We continue in the Lazio region with a very long and tiring stage, in the presence of the wild Monti della Meta. The arrival in the picturesque village of Picinisco makes you forget the fatigue.
The route represents a variant of the Sentiero Italia (which from Rivisondoli bends south-east, towards Pescolanciano, and then heads south-west towards Isernia), preferred for the cultural interest of the village of Picinisco and the scenic beauty of the Monti della Meta.
The stage is very long and tiring and also requires good orientation skills: it is not recommended for those less experienced and trained. It is possible to break it in the mountain lodges Acquanera and Due Orsi in the Canneto Valley.
In the stretch between the Valico delle Gravare and the Canneto valley floor, the signs are practically absent and the track on the ground is often nonexistent (very easy to get lost): you need to monitor the GPS track and guess the easiest passages.
Absent water points: bring a good supply.
We leave the Rifugio Duca d'Aosta and set off along the paved road towards Forca d'Acero. After a couple of km, we take the path on the right (indicated by the signs) and, with a track along the hillside, we overlook the Valle Inguagnera. We then begin to climb (approximately 300 m height difference) towards the Valico dell'Inguagnera, with a regular slope and good track.
The pass (1,804 m) is a wide and very panoramic plateau, from where we can see the Majella to the north and to the east the closest Monte Capraro (2,100 m) and Monte Petroso (2,249 m). We begin the descent (approx. 150 m drop) in the dense woods, always on a good track; then, we go up again (approx. 200 m height difference) on the short but intense climb that brings us to the Valico delle Gravare (1,874 m).
We continue for a few hundred meters on the path which, proceeding crosswise towards the south, remains below the ridge; after we have gained a new pass overlooking the Valle di Canneto, we begin the long descent (approximately 500 m drop), promptly returning to the woods. The signage soon disappears and we have to constantly monitor the GPS track, guessing the passages several times in the absence of a path on the ground.
Finally, the slope decreases significantly and we find a path; upon reaching the bottom of the valley, we turn right and, having passed the Rifugio Acquanera (where those who are tired can break the stage) we slowly descend ( approx. 400 m drop) the entire Valle del Canneto, on an easy slight slope that soon becomes a cart track. After a few kilometers we arrive at the Rifugio Due Orsi, near a vast plateau.
After crossing the plain of the mountain lodge, we take the path (not easy to identify) which slightly goes up the western side of the valley; passed by a landslide, we keep to the right at the fork and descend again (approx. 200 m drop) to the artificial lake of Grotta Campanaro. Once on the dirt road, we turn left and continue comfortably for the last kilometers, until we enter the village of Picinisco.
The village of Picinisco develops on a rocky hill between the Meta mountain range and the Comino valley: a wonderful terrace from which you can enjoy the view over part of the Ciociaria.
The village was established around the year 1000 thanks to the two Counts of the Marsi, Oderisio II and Rainaldo III, following the classic development of the encastellation.
Like the other municipalities of the valley, in the past it was a possession of the nearby Abbey of Montecassino, founded in 529 by San Benedetto da Norcia. Inside the majestic abbey, rebuilt after the bombing of the Second World War, there are the tombs of San Benedetto and his sister, Santa Scolastica.
In 1919 the English writer David Herbert Lawrence, author of the famous novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, spent a few weeks here.
It seems that, during his stay at the home of the Cervi family, the writer found inspiration for the book The Lost Girl, whose protagonist falls in love with an Italian man who emigrated to England and flees with him to a small town in the Apennines called Pescocalascio, which, according to many, would be Picinisco.
It is possible to visit the building (today a farmhouse, called Casa Lawrence) where the writer lived. Inside the building you can admire a collection of Lawrence's works, which can be consulted on Sunday afternoon at tea time.
Val Comino’s inhabitants were renowned for being wandering artists; many were bagpipers, who moved to neighboring villages during the Christmas period to cheer the inhabitants. A singular tradition was that of the bear dance: players and conductors made bears exhibit in the squares.
The Picinisco Castle still maintains the walls used to protect the town from enemy attacks; it was inhabited until the early 19th century.
The rectangular plan blends perfectly with the modern structure of the town; the entrance door, the towers and the walkways with the embrasures for the arquebuses remain well preserved, while other parts, such as the central cylindrical tower, suffered serious damage due to the bombing of the Allies in 1944.
In the nearby Canneto Valley there is the Santuario della Madonna del Canneto, built after the apparition of the Madonna to the shepherdess Silvana. Legend has it that the shepherdess ran into the village to warn the inhabitants and once she returned with them to the place of the apparition, she found the statue of the Madonna.
Along the path that leads to the sanctuary is Lago di Grottacampanaro, an artificial lake created from the damming of the Melfa river, enclosed in a spectacular canyon.
Like the other municipalities in the valley, in the past it was a possession of the nearby Abbey of Montecassino (about an hour's drive) , founded in 529 by San Benedetto da Norcia, in the place where a temple dedicated to Apollo once stood. During its long history, the abbey was destroyed numerous times. The last one was during World War II when it was bombed by the Anglo-American allies who mistakenly considered it a German stronghold along the Winter Line. The impressive building was restored immediately after the war, bringing to light the numerous architectural styles. What strikes immediately is the grandeur of the Chiostro del Bramante (or Cloister of Paradise), a Renaissance courtyard built by the famous architect, from whose terrace you can admire the Ausoni mountains, the Valley of the liri and the huge Polish war cemetery. The Renaissance courtyards’ classic style contrasts with the Neapolitan Baroque of the Basilica, where the tombs of the twins Santa Scolastica and Benedetto are placed. Under the Basilica of San Benedetto Abate is the crypt, one of the rare examples of the Beuron art school that has survived to the present day. The Beuron school was made up of German Benedictine monks and was active in the mid-19h century with the intention of renewing Christian sacred art; the descent into the crypt is really impressive, the walls are completely adorned with sparkling mosaics whose figures were inspired by Old Christian and Byzantine art and by depictions of the ancient Egypt. The Montecassino abbey is the oldest monastery in Italy, together with the one founded by Santa Scolastica.
From Picinisco, the glance is impressive: the Comino Valley is full of olive trees and neat vineyards.
The atina doc is a denomination that identifies the wines of Val Comino: atina rosso, atina rosso riserva, atina cabernet, atina cabernet riserva and atina semillon (French white grape). The wine production of Val Comino is attested since the Roman period.
The Pecorino di Picinisco is a raw milk sheep's cheese that can be distinguished into two types: the scamosciato (fresh) and the stagionato (matured).
One of the best pairing is with fresh broad beans, during the spring period.
Rifugio Acquanera, at the entrance to the Canneto valley (not guarded, you need to ask for the keys). Tel. +39 339 865 3917
Rifugio Due Orsi, 5 km from the Rifugio Acquanera in the Canneto Valley. Tel. +39 327 177 6508 - +39 0776 695470
B&B Chez Nous, in Picinisco. Tel. +39 0776 66060
Starting point reachable by car.
Departure point NOT reachable by bus.
The nearest locality that can be reached by bus is San Donato Val di Comino, starting from the town of Sora with a change in Alvito.
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.