious authorities forbade its access and for a long time it was not allowed to visit it, except with a safe-conduct.
The mistrà is an aniseed distillate famous in the provinces of Macerata, Fermo and Ascoli. Drunk at the end of a meal, it is also used to spike coffee: it recalls the Greek ouzo and it seems that its production in these areas began in the period of Turkish domination of the Adriatic.
Rifugio Mezzi Litri, about 2 km east of Forca di Presta, along the paved road. Tel. +39 338 924 9589
Rifugio degli Alpini, just south of Forca di Presta. Tel. +39 347 087 5331
Starting point reachable by car.
Departure point reachable by bus from June to August (included), every Thursday and Saturday on weekdays, starting from the town of Norcia.
Here the LINK to check the timetables.
Starting point NOT reachable by train.
Va' Sentiero is a grassroot project, thanks to the spontaneous contribution oft housands of people.
Even the most complicated dream, a 7,000km uphill dream,
can be achieved... together.