The lower Tenna River Valley

 The lower valley of the River Tenna. A gravel itinerary that will lead us from the sea of Porto Sant’Elpidio to the hills of the interior of the province of Fermo. Silent, gravel and hidden dirt roads. A few passages in suggestive medieval villages. Easy climbs and also a couple of the typical “walls” of Marche. All that in a route with a high landscape value.

Roads surface asphalt, gravel, dirt road and cobblestones
Lunghezza/length 80,9 km
Aumento di quota/elevation gain 1400 m
Quota minima/min elevation 2 m
Quota massima/max elevation 401 m
Pendenza massima/max slope 19%

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The River Tenna is really important to me. All my grandparents came from villages belonging to his beautiful valley and since I was a child I have listened a lot of stories related to this stream, where in the past people used to wash clothes and swim in the summer. In this itinerary I have practically never lost sight of the river, sometimes almost touching its waters, on other occasions climbing on the panoramic ridges.

One beautiful autumn morning I leave Porto Sant’Elpidio, at the B&B Pedalare con lentezza. I head towards the hills through the Strada Faleriense. With some ups and downs I pass the locality of Cretarola and reach the long straight on the left bank of the River Tenna. After less than two kilometers, in the locality of La Luce, turn right onto Strada Piannenza, which soon becomes a gravel road. Aa easy climb begins, that will lead me to Sant’Elpidio a Mare

strada-piannenza-sant'elpidio a mare
Take Strada Piannenza from Faleriense

After a few hundred meters, near a semi-bend, I take a dirt road on the right. I find myself in the middle of the fields. The bottom is grassy. Total silence. In front of me the village. I pass across the olive trees and take via San Giuseppe. I continue to climb gently towards the village, famous for the medieval re-enactment La Contesa del Secchio

Reach the walls and decide to enter the beautiful historic center. I face via Borgo Bartolucci with its 12% gradient and pass in front of Porta Marina. I continue on the right and enter the village through Porta Romana.

The dirt road in the middle of the fields towards Strada San Giuseppe
Porta Marina in Sant'Elpidio a Mare

I ride along Corso Baccio and reach Piazza Matteotti, with the Perinsigne Collegiata di Sant’Elpidio Abate and the Gerosolimitana Tower. I slip into the steep alleys to exit the walls through the characteristic Porta Canale.

After a few hundred meters I throw myself into Strada Pozzetto, which soon becomes a typical white road. In front of me the Tenna valley, on the right a fence and the hill of Monte Urano that awaits me, on the left S. Elpidio a Mare, just visited.

G. Matteotti Square in Sant'Elpidio a Mare
fontana-porta-canale-s. elpidio a mare
The water fountain of Porta Canale
strada-pozzetto-sant'elpidio a mare-tenna
Descending along Strada Pozzetto. On the right the hill of Monte Urano.

I go down quietly enjoying the view over the hills. Suddenly I reach the bottom of the descent and, after a bend to the right, the road steepens up, with a terrible 15% ramp. I take Strada Calcinara on the right, a beautiful gravel road that leads me, without too much effort, to the gates of Monte Urano.

Strada Calcinara, Monte Urano

At this point I have a stretch of ridge in front of me, with many ups and downs typical of our hilly roads. I carefully cross the very dangerous provincial road SP219 Mezzina and take a road with little traffic. Pedaling without haste and without straining too much, I enjoy the view over the Tenna valley on the left and the hills with the Macerata villages on the right. In the background the Sibillini chain, but also the unmistakable silhouette of Monte San Vicino in the distance on the right. 

Cross the intersection for Torre San Patrizio and arrive without any particular effort at the gates of Rapagnano. Before entering the village, at Contrada San Tiburzio, I throw myself on the right in a beautiful dirt road. Total silence, a few puddles, a dilapidated house. I go down a bit, then start to climb. A sharp bend to the left and I find myself facing a wall at 16% made even harder by the steps left by the tractors. The ramp is short, about a hundred meters. Then the road flattens out and I can catch some breath before tackling the asphalted stretch of Via Santa Maria, with a double-digit slope, but much easier.

At San Tiburzio of Rapagnano take the dirt road on the right
Going down along the dirt road towards Via Santa Maria

Turn right and in less than three kilometers I am in Alteta, where I find a fountain. Before continuing my route I enter the castle. Through a propped door I reach the small square. Once this village was a municipality. Then it became a hamlet of Montegiorgio and unfortunately, as often happens in these cases, it was gradually abandoned by the inhabitants to become a sort of ghost town. I have a chat with a local guy who recalls the golden days of this fascinating place and, after a while, I get back on the road.

The fountain at Alteta
The square in the village of Alteta

The descent into the woods, on a dirt road, of Contrada San Silvestro is beautiful, restuf and exciting. Difficult to meet a car here. Easy to get lost in one’s own thoughts, with the silence broken only by the crawling of the wheels on the gravel and on the dry leaves. Too soon I reach the bottom of the descent, at the stream Rio La Fosa. Here begins the climb to Montegiorgio.

The beautiful "white road" of Contrada San Silvestro

The ascent is overall easy. Less than a kilometer of white road, then the asphalt begins. Some ramp around 10%. I reach the SP37 and the road flattens considerably. I reach the village. The temptation to enter the historic center is strong. So I face the wall of via Andrea Passari, which with its 19% puts me to the test. I cross the village and go out, going down with a few hairpin bends, on via Delle Mura.

