From mount Cucco to Colfiorito: Gualdo Tadino range, mount san Vicino, mount Pennino
1. From mount Cucco to Colfiorito: Gualdo Tadino range, mount san Vicino, mount Pennino: introduction
The road passes of Fossato di Vico and Colfiorito are the north and south limits of this part of the Apennine divide ridge. You can rather easily locate this territory in the polygon included within the lines joining Falconara / Fossato di Vico / Perugia / Foligno / Colfiorito / Civitanova Marche. On the Adriatic coast, you will see that this area includes mount Conero, a well renown hiking area that I do not deal with in this exposition; I will try to do this soon, either in this chapter or in a overview on the hiking possibilities along the Adriatic coast. This is again a territory full off historical and artistic attractives, starting from the two main cities at its W and E borders, Perugia and Ancona, then Assisi, Loreto and all the other centres scattered along the hills of the Marche region, which simple mention here would be quite an unuseful exercise.
The morphology of the Adriatic side is not a lot different from the one of the more northern part, with the rivers flowing more or less parallel, in a SO-NE direction. The characteristic landscape morphology does not substantially change also on the Umbria region side: flat internal basins and valleys running partly parallel to the main ridge, and separated each other by small ridges, then joining at different points to reach the river Tevere valley. The main valley of this part is Valtopina, with the inner basin of Gualdo Tadino at its upper end and the Foligno plain at its lower side. On the south side the mount Subasio dome, with Assisi, lays between the Topino and Chiascio rivers valleys. An evident landscape feature was already visible in the more northern part, especially on the Marche region side, and here becomes much more frequent: this is represented by the karst plateaux, laying both in the lower parts of the valleys or as highland plains, among the mountain tops. The largest, and better know is the mighty Colfiorito plateau, but there are several of them, of different size, often representing secluded and solitary environments, one of the fascinating attractions of these areas. A simple trip crossing these valleys and villages is a somewhat hidden experience, but that will leave you in peace with satisfaction.
Driving inland from Falconara, through Iesi, towards Fabriano, the road passes by Frasassi, the second big touristic gorge of this part of the Apennine. Just after it, the road reaches the ridge, heading south from the Fossato di Vico pass, rising up to the Gualdo Tadino range. I use this name since the main tops can be reached, with rather long hikes indeed, just from the city of Gualdo Tadino, an interesting historical destination by itself. Also the road penetrating the core of this range, up to the Valsorda plateau, starts from Gualdo Tadino. These mountains are rather popular among hikers, with rather rocky sides and mostly grassy and rounded tops. Walking there means alternating rocky gorges in the lower parts, birch forests, ample grassy meadows with watering places here called “troscie” (trocchi on the Marche side). The three main tops, mount Maggio, mount Serra Santa and mount Penna, are different and panoramic, with views allowing to add a piece of geographic information to your knowledge of the places. Beyond mount Penna, the ridge loses height, heading south, wide and grassy, to mount Pennino, already in view of the Sibillini chain. It is possible to climb up to the Gualdo Tadino range also from the mountain hamlets of the Fabriano side, also in this case with respectable quote differences.
At the southern end of this chain, the ridge rises again to the mount Pennino group, ending at the Colfiorito plateau. Pennino is quite a huge mountain, most impressive when see from its east side. It is indeed a double-sided mountain, may be triple sided. The side facing the Marche region is steep and solitary, and can be approached frpom the tiny hamlet of Laverinello or from the Cornello pass. But if you decide to startbyour hike from the valley bottom of Sefro, here again another opportunity to test yourself with a long hike, on poorly marked or not marked paths, where you will have good chances to be alone. In this area, also mounts Vermenone, Linguaro and Igno represent good opportunities for hikes giving good ideas of these environments of limestone tops and highland plateaux. On its west side, Pennino is instead a massive forested mountain, cut to its top by a gravel road. Going up to the point where it is possible (a gate is sometimes closed) the top is very accessible. Finally, on the side of the Cofliorito plateau, it is possible to hike to Pennino via mount Acuto, with a quite long walk. Pennino is a balcony on the Sibillini range, here really at short distance. Contrary to what you could read somewhere, you do not see the Colfiorito plateau from Pennino’s top: for this you have to move to some of the nearby tops.
On the Marche region side of this area there are many other mountain groups that, like the ones around mount Pennino, well reproduce the essential traits of this area’s landscape and are possible hiking targets. The more relevant one is mount san Vicino, emerging rather isolated from the surrounding tops, towards the hilly belt; it is well recognisable because of its pyramid shape, from all points of view, down to the Adriatic coast. In the better tradition of these areas, mount’s San Vicino top is almost completely circled by roads and tracks, crossing the plateaux at the bottom of the terminal cone. However, since the top is very steep, even the circuit to the top itself starting from pian dell’Elmo plateau and returning from piano di San Vicino plateau is a not trivial hike, beside being very panoramic. Also here you have however possibilities to start much farther, according to your organisation. The more “epic” approach to San Vicino is perhaps starting from Albacina, passing through the Acquarella hermitage and the colle Ferretto plateau; but also a start from Poggio S. Romualdo or Elcito, allows to hike long ways across evocative and somewhat lonely environments.
To end, mount Subasio raises between Assisi and Spello, on the Umbria region side. It is covered with a Mediterranean type holm oak forest and hosts, as usual, a famous hermitage. A road goes all the length on its ridge. However, hiking possibilities do not lack, of diffrent length. For sure, it will be difficult to completely avoid walking on some road. But, in any case, it will not be high mountain, but you may build also here quite long walks, starting from Assisi, or Spello or the Valtopina side.