The meadows of Ragnolo
Piani di Ragnolo reached in an itinerary completely on asphalt, including the easiest climb, the one from Acquacanina. Silent roads, passing through suggestive and abandoned villages, views of fortresses and remains of ancient castles, breathtaking views of the Sibillini Mountains and hills up to the sea. But what will remain in the heart will surely be the windswept meadows around Monte Ragnolo.
|Estimated elevation gain what’s that?||1800 m|
|Min elevation||294 m|
|Max elevation||1509 m|
|GPX track tutorial||download
|Campobonomo from Pievebovigliana||altimetry|
|Piani di Ragnolo from Acquacanina||altimetry|
The plateau called Piani di Ragnolo is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and spectacular places of the Sibillini Mountains. The view extends 360 degrees from its meadows over the entire Sibillini chain and the hills to the Adriatic Sea. Compared to other places in the Umbrian-Marche Apennines area, this has a special feature: it is easily accessible. In addition to the paths and the gravel roads, we have four asphalted roads that lead to Piani di Ragnolo. The hardest is undoubtedly the climb from Campanotico or from San Liberato, which come together in that Apennine monster that cyclists in the area call Laminox. The most famous is the climb that from Sarnano passes through Sassotetto and reaching the pass of Santa Maria Maddalena, just below. Then there is the west side, that of the Fiastrone torrent. The climb starts from San Lorenzo al Lago, near Fiastra Lake, and arrives at the pass of Santa M. Maddalena passing through Bolognola and Pintura. A fourth road, which is the one we face in this itinerary, starts from the water sources of Acquacanina to reach the Ragnolo plateau.
The departure is set in Caldarola, a medieval village famous for its castles, first of all the Pallotta Castle. Unfortunately, the 2016 earthquake caused huge damage here. The castle cannot yet be visited and the village is still unusable, but restaurants and bars are open again and it is always a pleasure to leave from here for a bike ride, greeting the friends of the A.S.D. Monti Azzurri.
We take the road towards the Caccamo Lake, but just before the locality of the same name we turn left. We pass under the village of Pievefavera to skirt the lake along the right bank, quieter than the other. The passage under the viaduct of the freeway is worthy of attention because we are going downhill, cornering, with the insidious gravel on the road. So we take what was once the SS77, the old road that led to Rome, before the construction of the highway, which with its viaducts and tunnels allows today to pass from the Marche coast to Foligno in just over an hour, at the price to miss out on exceptional views, which few people know today. We cross Valcimarra, Bistocco, Campolarzo, now abandoned villages, once alive places of passage for countless travelers. Towers, fortresses, remains of ancient castles flanked by modern pylons of the power line observe us, witnessing an ancient era in which time flowed differently and the Duchy of Camerino here was master. Rocca di Varano (Varano Fortress) undoubtedly represents the most suggestive view.
At Polverina we turn left and then immediately right, to skirt the homonymous lake on the right bank. The main road on the left bank, like all the old SS77, can now be considered a bike lane, but this other variant is in my opinion more beautiful and panoramic. Immediately after the lake, the Castle of Beldiletto appears on the right. Immediately after we take the SP99 and face the first ascent of the day: Campobonomo.
We quietly cross the village of Pievebovigliana, where we cannot help noticing the horrible wounds caused by the earthquake, while we fill the bottle with the fresh water of the public fountain in the square.
Up to Fiordimonte we climb gently. The gradient is really easy, always around 3%, practically a slight slope. Then the music changes and the real climb begins. We go up with nice hairpin bends and with slopes that however don’t go much more than 10%. The view widens more and more on the surrounding green hills. Silence is total. We pass the hamlet of S. Ilario and reach the GPM (Gran Premio della Montagna, the highest point) , at the Le Casette farmhouse. On the right you would go to Cupi and the beautiful road to Macereto. We throw ourselves to the left, in the spectacular descent to Fiastra.
We cross the village and go down again to San Lorenzo, on the banks of the famous Fiastra Lake. Here a stop at one of the bars in the area is practically mandatory, before going to face the main effort of the day: the climb to Piani di Ragnolo, which begins at the famous sources of fresh water of Acquacanina.
This is the easiest and perhaps the most beautiful way to reach the top of Piani di Ragnolo and the Pass of Santa Maria Maddalena. But you better not to underestimate it. They are almost 12 kilometers of ascent, with various double-digit slopes. The first part is the most difficult, with hairpin bends and slopes greater than 10%, but with a good road surface. In a few minutes the altitude increases and we are able to observe the road to Bolognola much lower. We are surrounded by woods and it is not uncommon to meet a deer here.
Then the hairpin come to an end and the trees disappear. The road surface worsens significantly, becoming sometimes uneven, but good enough for a road bike. A straight stretch of about two kilometers begins, which can seem endless over the summer sun. Everything is covered by the green meadows. In the hot season yellow is the dominant color. A hare rests on the road, to run away very fast seeing us coming.
In total silence we arrive at the fork for San Liberato, where our road and the Laminox climb meet. The final stretch up to the GPM is the same. The Ragnolo plateau reaches its maximum beauty and spectacularity. The view sweeps and the horizon appears far away. The slopes are almost always gentle and it is difficult not to stop to take wonderful images of this evocative and great landscape.
We first go down to the pass of Santa Maria Maddalena. Then we face the funny and technical descent of Sassotetto. High speeds can be achieved. The road surface is practically perfect. It is only necessary not to be too distracted by the view, which reaches the sea. We stop at the famous Fonte dei Brilli (a famous public fountain), at the gates of Sarnano, where we fill the bottle, before tackling a stretch of ups and downs with which we reach Pian di Pieca.
We continue north. At Maregnano we turn left for Cessapalombo. We go downhill, then go up towards the village, which unfortunately shows the signs of seismic events, which hit the whole area hard. Another little descent and then the last roughness. We cross Colbottoni and finally we face the descent through the woods that leads us to the starting point.
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