Macereto: the enchanted highland
The classic short route of the Granfondo dei Sibillini. Climbs are not very hard, but the kilometers are almost 100 and the elevation gain is anything but little. What is striking is the amount of different landscapes along almost the entire route. Rolling hills, roads cut on rocky slopes, high mountain meadows, ancient fortresses built on seemingly unreachable peaks … and then, Macereto, that magical sanctuary on the plateau in the middle of nowhere …
|Estimated elevation gain what’s that?
|GPX track gpx tutorial
|Monastero from Pian di Pieca
|Campobonomo from SP98
The starting point is Caldarola, reachable through the SS77 Valdichienti, exit of the same name. The town is pleasant, with several car parks, its famous Pallotta Castle and the legendary Caffè Manzoni, historic meeting place for mountain bike excursions of the Monti Azzurri Bike Team; a stop for a coffee before or after the ride is practically mandatory. Unfortunately, following the earthquake of 2016, the old town has become a red zone and therefore unusable and closed, but I hope that this situation will change soon.
We immediately take for Belforte del Chienti, then for Camporotondo and finally for Sarnano, along a perfect stretch for warming up, with a couple of easy little climbs. In fact, it will always go up to Macereto. We will follow the classic short route of the Gran Fondo dei Sibillini (The Sibillini Marathon).
In Pian di Pieca, immediately after the food bar on the right, you go to Fiastra and shortly afterwards the beautiful road that climbs up to Monastero begins. Going along the cut made on the side of the Fiastrone valley, you can observe the landscape that extends to the right all the time. The ascent is not hard, except for a small 11% ramp, and in the morning the temperature is usually acceptable. After Monastero you start to go down. At a certain point you cross a small anti-landslide tunnel. It is the right place to stop at one of the large windows to observe the valley that is endlessly lost in total silence.
With a technical downhill you arrive at the Fiastra Lake, near the dam, which is the starting point of many hikers for the path that reaches the famous Lame Rosse. We skirt the lake refreshing ourselves with the serenity transmitted by its view and with the cool water source at km 29 on the left. After San Lorenzo al Lago, where you can fight the heat or a drop in sugars with an ice cream, you go towards Fiastra, but at the first hairpin bend on the left we throw downhill on the right, towards Fiegni.
The variant for Fiegni allows us to avoid the summer traffic of Fiastra and to cross a beautiful territory. It is worth making a small stop at the Church of Beato Ugolino and asking the very kind lady to let us in and take a look. The last time I did this route was November, with fantastic colors and no cars. I always recommend taking advantage of the beautiful autumn days, because they are absolutely the best for cycling in these areas.
After passing the village of Fiegni, with its narrow streets, you go towards Fiastra, returning to the main road, the SP98. After a short while, turn right for Visso-Santuario di Macereto and start the ascent of Campobonomo. Here begins the most spectacular part of the whole tour. The road climbs fairly regularly, the asphalt is good. On the sides green meadows and woods. A squirrel runs away frightened …
Shortly after the farmhouse Le casette, turn left towards Cupi. There are no more trees, and in front of us a slightly demanding straight faces us in the middle of the classic high mountain meadow. This type of landscape accompanies us to the Cupi refuge. After an easy descent with sometimes uneven road surface (attention!), we climb to the Sanctuary of Macereto. Every time I go this way and see its reassuring image, I am always surprised, as if I can’t believe it would be there, waiting for me in the middle of nowhere!
After passing Macereto and going towards Visso, the plateau with its pastures and serenity opens up before us. We are completely out of this world and out of time; if we didn’t have a bike, we could identify with a shepherd from 1000 years ago. Only the windmills that we see in the distance can bring us back to the present. The silence, interrupted only by the blowing of the wind, contributes to creating that enchanted atmosphere that makes our last look at the sanctuary unforgettable.
At this point the spell ends. We jump into the descent that leads us to the village of Appennino, fast, technical and dangerous. You go towards Macerata, until you join the SP209. You pedal quickly, in high gear up to Maddalena di Muccia, along an ideal stretch of road to get behind a group of cyclists; the traffic, even heavy, brings us back to reality abruptly, after the tale we experienced a few minutes before. We continue like this until the roundabout near the entrance to the highway, then our road becomes less busy.
Immediately after the entrance to the Camerino highway, we take the old road, finding ourselves under the beautiful Fortress of Varano. The road surface is sometimes uneven, but at least car traffic is almost absent. We cross hamlets forgotten after the construction of the highway and I can’t help thinking about how many places we don’t see and therefore “no longer exist” for our need to move in the shortest possible time. After Valcimarra I put the variant on the right, so as to skirt the Lake of Caccamo and observe it from an unusual point of view. At the end of a short climb among the olive trees, we will go down to the left to take the last stretch of road that will lead us back to Caldarola.
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