having scaled the mountain of Purgatory, the poet reaches Paradise, which
lies at the summit of the mountain. Here the poet finds several beatified
individuals of high moral virtue, including S. Francesco - the saint who
nel crudo sasso intra Tevero e Arno/da Cristo prese l'ultimo sigillo -,
and S. Pier Damiani, the famous Camaldolese monk who struggled to reform
the clergy by fighting the practice of simony. Pier Damiani spent part
of his contemplative life in the Hermitage of S. Croce at Fonte Avellana,
located beneath Monte Catria in the Apennine section of the Marches. In
Dante's description, the mountain appears to be a tall hump put there
to separate the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian coasts. Its relative height
means that its summit is often shrouded in cloud, from which rumbling
thunder is not infrequently heard.
« Tra' due liti d'Italia surgon sassi,
e non molto distanti a la tua patria,
tanto che' troni assai suonan più bassi,
e fanno un gibbo che si chiama Catria,
di sotto al quale è consecrato un ermo,
che suole esser disposto a sola latria.»
" A rocky pile, 'tween each Italian shore,
Thy country near, so stretches to the skies,
That far beneath is heard the thunder's roar.
It forms a ridge, Catria by name, where lies
A shrine, beneath, in a religious shade,
Whence prayers were wont to the true God to rise."
(Paradiso, Canto XXI, 106/111)
Monte Catria is one of the most interesting points from a walking point
of view in the Apennines of Umbria and the Marches. This walk links the
two locations mentioned by Dante; it starts from the Hermitage of Fonte
Avellana and goes up - by means of an easy route, but one which involves
lots of uphill walking - to the top of Monte Catria. Here, on a clear
day, you can see the shining reflection of the sea on both the west and
east coasts of the Italian peninsula.
The walk starts from the Hermitage of Fonte Avellana. Beato Lodolfo built
an oratory here in the year 977 near the spring, and the building was
added to over the centuries under the guidance of San Romualdo and San
Pier Damiani, becoming an abbey in the 14th century; you can get an idea
of its current imposing appearance by looking down on it from above as
it nestles in the green Val Grassa.
Walk past the ancient spring and here, looking right, you can see an
unsurfaced road that begins to climb the north-east slope of Monte Catria.
Fortunately, after thirty or forty metres there's a bar to keep out traffic,
so although it's a long climb, you can do it in absolute peace and quiet.
The road climbs gradually from the valley bottom, going deeper and deeper
into a thick wood of beech trees and rising gently with lots of U-bends.
After about two hours' walk, you come to a junction with some large beeches
that are hundreds of years old. While the track to the left leads off
towards Pian d'Ortica, the main track, which is the one to follow, goes
sharp right and continues to climb amidst beech trees. Soon after, however,
you emerge from the wood and here you get a wonderful view of the whole
valley and the large monastic building of Fonte Avellana. When you come
to another important junction, go left (there's a side gate which is always
open). This path climbs steeply to the Rifugio della Vernosa (with spring);
behind the refuge, get onto a cattle-track running alongside the wood.
This goes uphill and gradually turns into a well-marked footpath. The
path is very clear and climbs steeply to the summit plateau, where there
are no further problems in orientation. From here, in fact, you can see
the metal cross on the summit of Monte Catria. This should be climbed
in order to admire the 360-degree view and to enjoy, in season, the beautiful
spring flowers on the grassy summit. The route now goes downhill. Take
care, however, that you don't take either the footpath to the left, which
goes down to the road for Fonte Avellana, nor the one to the right, that
descends along a steep ridge. From the cross, go straight on, downhill
towards the already-visible path of the unsurfaced road coming up from
Pian d'Ortica. There are a number of faded and infrequent red signs indicating
path number 103 which can help guide you. When you get to the car park
(with a guard-rail), follow the bumpy cart-track that takes some wide
bends, goes past the Rifugio Spicchi, and eventually ends up in Pian d'Ortica.
Here you need to be careful because there's a fork in the road. Go left,
walking through a beech wood and soon you come to the unsurfaced road
used at the beginning of the walk. Go downhill along this, which takes
you back to the Hermitage of Fonte Avellana.
|| 7 hours
|| 1110 m
||L.A.C. 1:25.000, "Monte Catria"
|How to get there
||The Hermitage of Fonte Avellana can be reached
from Pesaro and Ancona by taking the SS. 16 to Marotta, where you
get onto SS. 424 for Pergola. At Pergola, drive towards Sassoferrato
and Fabriano and after about 7km, go right, following signs for Fonte