The "wall" with gradient 19% of Via Andrea Passari
Montegiorgio, historic center
The ancient walls of Montegiorgio

Leave the town and, after about a kilometer, I take the beautiful white road of Contrada Margiano on the left. The descent is restful. The view over the hills and the Tenna valley is wonderful. I turn back and see the Montegiorgio hill where I was a moment before. I meet a house with a sign that invites you to be careful of playing children. I love this kind of thing. Restart with the most cheerful soul.

Gravel gives way to asphalt. It is quite bumpy, as often happens when the secondary roads are hastily paved. I reformulate within myself the thought that the white roads should be protected and I continue to descend for some steep and narrow hairpin bends that run alongside an old disused quarry.

Contrada Margiano
Contrada Margiano descending toward Tenna river
Descending across Contrada Margiano I meet this beautiful sign

The descent ends. Before reaching the last straight towards the provincial road, I take a dirt road on the right. This is the Viarum path, reconstructed and told by Marco Ramadori in his book Camminando lungo il sentiero della Storia … I pass a beautiful vineyard. Go down a small ramp on the left and find myself in a small road entirely covered by vegetation. I ride through this “tunnel” and the following grassy road, which leads me to the asphalt of Cerquabella, a famous century-old oak, which died in the 1980s, of which the now dry trunk remains today. Here, in 1520, a bloody battle took place between Ludovico Euffreducci and the troops of Bishop Bonafede, called the Battle of Piane di Montegiorgio.

At the bottom of Contrada Margiano descent, I take a dirt road that winds through vineyards and olive trees
The small ramp to be tackled downhill
The vegetation creates a tunnel

I pass the roundabout of Sp239 in the direction of Belmonte Piceno and, immediately before the bridge over the Tenna river, I go down on the left, along a gravel road that leads me to one of the most evocative places in the area: Viale dei Cipressi Calvi (bald cypresses road), which reaches its maximum of beauty in the autumn period. The colors are so vivid that they seem unreal. The five hundred meters of this row of monumental trees end too soon. I wish this little slice of North America transplanted here in Marche would last longer.

Viale dei cipressi calvi in Contrada Pian del Sasso of Piane di Montegiorgio
Viale dei Cipressi Calvi
Cipressi Calvi

Then I take the path to the right of the ditch. After a few meters see the signs indicating the Cascata del Sasso (Sasso waterfall). Usually when I ride here in summer I take a small detour and go to “cool off” with their spectacular view. Today I am going straight for the path on the left, which becomes increasingly narrow, forcing me to pay attention to the hikers.

Cascata del Sasso
The path along Tenna River

The path ends and I find myself riding along the Cesare Rossi Airfield. A small plane takes off, while I pedal on the dirt road at the edge of the runway. It feels like being in a movie.

Take the provincial road and head towards Grottazzolina. I cross the bridge over the Tenna River, then go left onto the SP 60. At Capparuccia, I take Strada Girola. It is a secondary road, parallel to the main road, located on the route of what was once the glorious Porto San Giorgio-Amandola railway. Return to the provincial road for about 500 meters, after which I turn right onto Strada Comunale Montotto 2ª. The climb to Contrada Montone of Fermo begins.

Along the Cesare Rossi airfield

The white road climbs up the side of the hill. The two initial hairpin bends constitute the hardest stretch, with the gradient reaching 16%. Then the road flattens for a while. I stop for a moment at an abandoned farmhouse where the view embraces the whole valley in the silence typical of these places. Then I start to climb again and reach the top, near Contrada Montone.

The ascent on the white road towards Contrada Montone of Fermo begins
Abandoned farmhouse along the road towards Contrada Montone

Take the paved road and with 3 kilometers of ups and downs I am in Fermo. I had decided to enter the historic center, as I did in Town of Fermo, from Lido to the alleys of the Historical Center, but at the roundabout I get distracted and continue on the SP239 Fermana-Faleriense, leaving the town. At this point I decide to give myself one last effort: the Climb of Ferro.

It is one of the Muri fermani (Fermo walls), faced in the homonymous event. Until a few years ago, when there was no alternative road, it was a busy street. Today there are very few cars. About five hundred meters of straight with an average gradient close to 13%, maximum 17% look me in the face. I tackle the asphalt without letting myself be scared and get to the top. On the right I see a wall with a mural created, I believe, on the occasion of a stage of Giro d’Italia in 2017.

The hill of Fermo from Via degli Appennini
The mural placed at the top of the Climb of Ferro

I reach the Tirassegno district and head towards Capodarco. At Valloscura, I take Strada San Pietro Orgiano on the left. I’m on the ridge. The view sweeps over the surrounding hills and the sea. I have to tackle a couple of ramps with double-digit slope then it will be over.

The descent begins, steep and fast. The blue of the Adriatic Sea in front of me, with the silhouette of Mount Marino on the right. At the intersection with Contrada Paludi road I go straight on a flat dirt road that runs alongside the cultivated fields. In the summer at sunset it is nice to enjoy the last rays of the sun that color the hay bales.

Today’s adventure is practically over. Through a secondary road I reach the bridge over the Tenna River of SS 16. Carefully cross the road and return to the starting point, already thinking back with nostalgia to the many suggestive places seen today.

Descending through Contrada San Pietro Orgiano
The suggestive passage on the dirt road near Contrada Paludi during a summer sunset

At the and of 2021 I rode this track with a friend of mine. The tale of that day is in this funny video.

B&B Pedalare con lentezza

Via Legnano, 96  63821 Porto Sant’Elpidio (FM)

Coordinate:  43.24569, 13.76299

Contatti: Tel Fabio 3356561216 


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