The forgotten roads of Menocchia Valley
Typical gravel route in the area of the valley of the Menocchia stream, between Cupra Marittima and Montalto delle Marche. White roads, country dirt roads, and silent asphalt. “Forgotten” roads that will make us discover places far from human activities, breathtaking views and timeless villages on the typical Marche hills. However demanding route, which, in about 70 kilometers, will accumulate almost 2000 meters of elevation gain. So much effort, but in the end so much will be satisfaction.
|Estimated Elevation gain what’s that?
|GPX track tutorial
|Montefiore dell’Aso from Ponte Nina
|Borchia from Menocchia
|Contrada Cerqueto from Rio Retemura
|Contrada San Gregorio from Rio Retemura
|Contrada Tosciano from Menocchia
|Ripatransone from Contrada Ciapella
We start from the parking lot of the Museo Malacologico Piceno of Cupra Marittima, a village perched on a hill close to the Adriatic Sea, which is definitely worthy of a visit as soon as possible. For a couple of kilometers we follow the SS16. At the Il Contadino hotel, in Marina di Massignano, we turn right to take the dirt road that runs between the railway and the sea. At Ponte Nina we turn left for the underpass, going to face the first ascent of the day.
From Ponte Nina to Montefiore dell’Aso we have a dozen kilometers almost always on the rise, so I decided to present a single altimetry. The average slope is very low, 4.6%, but the hard sections are not lacking. The first, close to the highway viaduct, is one of those. About 700 meters of gravel road with a slope that reaches 18%. Then you go on asphalt, at Contrada Montecantino; the view is pleasant, you pass through the nurseries, but the slopes do not give up. Then, the road turns white and becomes a little flat. A steep descent, to be done without braking in order not to lose momentum towards the next 18% ramp, then again asphalt, at the Rio Canale dam.
Just before reaching Massignano, we take a small road on the right. We go in a panoramic country dirt road, at Contrada Fonte Trufo, where we can have some fun going around the fields. We return on asphalt to face the final ascent towards Montefiore dell’Aso; about 4 kilometers, of which the most difficult stretch is given by the first 500 meters, where the gradient of 15% is reached.
Montefiore dell’Aso is counted among Borghi più belli d’Italia (the most beautiful villages in Italy). Of course, its historical center deserves a little detour, as its belvedere on the Menocchia Valley deserves a stop. Montefiore is also famous for its fruit festival. A small monument near the belvedere reminds him.
We go around the ancient walls and throw ourselves downhill to leave the village. This stretch of road is always in the shade and the bottom is often quite humid or wet. In winter it could be frozen. Attention must therefore be maximum. We enter the SP58 and rest a bit along the easy descent that leads us to the church of Santa Maria della Fede, where we begin to climb gently towards the village of Carassai. The spectacular view of the Valley of Menocchia always accompanies us on the left.
We pass the GPM (highest point) of Carassai and begin to descend along the SP58. After a couple of kilometers we turn left into Contrada Casali, where the road becomes gravel. In just over a kilometer we go down almost 140 meters. The slope is remarkable, but the bottom is quite good. However, care should always be taken as we approach the bottom of the Menocchia valley. Here we go along a slightly uneven asphalted stretch, which gently follows the stream, for a couple of kilometers, to then take a gravel road on the left. After the bridge the ascent to Porchia begins.
The stretch on gravel road is awesome. Almost two kilometers with a constant slope close to 10%, hairpin bends and views of the surrounding hills. The silence is total and the effort feels surprisingly little. We arrive at the asphalt road and continue to climb much more gently towards the spectacular village of Porchia. The village is small and wonderful. A visit will take a few minutes, but it will certainly be worth. You should even stop at the bar in front of the Tower, which has recently reopened.
We start again and after a few hundred meters, near a small church, we turn left downhill towards Contrada Cerqueto and Retemura stream. The road immediately becomes gravel, the slopes exceed 20%, but the ground is good. In a kilometer we go down about 120 meters. Immediately after a farmhouse the road flattens and we can fully enjoy the landscape and silence. Every time I pass here I have to stop for a few minutes. There’s something really magical and relaxing about this place. It really feels out of time, on a forgotten road.
After a few hundred meters, the road goes up again. On the left the dogs guarding the sheep are barking. I’ve always heard them, but I’ve never seen them coming to the road. Only once I met one here, who was not interested in me. However, the possibility of meeting sheepdogs in Marche roads exists, even if, knowing how to behave, the danger of being attacked and bitten is not so high. I talked about this in Cani. I migliori nemici dei ciclisti?.
The ascent of Contrada Cerqueto is easy, pedalable and relaxing. Silence and the view of the hills keep us company. We are unlikely to meet anyone here. The slope is constant around 8%, with a single stretch at 10%. In a couple of kilometers we reach the asphalt of Contrada Maliscia, where we begin to descend again towards the Menocchia river.
After about a kilometer of asphalted descent, we turn right and face a new descent on a white and steep road and reach the SP22. A couple of bends and the beautiful and hard ascent of Contrada San Gregorio begins.
The climb is just over 2 and a half kilometers long. The average slope is 7%. Initially it’s easy with many hairpin bends that make the climb pleasant. Then, approaching the farmhouse C’era una volta, the slope reaches 16% and is felt for about 500 meters. Arriving at the GPM of Case Galieni you feel out of time again, with the unreal silence and the view that is lost towards the hills in the distance.
The descent of Contrada Case Rosse is beautiful and funny. The bottom is asphalted, but the road is not very busy. This means that it is common to find it dirty or covered with dry leaves during the autumn period. We reach the bottom of the Menocchia valley once again and take the uphill road to Ripatransone. The climb of Contrada Tosciano is quiet, with a good asphalt. You can enjoy the landscape with the view of Montefiore dell’aso in the north, Campofilone in the distance. All around the green hills. In about three kilometers we arrive at the Church of San Giuseppe, where we turn left in Contrada S. Imero.
The descent of S. Imero is fast and funny. We travel through olive trees and vineyards. The hill of Ripatransone stands out in front, almost occupying the whole view. We reach the bottom and take a dirt road on the right.
The climb of Contrada Ciapella is one of those that are not forgotten. Almost three kilometers with an average gradient close to 9%, maximum 13%. What is striking is the feeling of loneliness. The first section is dirt, covered with grass, not passable by cars, at most by an off-road vehicle. The last time I went there I had to face a few meters of mud. Fatigue makes itself felt, also because at this point in the journey we have already done enough. With the excuse of a photo of the hill of Ripatransone, we stop at an open space along the road and catch our breath. Somehow we get to the asphalt of the SP142 and continue to climb towards Ripatransone, that we reach in a couple of kilometers.
The historic center surely deserves to be visited. A stop at the pastry bar and a little tour through the alleys are absolutely mandatory. Needless to establish a trace. Better to leave the freedom to discover the narrow streets by yourself and to find the famous Vicolo più stretto d’Italia (the narrowest alley in Italy). I would advise against doing it by bike, also because the final stretch has some steps and in my opinion the width could be less than the width of the handlebar, but if you try let me know what happened!
We return to the SP23 and begin to descend, enjoying the spectacular view of the mountains of Sibillini, Gran Sasso and Maiella. After a couple of kilometers we turn left to Contrada S. Egidio. Five kilometers of descent on a gravel road, sometimes uneven, bordered by trees. In the background in front of us the sea appears. Then the bottom becomes asphalted and it goes down gently to Cupra Marittima. Just before the SS16, we enter a small road on the left to take a very low underpass. We lower our heads and in a few meters we find ourselves at the waterfront, which we will take north to return to the starting point.
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