What to see in Umbria outside the usual and famous tourist destinations, by now?
Have you ever thought about the Monti Sibillini region?
An area rich in landscapes, history, taste and traditions that even if it was tried sorely by he several earthquakes in 2016 it doesn’t want to be put apart. It works bravely and determinedly to award its visitor with places and itineraries of a definitely remarkable beauty and historic worth.
I had the chance to discover this really beautiful portion of Umbrian land during a Fair Social Tour aimed to the valorisation and the support of these places and their strong inhabitants.
And – I confess it – it was love at first sight.
“Umbria of Sibillini welcomed me like that, with sun and the warm and intense colours of a surprising Autumn.
Land – wonderful and captivating – of springs, rocks and hermitages.
Land of churches, ancient villages, falls and millenary caves.
Land (and stories) of saints and clever people.”
My 3 days weekend on the Monti Sibillini flew by slowly through the villages of Pale and Rasiglia, from the ancient and precious Hermitage of Santa Maria Giacobbe set in a living and huge rock at the suggestive and deep the Abbadessa Caves, from the Menotre Falls as far as the Rasiglia springs and its millenary history made of working and weaving of wool, barn mills and a genuine, disarming welcome.
And even from Sellano as far as Montesanto, other two precious water villages located on hills dominating 360° the Valnerina. And a peaceful, relaxed and wellness stay at the ancient Roman Baths, today known as Triponzo Baths as far as reaching for the last night the suggestive – and one-of-a-kind – Postignano Castle.
In the middle, autumn landscapes peeped out from a fairytale, kindness, helpfulness and a variegate offer of savours and local specialties.
In short, an experience to try, tell about and share. And – why not? – repeat as soon as possible.
Have a look at the video below – filmed during my weekend on the Monti Sibillini – and you’ll realize what I mean.
Pale is a small gem set in one among the most beautiful and amazing valley of Foligno, the Menotre one.
The story of this precious Umbrian village is closely connected to the ancient paper mills where the first paper for the print of the “Divine Comedy” was produced, to its springs and to the Menotre River which crossing it in the rock’s rifts sustaining it gives origin to the wonderful falls with the same name.
A rock which over centuries generated – following the erosion and the geological phenomena inside itself – the Abbadessa Caves: they are great natural hollows keeping forming defined by a series of stalactites and stalagmites. The Caves can be visited and the access is right in the Pale old town.
But there’s more.
The presence of therapeutic springs on the rocky wall dominating Pale favoured the arrival of monks and around the 1200s the building of a prehistoric era cave of the Hermitage of Santa Maria Giacobbe. With no doubt one of the most moving places of my weekend on the Monti Sibillini.
You enter it through a loose path with about 20 minutes walk, but the view of the Menotre valley, the frescos inside the chapel (among them the very beautiful Byzantine Madonna dating back to 1200), the symbols of the characters portrayed, the story of the site and the rooms dig in the living stone deserve absolutely the effort.
Try to imagine a therapeutic sanctuary in the middle of a mountain where over centuries the believers went on a pilgrimage to gain access to the precious spring flowing directly from the rock’s wall and then flew into a well.
Today the Hermitage is uninhabited, but it’s perfectly preserved and watched by a group of volunteers who look after also the guided tours – free, but it is recommended to leave a tip. It is necessary to book at least 3 days in advance calling the following telephone numbers: 348 6519553 / 347 6640672 .
“I am alone on this mountain place, at the foot of a holy and glorious mountains, where among living stones there’s a spring which gives water murmuring a bit…”
(Marco da Rasiglia, poet)
I want to tell you a story dealing with water springs, human cleverness and passion.
It’s the story of Rasiglia, an old village on the Apennines of Umbria and the Marches, of one among its 4 natural springs – the Capovena one – and the tenancy and entrepreneurial of great people.
It’s the story of The Tontis and the working of wool, a non-stop tale starting from the far 1600 until nowadays.
Booking a free visit at the Rasiglia and its Springs cultural association you’ll be able to know the historic and social evolution of the entire village, from the fights to conquer the castle as far as the stories tied to the use of the springs for the barn mills and for the precious workin of wool.
