Autumn is a perfect time for a short excursion to the mountains, before the snow arrives, and the lovely town of Amandola is only a 35 minute drive away. It is one of 18 municipalities located within the beautiful Monti Sibillini National Park.
During the drive there, you begin to see some of the solid massifs of this part of the Central Apennines as you travel through the pretty farmed countryside. Ten of them tower above 2,000 metres. Here you can see Mts Sibilla, Priora and Castel Manardo.
Nestled in a forested area just below these massifs, Amandola was founded in 1248, a fortified town which has seen plenty of battles. However, the most recent disaster to touch Amandola was the 2016 Central Italy earthquake, which damaged it quite heavily. There are 3,500 people now living here, still trying to adjust.
Famous for the precious white truffle, there is a festival in October called “Diamanti a Tavola” (‘Diamonds at the Table’). There are ski-fields nearby too for winter enthusiasts, as well as horse-riding and cycling excursions. However, many people just come to trek in the mountains. There is a 9-day trek, staying at ‘rifiugi’ (refuges) along the way, but you can do many shorter walks too. There are rivers, caves, canyons and gorges to explore. Keep an eye out for bears and wolves, birds of prey and the hundreds of mountain flowers, including many types of wild orchids. You’ll need boots and a stick.
Following the road along the way up to the start of your walk, you see how the heavily forested areas are basically untouched. The air now is crisp and pure, and once you get above the tree line, the views are stunning.
I have yet to do the 9-day Grande Anello trek, but I’d love to. ‘Maybe next time’, she says, ever optimistic. One day walking is my limit at the moment. Heading back down to town, I look forward to warm bath, a home-cooked meal and a comfy bed.
I am staying at a little hotel, run by a wonderful family who were hit hard by the last big earthquake. Their livelihood was destroyed, but after a hard decision and couple of years of restoration, they now run their own home as a boutique 5-bedroomed hotel. An historic building, originally owned by the Marchesa Ferranti, pretty ‘Villa delle Rose’ was built in 1920’s Liberty style and is set in lovely grounds. Oreste, the owner, is friendly and very helpful with great advice on what to do and see locally; his mother Enrica, a delightful 83-year old, does the cooking; Manuela, Oreste’s wife, takes care of the beautiful children as well as working in the hotel. Even Lily the dog is a treasure.
Villa delle Rose has a large rooftop terrace, where you see spectacular views of the Sibillini mountains, forged through ancient glacial periods. Although younger than the Alps, these mountains are still millions of years old. The balcony is also a wonderful place to sit and gaze at the starry night sky. The longer you look, the more you’ll see. Even better if you have downloaded a Night-Sky app on your phone.
After breakfast, a short trip onwards to explore the town of Sarnano, a little further into the park and a good place to stop for a caffe’, before heading back home. Or you could try the Sanctuary of Madonna Dell’Ambro, for a riverside picnic, the stunning Lame Rosse near Lake Fiastra, or perhaps the Gola dell’Infernaccio for another day of trekking. There really is plenty to do here.
The snows will come soon enough.