Varano: Camerino and the Montelago plateau
A wonderful itinerary in the shadow of the Duchy of Camerino. In about 80 kilometers we will find: a little-traffic road that runs alongside a blue lake, easy climbs, suggestive stretches at the bottom of rocky gorges, a typical paved “wall” in a characteristic historic center, refreshing streams along the road, a demanding climb with panoramic hairpin bends, the green plateau of Montelago, the technical and demanding descent, the flat section sometimes lashed by strong winds, a final cool-down stretch. Kilometers are not many, but it will be difficult to find a more complete and satisfactory route.
|Estimated elevation gain what’s that?||1500 m|
|Min elevation||313 m|
|Max elevation||1017 m|
|GPX track tutorial||download
|Sentino from Polverina||altimetry|
|Montelago from Sefro||altimetry|
The starting and finishing point is the hamlet of Maddalena di Muccia, at the crossroads between the old road Val di Chienti and the SP209, that leads to Visso and Valnerina. Here there are parking lots and refreshment places. Before the 2016 earthquake it was a meeting place and an important stop for all those who on feast days passing here to head towards Visso, Ussita and Castelluccio di Norcia. Currently traffic has decreased significantly, following the closure of the roads after Visso.
Instead of heading straight for Camerino through the town of Muccia, whose historic center is unfortunately devastated today by the earthquake, we head east, following the old SS77. After Pontelatrave, we skirt the Lake of Polverina, along a wide and low-traffic road, which looks almost like a terrace on the placid lake.
Once you arrive at the inhabited center of Polverina the first effort of the day begins: the ascent of Sentino. It is not very demanding. They are 5 kilometers with an irregular slope, which never exceeds 9%. We climb between green meadows and sandstone outcrops along an almost always deserted road. The hill of Camerino is a reassuring presence on our right. Before the GPM (Gran Premio della Montagna: the highest point) we also find a couple of refreshing public fountains.
After the Sentino crossroads, we go down towards San Marcello, then turn right for a dangerous descent due to the rough road surface, which leads us to the SP132, the main road to Camerino, where we arrive with another stretch 2.5 km uphill.
The GPM of Camerino deserves a few words. Riding along the ring road and looking up to the right you cannot help but observe the profile of the historic center, marred by the violence of the seismic events of 2016. The whole village is practically a red area and therefore impractical. The thought runs to May 2016, when on a wonderful day I entered pedaling in that beautiful historic center on the occasion of the Gran Fondo Terre dei Varano.
A long descent begins with wide hairpin bends and quiet straights that leads us to Canepina. The asphalt is good and the slopes are gentle. This is practically the only restful stretch of the whole tour and we can afford to observe the beautiful castle of Rocca d’Ajello, on the top right. We leave Camerino behind and arrive almost in Castelraimondo.
From Torre del Parco a mixed stretch of valley floor begins that leads us to Pioraco. The valley becomes increasingly narrow, until it takes on the appearance of a gorge between two rocky walls. The view is great and in order not to spoil its magic I wanted to insert a variant to avoid the gallery just before the inhabited center. Near the cemetery, we turn right to Costa and arrive at the paper mill. Before going up to the historic center of Pioraco it is necessary to travel a short stretch of road closed to traffic, where we find a rock wall used for free climbing. The short final paved wall of Via Camellaria, with which you enter the town, has a 21% gradient. Those who do not feel like facing it can safely avoid this variant and continue on the main road, since the galleries are well lit and are not a problem; the slope in this case will not exceed 9%.
We stop in the village to catch our breath with the excuse of filling the water bottle at the public fountain and observing the beautiful old town. At this point a mixed section begins which leads to Sefro. The road is beautiful, in a small green and silent valley. Particularly, after the small and characteristic inhabited center of Sefro, the valley narrows and we find a stream constantly on our right, which seems to give us refreshment. The sound of flowing water accompanies us to the beginning of the Montelago climb.
This is the most demanding and beautiful climb of the day. More than 5 kilometers with an average gradient of 7% and peaks of 13%. We only meet the small village of Sorti, where we find a public fountain. The asphalt is good, the bends follow one another. The view of the valley widens more and more and soon Sorti appears small, below us. The arrival at the Montelago GPM is wonderful. Suddenly the view opens on the plateau and its meadows. On the right a source of fresh water with the trough, on the left a group of mules that observes us with a curious gaze.
We admire the wonderful Montelago plateau with its green meadows at about 1000 meters above sea level, through a practically flat mixed stretch and the subsequent climb to the Salegri Pass. Here silence dominates unchallenged and on certain days the only possible encounters are those with grazing animals.
At GPM Salegri begins a demanding section of descent, with difficult slopes, hairpin bends and a rather uneven road surface, which takes us to the village of Copogna. Afterwards the asphalt improves and we can rest a bit until the old SS77 near Serravalle.
Here the climb to Colfiorito begins. The slope is always gentle and never exceeds 9%. Immediately after the hairpin bends, what can be considered the image of this itinerary appears before us: the ruins of the old fortress of Varano of Camerino. Pedaling, I remember a child who had a car sickness when traveling on this road to go to Rome. These hairpin bends were deadly, but the sight of these ruins had always fascinated me and getting on a bicycle now, in total silence, with the traffic now diverted to the nearby highway, gives me wonderful sensations.
The Colfiorito plateau and its beauty can become a kind of nightmare. About 3 kilometers of road completely open and lashed by the strong wind. The small climb of Pintura looks like a liberation, also because it represents in practice the last effort of the day, since we will always go down afterwards.
The descent towards Pievetorina is very beautiful landscape, because you cross green meadows and beautiful hills to get to a gorge with overhanging rocky walls. Unfortunately, the uneven road surface does not allow you to relax and look at the view. Instead, it is necessary to hold the handlebar firmly and try to avoid the numerous holes.
In Pievetorina we are forced to take the only small roads passable within what is a single red area that essentially includes the whole village. The consequences of the earthquake are presented in all their frightening evidence. Not even a house has been saved and, as always happens, silently cycling, everything appears amplified and brutally real. In fact, from the car window you cannot be struck by what is actually most impressive: silence. The unnatural silence of a historic center where human activity is unfortunately gone.
We return to the SP209 and, pedaling downhill in a sort of cooling-down, we return to the starting point.
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