A very long and tiring stage with an endless but gentle climb. We reach the highest peak in Campania, Monte Cervati (1,899 m), from where you have a spectacular view of the entire Cilento.
The stage is very long and has considerable differences in altitude: you will therefore need a good breath and trained legs (but if you are not so well prepared, you can take a break in Piaggine).
Some sections of the path (the descent after the Monte Vivo saddle, some initial sections of the climb to Cervati) are poorly marked and sometimes overgrown with brambles: it is a good idea to keep an eye on the GPS track.
Along the way you will come across some barbed wire gates that need to be opened (and closed again, always!).
We leave the Monte Motola refuge and begin the climb (about 500 m height difference) to the Monte Vivo saddle on a comfortable carriage road, all under the shelter of a beech wood. Gradually the path narrows and then we reach the saddle with a final stretch. From there we begin the descent (about 450 m drop): the path becomes more confused and we have to ignore the signs leading to the crest of Monte Motola; instead we follow the sometimes unclear and ferny path that leads to a plateau on the right; we cross it and, once near a chapel, we take the old mule track that leads to the asphalt road.
We follow the road for several kilometres, gradually losing altitude until we reach the village of Piaggine (where the weary can break off the stage), which we cross until we reach the old village near the river. We cross the bridge and immediately start the very long climb (about 1,300 m height difference) to Monte Cervati. We cross a staircase and then a dirt road for a very steep stretch exposed to the sun. When we meet a tarmac road near a fountain, we follow it to the left for about 1 km, then turn off and take the Cervati path to the right.
We continue walking, almost always in the woods, until we come to a dirt road; shortly afterwards we take a path on the right (not very well marked, not easy to follow: follow the GPS track) and continue along the dirt road in the woods. We continue for a long time on a good path, passing the village of Festola and entering a valley; before reaching the saddle, near an open space dominated by a cross, we take the path to the left and climb steeply until we reach the ridge of Monte Nevera. We leave the trees, and proceed along the watershed, in a landscape reminiscent of the Majella; then we enter a dirt road and, over a final ramp, we reach the complex of the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Neve (from there, if we wish, it is possible to make a short detour to visit the Grotto of the Madonna della Neve, which is further down).
From the sanctuary we take the path that goes up and down and approaches Monte Cervati; we leave it and walk on sight, without leaving a trace on the ground (we watch the GPS track ), the last metres on rocky ground to reach the summit of Monte Cervati (1,899 m, the highest in Campania). The view is magnificent: to the west we can admire the entire Cilento, Monte Gelbison (the "holy mountain" with its large cross), the Amalfi Coast and Sapri; to the west the great Vallo di Diana. Eyes shining, we face the descent (about 300 m drop) towards the Cervati Refuge: first we cross the basin and walk among the stones until we reach a saddle; from there the path becomes clearer and shortly afterwards we dive back into the woods until we reach the meadow plain that welcomes the beautiful refuge, the destination of a memorable stage.
Monte Cervati, at 1899 metres, is the highest mountain in Campania and lies between the municipalities of Sanza, Piaggine and Monte San Giacomo.
The bare peak contrasts with the abundant beech forests that are home to the alpine rosalia: a blue-coloured and black-spotted cerambicide. The insect is a bio-indicator of the condition and maturity of beech forests. The Rosalia Alpina is also the symbol of the Cervati Refuge, which has a large representation of it on the walls of the building.
Just before the summit is the Sanctuary of the Madonna della neve, so called because there is a sinkhole known as a “neviera” nearby.
The sanctuary, built around the 10th century, is still a place of pilgrimage for the municipality of Sanza on 25 and 26 July, when the wooden statue of the Madonna is brought to the summit.
In a cave near the sanctuary there is another stone statue known as the Madonna of the Cave. The statue dates from the 8th century, when the Basilian monks came here, and can only be reached through a narrow passage. Legend has it that after some thieves tried to steal the statue, the rocks miraculously narrowed, making the entrance narrower and making it impossible to steal the statue.
A few years ago, a historical re-enactment entitled “Il sorbetto del Re Borbone” took place near the ice house on the summit of Monte Cervati. It tells the story of how the King of Naples, Ferdinand I of Aragon, crushed by the summer heat, sent his explorers all over Campania in search of ice. When they arrived at Monte Cervati, his messengers found the swallow hole full of snow, which from then on became a precious ice reserve for the Neapolitan kings.
In the municipality of Monte San Giacomo is the Vallicelli Cave, which has been used for centuries to mature Caciocavallo cheese. The history of the cave is also linked to that of post-unification brigandage, as it was a hideout for brigands.
In order to protect the unique characteristics of this product, the cultural association "Grotta, briganti e caciocavallo" was founded, which continues to ripen its caciocavallo cheese, made from the milk of the cows of Podolica, in the cave; it continues to use the moulds that have proliferated in the cave over the centuries and that give this product its unique taste, the heritage of tradition.
Another traditional product that the association Grotta briganti e cacio takes care of is the Pera Lardara: a very small, ancient fruit with a very hard skin, picked when unripe to ripen on the ground (it is usually left on balconies). Once ripe, the flesh of the pear becomes very firm and buttery, resembling lard - hence the adjective “lardara”. It is stored in an earthen vessel, the “peranna”, in water where fermentation takes place. Fermented lard pear is used to make the typical Christmas salad with garlic, pickled peppers and salted anchovies.
Rifugio Cervati, on the eastern slope of the mountain of the same name. Tel. +39339 282 3021
Starting point accessible by car.
Starting point NOT reachable by bus.
The nearest location that can be reached by bus is Sacco, starting from the city of Salerno and changing at Agropoli and Vallo della Lucania.
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.