The lower Chienti River, across hills, villages, sanctuaries and abbeys
The lower valley of the Chienti River. From Civitanova Marche to the hills of Macerata. The visit to suggestive sacred places, the crossing of medieval villages, the silent countryside and the rounded hills. All this in a pleasant and full of emotions itinerary.
|Roads surface||asphalt, gravel, dirt road and cobblestones|
|Aumento di quota/elevation gain||900 m|
|Quota minima/min elevation||2 m|
|Quota massima/max elevation||281 m|
|Pendenza massima/max slope||22%|
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Departure set at the B&B Pedalare con lentezza, in Porto Sant’Elpidio. We head towards Civitanova Marche, near the stadium parking lot, north of the mouth of the Chienti river, where the cycle path that runs along the south promenade to the port area begins. Here you enter the inhabited center and then return close to the beach along the north promenade, up to the northern limit of the town.
A small cycle-pedestrian tunnel leads us over the Adriatic railway. We take the SS16, which is wide enough here not to be dangerous. In Porto Potenza Picena we enter the cycle path that runs alongside the SS16 mountain side and we arrive at the Parco dei laghetti (Park of ponds). The atmosphere is nice and relaxing. We ride on the dirt road along the lake in complete silence. A glade allows us to take a photo that we hope will fix forever that moment of peace and serenity that nature gives us.
We leave the park. The dirt road ends and the asphalt of Contrada Torrenova begins. West direction, towards the first sanctuary of the day: San Girio. The road is narrow, sometimes uneven asphalt, almost no traffic. We are in the middle of the countryside. We note the olive trees, the cultivated fields, the scent of the earth just moved by the tractors. We arrive in San Girio for a short but demanding gravel climb, with a slope close to 20%. A pic of the sanctuary and start again.
After a few hundred meters of descent we take the gravel road of Contrada Altavilla, on the left. It is a beautiful “white road” (strada bianca), which passes through the countryside in total silence. We are in the valley of the Potenza river, under the hill of Potenza Picena, which seems to observe us from above, waiting for us.
After a couple of kilometers of fairly flat road we turn left to Contrada Carpineto. The road soon begins to climb firmly. Instinctively we change position. Staying on the saddle is necessary, given that the slope gradually increases up to 22%. The last bends are always demanding, but the asphalt returns, which certainly makes the ascent less terrible. The historic center of Potenza Picena is right above us. It is certainly worth a little detour to visit it.
We go in the direction of Macerata on the SP Potentina, but soon we throw ourselves into a gravel descent on the left, down towards the Fosso Sant’Angelo (S. Angelo Ditch). The sense of freedom in riding the white descent between the houses is surprising. We leave the hill of Potenza Picena behind us and we soon find ourselves at the bottom of the valley. Here begins the next ascent, to Contrada Castelletta. The gravel stretch reaches a maximum slope of 19%, giving us 600 meters of pure suffering. Once we reach the ridge, we return to the asphalt. The slope decreases and, as we approach the SP Potentina, we can appreciate the view of the hills around us. On the left the hill of Montelupone, towards which we are headed. On the right the valley of the Fosso Sant’Angelo, which we have just passed.
The climb to the village of Montelupone is absolutely not demanding. Arrived at the GPM (Gran Premio della Montagna: the highest point), before continuing, I certainly recommend a ride in the beautiful historic center.
We leave Montelupone observing it once again, while we move away in the direction of Macerata. We go up again, even if gently. Turn left and you will find yourself in the beautiful Contrada Montenovo. The turrets of a villa, the road that becomes pleasant, flat or slightly downhill, the view that opens onto the cultivated hills up to Macerata until Sibillini Mountains are the right reward for having arrived up here.
We return in view of the Chienti valley and soon the beautiful village of Morrovalle appears in front of us, very pleasant to visit, before jumping into the fast descent of Fonti Giannino. We are headed for the Convent of the Passionist Fathers, but we do not miss the opportunity to travel a beautiful and silent dirt road on the right. Unfortunately at some point the dirt road ends and we find ourselves on the asphalted climb, which leads us to the Santuario Madonna della Quercia.
The descent, which winds through the hills, is beautiful and restful. We relax a bit before we start climbing again towards Contrada Castellano, where, near an old farmhouse, we take a dirt road in the middle of the fields where it seems to be out of this world. The little descent that leads us on the asphalted road of Contrada Burella is very uneven and requires attention.
We head towards the famous Abbey of Saint Claudio, which stands out in front of us on the left. After about two and a half kilometers, we take a gravel road on the right. We skirt the railway and face a couple of ramps. We pass a house and the gravel road becomes a dirt road, which takes us to a new gravel stretch that seems to skirt the railway indefinitely. Suddenly a small tunnel appears on the left. So we can cross the railway and finally get to San Claudio. A stop to enjoy this wonderful place is mandatory.
We start again riding on the long tree-lined avenue that leads to the SP485 and we head east, towards the sea. The roadway is dangerous and you have to be careful, until the road widens and a beautiful and inviting strip of lawn appears on the right, which we are going to use promptly with our gravel tires. Soon we leave the provincial road to cross Contrada Sarrocciano, on a gravel road, a few hundred meters from the Chienti river.
We reach Trodica, where we take Via 29 Giugno, which brings us to Contrada Selve. The road is part of the Via delle abbazie, (The Road of the Abbeys). The asphalt is a bit rough, but excellent for a gravel bike. Traffic is scarce and all in all riding here is very pleasant.
We cross the railway again through a small level crossing (the railway has been another constant presence on this tour) and we go towards Montecosaro Scalo. We arrive at the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata, also known as Santa Maria a Pié di Chienti, through Via Abbadia, a dirt road near the river park. The Church is very beautiful and imposing and invites to stop to admire its wonderful interior.
The busy SP8 leads us near the village of Casette d’Ete, where we take the gravel cycle path that takes us to the much quieter Strada Santa Croce. We now skirt not Chienti, but his “younger brother”, the Ete Morto river, of which I have already spoken in The Valley of Ete Morto. The road is rough and dirty, sometimes uneven, good for a gravel bike. Nurseries with their beautiful palm groves keep us company.
We face the last gravel stretch and arrive in view of the last sacred place of the day: the Abbey of Santa Croce al Chienti. The old monastery is usually closed to the public, if not for a few days a month. What strikes us when arriving by bike is the absolute peace and tranquility of the place. We are far from traffic and chaos, completely immersed in the serenity of the countryside. The ancient building seems to enjoy it as much as we do.
A few more kilometers of asphalt and we return to Civitanova Marche. Then we reach the starting point through the bike path. The view of the shopping center and the traffic of SS16 will cause nostalgia for the beautiful places visited today and the desire to leave immediately for a new bike adventure.