Archive for the Walking Category

Pian di Marte Walk 2016

In early June 2016 I took a couple of friends on the Pian di Marte Walk, a route from my book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border, available as a Kindle download from Amazon. It’s a fairly long walk and took us over 4 hours, so it’s not a route if you are planning a quick stroll. It starts with a tough climb from the valley floor up to ridges with views of Lake Trasimeno followed by a descent through thickly wooded hillsides.

If you ever bought the original hard copy of the book you may recognise the Torre di Fiume which featured on the cover photo. A decade later, the tower is almost fully restored and makes for a very fancy residence. We finished just in time, no sooner had we arrived back home than we heard the ominous rumble of thunder.

Rocca Di Pierle Walk 2016

At the beginning of June 2016 I took some friends on a couple of walks from my book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border (available for download from Amazon). The Rocca di Pierle Walk starts in the hamlet of Pierle which is built around an old castle, the Rocca di Pierle. The route climbs steeply up tracks through thickly wooded hillside, partially following an old Roman road. Once you emerge on the ridge at the top there are splendid views to either side. As you climb along the ridge to the highest point, Monte Ginezzo, there are views in every direction and you can see a large part of Lake Trasimeno, particularly if you climb the wooden  tower use as a fire look out point in the dry summer months. The route descends through more chestnut and oak forest and returns to Pierle along a gravel track. It takes about 3 hours and is a tough walk so don’t attempt it if you are very unfit!

A Panoramic View From Monte Ginezzo On The Rocca di Pierle Walk With Lake Trasimeno In The Distance.

Monte Tezio Walk

Monte Tezio is a mountain just to the north of Perugia, the top of the mountain is very wide and rounded, once you are at the top it is relatively easy and you can enjoy views from several places.

Walking on Monte Tezio in Umbria

Walking on Monte Tezio in Umbria

You can find instructions for a hike up Monte Tezio in my walking guide book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border (available as an e-book for the Kindle). The walk is relatively short but, if you take children, it will take longer (around three hours rather than two). We set off early on a summer morning in July to avoid the heat of the day. The walk involves a hard climb through woods at the start but after about twenty minutes you emerge from the tree line onto the pasture at the top of the mountain. From here the gradient eases off and it’s a relatively short walk to the summit marked with a short stone post.

On the summit of Monte Tezio in Umbria

On the summit of Monte Tezio

A short distance to the south and, still part of the mountain, is a lower summit known as Monte Tezino, this is made obvious by a cluster of communication antennae. From up on the summit of Monte Tezio there are marvelous views in every direction, you can see Lake Trasimeno to the west, the Apennines to the east and the centre of Perugia to the south. It was going to be a hot day but up here there was still a beautiful cool breeze.

The Nevicata, an old snow store, on Monte Tezio

The Nevicata on Monte Tezio

The next point of interest on the route is the Nevicata, a circular stone structure that was used to store compacted snow in the winter. Straw was used to insulate the snow and stop it melting, it  gradually turned into ice and provided Perugia with a supply well into to summer. The blocks of ice were transported by mules to the city below.

A view from Monte Tezio

A view from Monte Tezio

The route continues across the top of Monte Tezio to Croce della Pieve, a large iron cross at the northern end of the mountain. Nearby you have to find the route down, a narrow path with a easy gradient that cuts diagonally back along the side of the mountain to the start.

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Gubbio, Madonna della Cima Walk

The Madonna della Cima walk takes 4-5 hours and is in the hills behind the Umbrian town of Gubbio. The walk starts and ends in the Umbrian town of Gubbio.

The medieval town hall in Gubbio, Umbria

The medieval town hall in Gubbio, Umbria

After walking through the medieval town centre you use the funivia to get to the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, a church near the top of Monte Ingino where the body of the town’s patron saint is kept in a glass coffin. The funivia is a cross between a ski lift and a cable car – you have to scramble in and out of a moving metal cage. This may seem like cheating, but you have a long walk ahead of you and by the end of the walk I guarantee you’ll be pleased that you didn’t climb up. Right at the top of Monte Ingino is an old watch tower with marvelous views and you can also see much of the route from up here. The route follows tracks and narrow paths and, as you cross the road between Gubbio and Scheggia you pass the Madonna della Cima, a small shrine marking the highest point on the road. You can find instructions for this route in my e-book, Circular Walks on the Tuscany Umbria Border by Martin Daykin on the Amazon website.

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Etruscan Tomb Long Walk

These photos are from my Etruscan Tomb Long Walk, a route from my ebook, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border. This walk generally takes around four hours and takes in two abandoned castles, an abandoned villa, the Etruscan tomb and numerous views across the Umbrian landscape.

The stone entrance door to an Etruscan tomb

The Tomba del Faggeto.

In spring you will be treated to beautiful wildflower displays including several varieties of orchid. The photos show lizard orchids, apparently they are very rare in the UK but relatively common here in the countryside of the Tuscany Umbria border. The focal point of the walk is the Tomba del Faggeto, a tomb hidden in the woods high on a hillside, the entrance to the tomb is a huge stone door that still opens and closes, clearly, whoever commissioned this tomb was of considerable importance. The tomb is at the highest point on the walk and makes a good spot for a shady picnic.

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A Walk On Monte Ginezzo Near Cortona

These are images taken on my Monte Ginezzo walk, a hike in the hills near Cortona. This is another route from my walking guide book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border, now available from Amazon in its third edition as an ebook. The route starts at Passo della Cerventosa, beyond the hamlet of Portole located high in the hills behind Cortona. As you climb along the ridge towards the highest point of Monte Ginezzo, there are magnificent views to the Appenine mountains in the east and Lake Trasimeno to the south. To the west you look down across the broad expanse of the Val di Chiana, a wide plain below Cortona, and beyond to Montepulciano and the extinct volcano of Monte Amiata. This is a reasonably short walk, taking around two hours, so it is suitable for children and, if you set off early enough, you can get to Cortona afterwards before the shops shut for lunch.

