Piani di Ragnolo: Hell and Heaven

 In Long itineraries

Piani di Ragnolo reached through the most demanding climb. Long stretches of hellish slopes to get to the paradise of one of the most spectacular places in the Sibillini mountains. In the end an atypical variant, the beautiful climb on the “strada bianca” from Sarnano to Garulla.



Summary table
Length 76,3 km
Estimated elevation gain    what’s that? 2000 m
Min elevation 447 m
Max elevation 1509 m
Max slope 17%
Distance table  table
GPX track     tutorial download
Main climbs  
Piani di Ragnolo from Callarella (Sarnano)  altimetry
Garulla Inferiore from Sarnano  altimetry

profilo altimetrico piani di ragnolo garulla


For this very demanding itinerary, I set the starting point in Comunanza, the perfect base for bike tourism in the Sibillini mountains. The first easy climb to Casa Tasso is a sort of warm-up. The day will be long, so there is no need to try so hard here. As we continue towards Amandola, the Sibillini peaks appear in front of us and we will face them later. Piani di Ragnolo ( Ragnolo Plateau) are right behind those peaks and are waiting for us.

Sibillini andando verso Amandola

Going towards Amandola we observe the mountains which await us

After passing Amandola we face the first effort of the day: the climb to the Rustici pass. They are about 2.5 kilometers easy to pedal, with the last hundreds of meters at 9%. Just near the pass there is the famous Rustici public fountain, known by all cyclists in the area. The descent is quiet, even if you have to pay attention to the road surface, sometimes dangerous. After a sharp bend to the left we face the ramp of Cardagnano, then a straight leads us in sight of the characteristic village of Sarnano.

sarnano sibillini

The village of Sarnano

A short and easy climb and we reach the town. On the left we find a source of fresh water which in practice is the last possible supply before the terrible ascent to Piani di Ragnolo. After the descent a slight ascent leads us to the industrial area of Callarella. We turn left (pay attention!) at the Laminox factory and after a few hundred meters, at the crossroads for Campanotico, we find the gate of hell.

salita piani di ragnolo

The climb to Piani di Ragnolo begins

The climb to Piani di Ragnolo is almost 12 km long, the average gradient is 8.3%. From these two data it may appear not very demanding. The problem is that it is not constant. To highlight this I wanted to divide it into two ideal segments. The first one is almost 7 kilometers long and its average gradient is 10.5%! Until the junction for the Soffiano cave we have a series of very hard ramps that alternate with small almost flat sections. Then the slope will practically always remain double-digit until the end of the segment, at km 6.8. What characterizes this segment is the succession of hairpin bends, sometimes very narrow, that climb up the mountainside. The presence of the dense bush has the effect of letting the view below be covered, but it gives us precious shaded features that relieve the great stress. The most difficult stretch is that of the hairpin bends near the Fonte Brunforte (Brunforte water source), where we also find a small clearing, which allows you to make a small stop to drink and catch your breath. Here you reach the maximum slope, 17%.

altimetria salita piani di ragnolo da callarella

tornanti verso i piani di ragnolo

The hairpin bends follow one another towards Piani di Ragnolo

Tornante con fonte brunforte

The Brunforte source appears beyond the terrible hairpin bend at 17%

We reach the first meadows and the second segment begins, characterized by straights with much more easy slopes. Here you can relax and climb observing the breathtaking view, stopping also to take pictures or breathe the mountain air (in the first part, stopping is difficult, starting again is almost impossible). Behind us all the hills of the Marche region and the Adriatic coast. On the left Pizzo di Chioggia and Sibillini. On the right the lake of Fiastra and the lands of the Duchy of Camerino. In front of us Piani di Ragnolo, with its beautiful cultivated fields at high altitude.

piani di ragnolo

The end of the hard stretch at Piani di Ragnolo

Panorama dai Piani di Ragnolo

The view from Piani di Ragnolo

We continue facing some 10% ramps and easy straightaways up to the GPM (highest point). Here opens an even more spectacular view of Sibillini. The road from Pintura di Bolognola to the Fargno refuge stands out. It is mandatory to stop to take a photo and enjoy the view and the silence. Heaven after hell …

Piani di Ragnolo

We are approaching the GPM of Piani di Ragnolo

piani di ragnolo

Hay bales at Piani di Ragnolo

I Sibillini dal valico presso i Piani di Ragnolo

Sibillini from the pass at Piani di Ragnolo

The descent to Sarnano, after the Santa Maria Maddalena Pass, is long, technical and wonderful. You need to pay attention only to the slightly uneven road surface until the Sassotetto crossroads, then the asphalt becomes excellent. A short stop at Fonte dei Brilli (a public fountain) and we start again. At this point I put a variant that includes the ascent to Garulla. This road is characterized by a heavily uneven ground, so much so that it becomes a typical strada bianca (gravel road). Those who do not want to face this type of road can easily retrace the route from Sarnano to the Rustici Pass (about 3 km pedaling uphill with a gradient of around 9% in the initial stretch), then Amandola to go back to Comunanza.


casetta valico santa maria maddalena

Small house at the pass of Santa Maria Maddalena

sassotetto tornanti

The hairpin bends of Sassotetto

The climb to Garulla is beautiful, very discontinuous in the first 3.5 kilometers, then with a stable gradient just under 10% in the last kilometer and a half. we pass through the woods, with stretches where the view opens onto the mountain immediately to the right. The maximum slope, 15%, is reached immediately after the small village of Bisio. The characteristic of this climb is the surface. It was once asphalted, but then it was ruined to take on the appearance of a dirt road, but climbing with the road bike is possible. Cars are very few and this helps.

altimetria salita garulla da sarnano

Salita di Garulla da Sarnano

The road surface of the climb to Garulla from Sarnano


The road winds in the woods near the village of Bisio

We reach the GPM of Garulla Inferiore, near a public fountain with fresh water and we take the well-paved road to Amandola. The descent is technical and very pleasant, with an infinite number of bends that follow one another. The view is remarkable.

Discesa da Garulla

The technical descent from Garulla to Amandola

After the descent and a mixed stretch at Case Innamorati, the climb to the wonderful village of Montefortino begins, where it is worth stopping to take some photos and to have a drink at the bar. We return to Comunanza passing through the small villages of Bussonico and Baldoni, along the route already described in The breath of the mountain. Mount Sibilla and Isola San Biagio.

The wonderful village of Montefortino

In the end we will have covered less than 80 kilometers, but the total elevation gain will be around 2000 meters. We will certainly be tired, but with the good feeling of having been through Hell to see a corner of Heaven.


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