Fargno, where gravel bikes dare
Forcella del Fargno reached from Fiastra. A very long climb on a gravel road in the mountains. The view of the lake. The high-altitude pastures. The imperious presence of the wind. The stop in a legendary hut. The panoramic descent on Pintura. It will hardly be possible to find a more rewarding and epic itinerary to do by gravel-bike in Marche. Welcome to Fargno, in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains.
|Estimated elevation gain what’s that?
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|Forcella del Fargno from Fiastra
Forcella del Fargno. We are in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains. The roads that reach it can be considered the most scenic in the whole Marche Region. From here you can enjoy an exceptional view that includes Pizzo Berro, Panico Valley, the north face of Mount Bove and of course the hills in the distance to the east, which are lost in the blue of the sky and the Adriatic Sea. I have no doubts in affirming that the proposed itinerary is among the most spectacular experiences that can be done with a gravel bike in the whole Marche region. However, it must be said that this is an itinerary for experts and trained cyclists. In 70 kilometers an elevation gain of about 2000 meters accumulates. This may not seem exceptional, but is necessary to keep in mind that more than 1000 meters are represented by the ascent of Fargno from Fiastra, where the road surface is made up of sometimes rough and loose gravel, typical of mountain cart tracks. This makes the ascent more difficult than it might seem from a first reading of the slopes. Furthermore, descending from Fargno towards Pintura requires attention, again because of the road surface, which here is usually particularly bumpy. This very scenic road is closed completely in the cold season because it is affected by avalanches and accumulations of snow, so it is necessary to inquire about the possibility of following it before venturing into these areas in spring. Lastly, it is necessary to pay attention to the weather conditions, which here can be extremely prohibitive, especially for the wind, which reaches impressive speeds. Furthermore, being well trained and getting the good day, fun and satisfaction are guaranteed.
Departure set in Morichella, near Pian di Pieca, in the territory of San Ginesio, near a bar that all cyclists in the area know. The climb towards Monastero, along the southern slope of the Fiastrone Valley, is considered a sight not to be missed in many tours. For us today is a good warm-up, given what lies ahead.
We go down towards Fiastra Lake and enjoy the view of the blue water set between the rocky shores. A short climb takes us from San Lorenzo al Lago to the village of Fiastra, where I recommend a stop to feed and stock up on water before facing the main effort of the day. From here to the refuge of Fargno we will no longer find water or food. My advice, especially in summer, is to bring a couple of water bottles and something to eat. The road is practically all uncovered and 20 kilometers long. Being left with nothing to drink and perhaps with a hunger crisis in the middle of the climb is not desirable.
The Fargno road starts from a fountain on the edge of the town. The first hairpin bends are still uncovered and I usually see my garmin device switch off a couple of times because of an electromagnetic interference probably due to a cell-tower built in the area. After a while the view widens and climbing becomes almost a pleasure, with Lake Fiastra and its unreal colors that keeps us company, ever further below us.
We continue to climb. We no longer see the lake. We meet the Fonte del Pozzo, on the left, a water source which however is often practically dry. However we take the opportunity for a stop and a photo. There will certainly be many stops during the ascent; small stops for a pic, to eat something or just to enjoy the silence of the mountain, the voice of the wind and the spectacular view, because here it is not possible to keep your gaze fixed on the cycle computer or on the road in front of you. However it would be a shame.
Towards kilometer 9 the rock fragments becomes larger and more loose. This is the hardest stretch. The bottom is uneven and the slope often reaches 12%, the maximum value of the climb. It is a couple of kilometers, after which the road flattens considerably, approaching the pastures called Piani di Pao. Here it is not uncommon to meet flocks of sheep with shepherds and the beautiful white dogs called maremmani, usually absolutely non-aggressive. I always remember that it is good to know the behavior to have with livestock guarding dogs when venturing into this kind of environments.
Go down a little paying attention, and reach the intersection with the road coming from Casali di Ussita. The last stretch of the climb begins, the most spectacular one. The slope is 9%, but it seems bigger, due to the stones and steps. After the first bend on the right, the view opens onto the Ussita valley and the Macereto Sanctuary, below us. Monte Bove appears immediately after. Its majestic wall will accompany us until the end of the climb.
After a while, the road levelsconsiderably. From here to Fargno we’ll just enjoy the landscape and the silence of the mountain. Shortly before reaching the highest point, on the left we find a shepherds’ shed. Here the sheep are always present, as are some dogs, who usually sleep blissfully at the edge of the road, showing no interest in the cyclist passing a few meters away. At least for me it has always been like that.
We finally arrive in sight of the Rifugio del Fargno. The refuge was built in 1968, with an octagonal shape to withstand the strong wind that blow here frequently. In the summer there is a restaurant service. Of course, after 20 kilometers of gravel climb it is really difficult not to go in and eat tagliatelle or polenta with mushrooms at 1800 meters above sea level.
The descent to Pintura di Bolognola can be challenging. The bottom is uneven, with rock fragments and steps. On the left the cliff. However, the slope is never high, there are no hairpin bends and the roadway is quite wide, so, paying due attention and not picking up speed, given the widespread presence of hikers, you can descend without problems.
Shortly before reaching the asphalt, on the right, we find a panoramic and very welcome fresh water source. We fill the bottle and face the easy climb towards the Santa Maria Maddalena Pass, the final point of the mythical climbs of Sassotetto and Laminox.
The descent through the bends of the Sassotetto-Sarnano road is fast and fun, with a practically perfect road surface. Shortly before arriving at the village of Stinco we take the small road on the left. We could continue the comfortable descent to the center of Sarnano and then return to Pian di Pieca via the provincial road, but this is a gravel itinerary and it seemed appropriate to insert a much less busy and more suggestive way.
We venture into a paved but uneven road, with gravel sections. At Contrada Campanotico we take a dirt road on the left that goes down into the woods. We reach the asphalt that takes us to Terro, where we take a gravel road that leads us to the small village of Vallato with a small ramp at 15%. Here we take the SP112 for a short stretch, to leave it at the locality of Cerqueto, where the last slightly downhill dirt section begins, which brings us back to the SP91 near the starting point.
A snack at the bar is what it takes to rest and remember the day and those moments of fatigue, but also of peace that only the mountains can offer. There will certainly remain the desire to return to a place as magical as the mythical Fargno.
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