If you can tear yourself away from our infinity swimming pool within an hour’s drive you can be on top of the Apennines, in the Monte Cucco Regional Park, you can drive much of the way up the hill, leaving a few hundred metres to climb to the summit where you have views both westwards to Monte Amiata in Tuscany and eastwards to the Adriatic sea north of Ancona. This is a great starting point for a good hike.
Trails are well marked, and varying in degree of difficulty and steepness and length. Several are circular, and for the more adventurous some require leaving a car in a different spot to where you begin.
Oh, and yes, there are also many good mountain bike trails. We now have an agreement with an Bike rental in our local town of Gubbio. For €35 a day you can rent a mountain Bike with suspension so you have no need to bring your own.
The main vehicular access point to Monte Cucco is from the village of Sigillo, one of those villages nestling in the foothills. In years gone by Sigillo and its neighbouring villages including Costacciaro, Purello and Villa col dei Canali were alive with mills, all powered by water from the Apennines which tower above them. From grain to wood, to paper production, the mills were busy. Today there is only one water mill still in working order.
Anyway I digress. Take the narrow winding road SP244 that leads up and out of the village and after couple of km there is a car park on the right. Park there and put on decent pair of waterproof hiking boots. The route is easy, not steep, but at some point I will have you walking through a stream. The open woodland narrows, you follow the stream, at one point climbing with the aid of a metal ladder and handrail further into the gorge. You will walk in the stream for a few metres, before the gorge opens out and you find the source of the water, actually spouting out of a cleft in the rock. Those with lots of energy can continue, and climb up to the road above, returning by the road. I like to retrace myself steps back to the car.
If you drive on up the road shortly before you reach the summit car park you pass the observatory and IT masts, to me always so sinister looking, but I’m sure innocent.. I do however, maybe even hopefully, expect to see a character out of a James Bond movie fly out.
From the car park you have several hiking options. Climb to the summit and return to the east passing the entrance to the Grotto of Monte Cucco, an extensive, deep cavern system which can be visited by guided tours. The views to the north and east over the neighbouring region of Le Marche are large and dominant.
Or head directly eastwards and into scrunchy Beechwoods in the Val di Ranco. You can then either continue down towards the remote village of Pascelupo (where you have arranged to have a car meet you!) or turn southwards and head into the restaurant at Tobia, where they cook great rustic food over a wood fire. Very welcome on chillier spring or autumn days,
A successive post will take me to the other side of the park, to Isola Fossara and Pascelupo, two villages deep in the Apennines that time has forgot, and to two remote abbeys. There is just so much to explore when staying Bellaugello