This is a very long stage with several ups and downs, but overall a smooth ride through the heart of the Monti Piacentini.
The highlights of the day are the Varco di Colla Finestra (1,060 m), where two springs rise (the Sabato and Calore rivers), and the grotta Scalandrone.
Although the stage is not technically difficult, it is very long and requires good training.
In some places the path is overgrown with ferns and brambles; in these places the path is not always very clear and you have to pay attention to the markings.
Leaving Piani di Verteglia behind, we continue on a dirt road that descends slightly and skirts the Acque della Madonna lake; we then pass an asphalt road and continue on a dirt road that gradually loses height (about 100 m drop) in the beech wood. After several ascents and descents (always quite short), after a few kilometres we reach the Barrizzulo saddle, from where we take a new dirt track that descends easily to the Varco di Colla Finestra (1,060 m), where the Sabato (on the western side) and Calore (on the eastern side) rivers rise.
We take a path that first descends steeply (about 250 m drop) and then runs along the course of the Sabato river; the stretch is beautiful. A few hundred metres before reaching Casa Rocchi, we part from the torrent and continue along the path, in rather steep ups and downs that keep us busy for a long time; we are almost always in the shade of the wood and when we come out of it, the landscape reveals some beautiful, very clear limestone walls; the path is sometimes overgrown with ferns and brambles. After a steep descent (about 200 m drop) and an equally steep ascent (about 150 m height difference), we reach the Grotta di Scalandrone, awaited by some picnic tables, perfect for a snack. The cave, definitely worth a visit, is very dark and damp (be careful not to slip!) so you will need a torch and a jacket.
We continue along the path until we return (near Piani di Giffoni) to the dirt road, which climbs slowly (about 150 m height difference); then we begin the long and gentle descent (about 300 m drop) towards Serra Cugnolo; after a short stretch on asphalt, we take the dirt road on the left, that climbs (about 100 m height difference) until it meets the road that leads to the centre of Acerno among villas and unexpected architecture.
The Picentini Mountains are a sanctuary of drinking water: about 11,000 litres of water per second flow here. The numerous springs and abundant snow and rain make it the largest water reservoir in southern Italy and even the third largest in Europe. The water reserves of the Picentini area not only supply many areas in Campania, but also flow into the Apulian aqueduct, whose main branch is 250 km long and runs from Caposele to Santa Maria di Leuca.
There are many waterfalls in the park, including the Tufara waterfall, the Madonnella waterfall, the Fascio waterfall and the Lavandaia waterfall.
It is said that coffee tastes better in Naples because the water is better. If that's true, it's thanks to the Picentini springs - in particular the Serino River, which is piped into the Neapolitan city through the Augustan aqueduct.
In the village of Acerno is the Convento dei Frati Minori di S. Antonio, founded in 1583 with the permission of Pope Gregory XIII.
The church of the convent is decorated with panels and paintings depicting the iconography of the saints. The cloister of the monastery also had numerous frescoes, but they were destroyed. The restored building is now owned by the Monti Picentini Park, which brings this beautiful place back to life. On the upper floor there are rooms used as guest quarters.
Just outside the village are the ruins of the old paper and iron mills. In the 18th century, a real proto-industrial district developed here: two ironworks, two paper mills and a 'valchera' where flax was processed and dyed.
The fragolata di Acerno is famous: wild or woodland strawberries are marinated with sugar, lemon juice (from Sfusato Amalfitano) and Strega liqueur from nearby Benevento.
The recipe was created in 1981 was created to take advantage of the enormous quantity of wild strawberries found in the surrounding woods. In the strawberry shortcake, the strawberries release their liquid and create a delicious solution with a pleasant consistency and perfect balance. For those with a sweet tooth, the addition of whipped cream is recommended.
Affittacamere Valle dei Pioppi, in Acerno. Tel. +39339 487 1914
Starting point reachable by car.
Starting point NOT reachable by bus.
The nearest location that can be reached by bus is Montella, starting from the city of Avellino.
Here is 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.