You’ll be able to go uphill in part the flow of the Capovena spring which “fed” all the activities of the village, admire the original looms of that time, the old cards for the weavering perfectly preserved. And even the several washing and painting baths, and with a bit of luck you’ll be able to talk to the direct descendents of people who made Rasiglia the commercial and economic centre of Umbria over the last centuries.
An intense, passionate visit, rich in anecdotes.
Rasiglia is also the ideal place to choose staying overnight during your weekend discovering the Monti Sibillini: in fact right on the hills of the village it’s possible to spend one or more nights inside a watching tower dating back to the 1400s completely swallowed up by nature and rocks, the Residence Menotre.
They are one or more rooms apartments with every comfort, run personally by the very kind and welcome heirs of the Tontis. Furthermore, they are really helpful to give you any info about the village and tell you about further stories and anecdotes tied to their beloved land.
An event not to miss: from 26th December to 6th January Rasiglia becomes the scene of one among the most suggestive Live Nativity Scenes in the whole area.
Sellano and Montesanto, two bordering villages, located on two huge hills of Valnerina, really beautiful in their particular location and unfortunately made vulnerable by the earthquake occurred in 1997 first and in 2016 then.
Sellano, which was born originally as roman vicus – a sort of neighbourhood divided into lands, houses and roads – had its maximum development in the Medieval era when it was adjoined to the papal state and successively object of dispute between Spoleto and Foligno.
Montesanto, little over uphill, is actually an hamlet of Sellano.
It’s a village ancient as well and disputed over its long history: from the top it’s possible to enjoy one among the most suggestive views of the Valle dei Vigi, from where the precious Fonte Tvullia flows – near one of the first convents of the Capuchin Friars Order, the San Nicola di Acqua Premula Convent.
The first witnesses about the spring date back to XVI century. And they refer to system exploiting waters for therapeutic aims. Particularly to cure the so-called “calculi”.
“Sulfurea Nar albus aqua (…)”
The Triponzo Baths rise where – according to what Virgilio himself affirms – the clear waters of the Nera River run into the sulphurous ones of the thermal springs.
It’s a facility which has been working since already 1887, built on an ancient Roman thermal building and swallowed up by the forests and the uncontaminated nature of Valnerina.
Thanks to the multiple salutary properties of the sulphurous waters, to the 3 thermal pools, to the SPA, the private suites for the esthetical treatments, the restaurant with cuisine cared in every detail and thanks to the great cave with sauna, ice fall and Turkish bath, the Triponzo baths are considered the greatest and most crowded ones in Umbria.
You can relax at the swimming pool after a day of discoveries around the Valnerina, have lunch comfortably with bathrobe and enjoy one among the numerous treatments offered or also take part into one among the several theme events organized by the facility (according to the holidays) expressively for its customers.
A peaceful, wellness and relax place in the heart of the Umbrian Sibillini.
“A unique place. A possible dream. (…)
A refuge of peace at the centre of the most beautiful village in the world.”
(A quote from the official website of the Postignano Castle)
Try to imagine an ancient castle dating back to X century.
Put it on a suggestive hill dominating the Valnerina, with watching towers, strong surrounding walls and an ice village located on the slope of the hill sustaining it.
Think about the stories of weapons and loves. The fights come out from the dispute of the castle between Foligno and Spoleto and to the families followed one another at its guide over centuries.
And even think about the time fly by, the depopulation caused by migrations and famines and the flight of the few families remained at the end of the 1970s.
Then the earthquakes of the last 20 years, the abandon and at last the rebirth thanks to the commitment and the willing of a private society motivated to take back the Castle to its ancient splendour.
Today the Postignano Castle – located on the hills between Sellano and Cerreto di Spoleto – is a wonderful hotel spread with charm (it gives jobs to many people, always and however respecting its incredible past), with rooms and apartments where to stay, restaurants, SPA, little shops, exhibition rooms with avant-garde exhibitions and amazing views where to see the sun rising or waiting for the dawn over the Valnerina.
A tip to have lunch: near the Postignano Castle, in the small town of Cerreto di Spoleto, you’ll have the chance to taste all sorts of versions of the local cuisine: season dishes, meat and river and lake seafood at Il Casaletto restaurant (and B&B).
The ideal way to end – or extend – your weekend on the Monti Sibillini.