Fairies of Sibillini
Fairies of Sibillini. A very fascinating and complete bike itinerary, which will take us on the hills close to Monti Azzurri, on silent and panoramic white roads, in the midst of unsettling woods frequented only by loggers and truffle hunters, in characteristic villages and on dirt roads along the river Aso. Short but challenging ascents and fun descents. The sense of achievement will be great, but stay away if you are afraid of the forest…
|Estimated elevation gain what’s that?||1.600 m|
|Min elevation||392 m|
|Max elevation||972 m|
|GPX track tutorial||download
|Colle Sezza from SP105||altimetry|
|Monte Girone from Collina di Montefortino||altimetry|
|Ilice from Gerosa||altimetry|
|Nasuto from SP237||altimetry|
|Castel San Pietro from Tavernelle||altimetry|
“Get up, our Anna dear, from the weary spinning-wheel;
For your father’s on the hill, and your mother is asleep;
Come up above the crags, and we’ll dance a highland-reel
Around the fairy thorn on the steep”
According to tradition, the fairies of the Sibillini Mountains looked like attractive girls who went down to the valley to dance with the young shepherds. The latter, once in contact with them, would abandon the condition of mere mortals and invested with a sort of virtual immortality, which would have left them alive until the end of the world, as happened to the fairies, but forced to live in the underground kingdom of Alcina (Mario Polia, “Tra Sant’Emidio e la Sibilla).
The Tour delle fate ( Tour of Fairies) is a mountain-bike track that the bikers of Comunanza (Marche, Central Italy) know very well. Designed by Giuseppe Testa and developed by Alessandro Corso and The Black Sheep MTB, it gave rise to a wonderful organized bike tour in September 2018 that we hope will be repeated in the coming years. As a regular visitor to those places I could not resist creating my own “gravel” version of the itinerary, eliminating the single tracks and inserting a few more sections. In the end it was a route however challenging for the numerous hard slopes on gravel roads, but very scenic and I hope pleasant.
Start from Comunanza, where there are plenty of parking spaces and breakfast bars. After a couple of kilometers of warming up, along the road to Montefortino, we find a gravel road on the left with a sign that can not be ignored. We read “Tour delle fate”. Of course we take it and immediately face the first effort of the day, the ascent of Colle Sezza.
That’s a start, since we have about two kilometers with an average slope of just under 10%! The double-digit stretches are really numerous and sometimes riding on the gravel is a real game of balance. We climb in a short time and the view widens on the surrounding hills and valleys. We pass by the small town of Serra and the white road gives way to the asphalt.
A little break, but soon after we start to rise again, towards Monte Pali. We are on asphalt but it is really difficult to meet cars here. The view of Sibillini opens up and we imagine that the fairies are not too far, especially if we are here in the early hours of the morning.
…Till out of night the earth has roll’d her dewy side, With every haunted mountain and streamy vale below; When, as the mist dissolves in the yellow morning tide, The maidens’ trance dissolveth so…
We reach the village of Collina di Montefortino, with its very useful fountain. Here ends the asphalt and begins a nice stretch of gravel road. Go down into the woods. We are out of the sun and the silence is broken only by the noise of the wheels. We start to climb towards the GPM of Monte Girone. The Blue Mountains are a constant presence. The beautiful Church of Menderella, on the left, looks like a fairy place where it is worth stopping for a moment. Many challenging traits. In particular, just before the hairpin bend to the left near a house, the pebble and the steep slope sometimes forced me to put my foot on the ground; difficult to restart …
Go down again and then go up, with the usual ramps to 14%, towards the reservoir of Monte San Giovanni. Approaching the GPM, the view widens even further, to take the contours of a pure show at Poggio di Pietra. Near a hairpin bend on the right, a meadow opens up on the left where it is very difficult not to stop.
…Come away, O, human child! To the woods and waters wild With a fairy hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand…
Sibillini appear very close. Mount Vettore, Mount Sibilla. Gran Sasso appears behind Laga Mountains. The rocky outcrop of sandstone gives this natural terrace the appearance of a theater or an ancient temple. I imagine fairies and their seductive dances on moonlit nights. Some shepherds here have surely found the way to another dimension.
A kilometer and a half of beautiful and easy white road leads us in sight of the small village of Ferrà. At the intersection we find the asphalt and turn left, towards Montemonaco. The ascent is calm and easy. The village welcomes us with the Sibilla in the background. The bar on the right recently reopened after the 2016 earthquakes invites us to stop. The oven spreads its aromas of bread and sweets in the air and in October it smells like chestnuts. In the summer you can find a lot of cyclists at the fountain on the left.
We cross Montemonaco and, after the ritual photo to Mount Vettore at the most famous bench of Sibillini, we face the long, spectacular and funny descent towards the River Aso.
Immediately after the junction for Montegallo, leave the main road to venture on a dirt road on the right. We enter the woods. Sunbeams just filter through the leaves. The twilight envelops us. The road becomes a path that captures all our attention, preventing us from thinking about the supernatural presences that surely hide here.
We follow the river up to San Giorgio all’Isola, where we end up in the beautiful white road of Lake Gerosa. For about four kilometers we can see the scenic lake on the left, until the dam, where a photo with Mount Vettore in the background is a must. A pair of 9% ramps lead us to the small village of Gerosa, where we find the asphalt with the Illice climb. The ascent is not too difficult, with a couple of 10% points.
The ridge up to Croce di Casale is panoramic and pleasant. The next descent is beautiful and technical. After the last bend we take the white road on the right, ready to face the evocative ascent towards Nasuto.
The first part is quite easy, with a couple of double-digit ramps. Then the road flattens and you can see the church of Nasuto, which we reach shortly after. Still a sort of panoramic terrace that invites you to stop and enjoy the scenery. Immediately after a terrible hairpin bend and the slope splits at 15%, making the road challenging up to the GPM, a few hundred meters higher.
Now we face a dozen kilometers of gravel road that goes into the woods, descending gently towards Tavernelle, into the deep valleys. The forest covers the view. Some small climb with the usual ramps at 15% interrupts the descent. Silence becomes scary. We lose any reference point and the continuous turns make us believe we have lost.
…But solemn is the silence of the silvery haze That drinks away their voices in echoless repose, and dreamily the evening has still’d the haunted braes, and dreamier the gloaming grows. And sinking one by one, like lark-notes from the sky When the falcon’s shadow saileth across the open shaw, Are hush’d the maiden’s voices, as cowering down they lie In the flutter of their sudden awe…
Fairies and elves are observing us, surely. A roe crosses the road and throws into the woods a few meters from us. Was it one of them? Likely. The village of Tavernelle comes almost as a release, when we were sure we had crossed the magic threshold and could not return.
We overcome the village with a hard ramp and start the final climb, on asphalt, towards Castel San Pietro. The ascent is all in all easy, if you exclude 350 meters double digits after the fork for Palmiano. Once you reach the Provincial 93 the slope becomes really easy and you can enjoy the view on the calanques and Mount Ascensione on the right. A little descent on asphalt and then take the white road to Quinzano. The descent is pleasant and the view is always spectacular.
We arrive at the fork for Comunanza, but take the alternative road of Contrada Casali, from which you can enjoy the best view on the hill of Montefalcone. At the ditch Cenante the road surface becomes gravel for a few hundred meters. We reach the traffic circle of Valdaso and return to the starting point with the knowledge of having visited cycling the fairy kingdom.
All quotes from W.B Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland; in particular the ballads The Fairy Thorn and The Stolen Child.
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