View on the Monte Ginezzo Walk

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A Walk Around Cortona

Cortona is a Tuscan hill town high above the broad Val di Chiana, since the 1990′s it has been put firmly on the tourist trail by the popularity of Francis Mayes’ book about living in the town; Under The Tuscan Sun. Despite the popularity of Cortona with visitors, it doesn’t take long to escape the crowds if you head up some of the steep medieval streets. You can find instructions for this walk around Cortona is in my self published book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border (available for the Kindle or any electronic device that has a Kindle App).

It was a beautiful day and perfect weather, so once we had stopped for a superb birthday meal at Trattoria Dardarno we decided to walk off the calories on my two hour walk. We started in the Piazza Repubblica, the piazza has Cortona’s medieval town hall which dates back to days when the town held its own as a city state. For a small town like Cortona this independent state of affairs was never going to last and it was eventually swallowed up by the Medici Dukes of Tuscany and ruled from Florence. The route of the walk took us along Cortona’s flattest street, via Nazionale, and out along the tree lined avenue used by many of Cortona’s residents for a stroll. Once at the tennis club at the end of the avenue the route starts a long and reasonably shallow climb towards the hamlet of Torreone, high above Cortona.

Along the way, the views become more magnificent and about two thirds of the way up we passed Bramasole, Francis Mayes’ original house. Once at the hamlet of Torreone, we turned back towards Cortona walking along a cypress lined gravel path. Of course, there were more  wonderful views along the way!

Once back inside the town walls we were in a broad piazza in front of the church of Santa Margherita, the town’s patron saint. Built in the 1800′s, the church has a Romanesque facade that dominates the piazza. Inside you will find the body of Santa Margherita in a class coffin. and a high ceiling supported by striped marble columns, inspired by the different coloured stripes used in many of the great medieval cathedrals of central Italy (Siena and Orvieto spring to mind). The ceiling is decorated with stars on a blue background, you will find find this type of decoration on the ceiling of the upper Basilica in Assisi and many other medieval churches.

A quick stroll up to the Medici fortress took us to the highest point on the walk and more  views to Lake Trasimeno, the Val di Chiana and beyond. The Medici Fortress is sited on the same spot as the Etruscan acropolis, clearly its elevated position is the perfect spot to defend. Soon, we were descending through Cortona’s steep medieval streets, there were photo opportunities at every corner. Via Berretini, named after Pietro Berretini, who was also known as Pietro da Cortona, the architect, heads straight down the hillside towards the centre of Cortona.

at the bottom of via Berrtini is the church of San Francesco, this was the first Franciscan church to be built outside of Assisi. Most Franciscan churches in Italy are quite large and barn shaped to accommodate the huge congregations that the movement attracted. Soon, we were back in the Piazza della Repubblica and ready to head for home.

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Walking Holidays In Tuscany & Umbria 2014

In October 2014 Gorgacce Rentals is offering guided walking holidays on the Tuscany Umbria border, Italy. As our guest on this holiday, you will stay at Ca di Bracco, a beautiful farmhouse in the  Niccone Valley. The itinerary of walks is designed and led by by Martin Daykin, the owner of Ca di Bracco and author of local walking book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border. In addition to walking in beautiful countryside, the itinerary is designed so that  you visit local towns, markets and artworks, it also includes a visit to a local winery. The cost of the holiday is £890 per person with a single supplement of £100. There is a maximum group size of eight people.

A view on the Monte Ginezzo walk near Cortona, Tuscany

A view on the Monte Ginezzo walk near Cortona, Tuscany

Itinerary of Walks

Day 1. Friday Oct 3, Arrival:  Pickup from Perugia airport or Terontola di Cortona station

Day 2. Saturday Oct 4, Monte Ginezzo & Cortona WalkA short ridge walk on Monte Ginezzo taking in views of the Appenines and Lake Trasimeno. Afterwards, a visit to the Saturday market in Cortona. After a restaurant lunch, the Cortona City Walk, and, if there is time and willingness, a visit to the Etruscan museum MAEC and the Museo Diocesano to see a famous Fra Angelico Annunciation. Restaurant Lunch

Day 3. Sunday Oct 5, The Leaning Tower of Vernazzano: a relatively easy three hour walk on the north shore of Lake Trasimeno. The route takes in the impressively leaning castle tower at Venazzano. Afterwards a boat trip to the Isola Maggiore for a restaurant lunch on the island. Before catching the ferry back  there is usually time for a quick stroll around the island. Restaurant Lunch

Day 4. Monday Oct 6th, A Pregnant Madonna and the abandoned village of Marzano. The day starts with a visit to see Piero della Francesca’s pregnant Madonna in the village of Monterchi. After coffee in the main piazza we head off to the start of the Marzano Walk. The route takes you through chestnut groves and up onto high ridges with marvelous views before passing the abandoned village of Marzano.  In the evening there is a tour of a local winery followed by dinner and wine tasting in the attached restaurant. Picnic Lunch

Day 5. Tuesday Oct 7th, Perugia City Walk. A visit to the city of Perugia. The walk around the city takes in many of the sights including a Perugino’s frescoes in the Collegio del Cambio, the main Piazza Novembre IV, two Etruscan gates, an Etruscan well, the Underground City, an unfinished early Raphael fresco, a medieval aqueduct and visit to the National Gallery of Umbria. Restaurant Lunch

Day 6. Wednesday Oct 8th, Umbertide Market and the Montone Walk. The day starts with a visit to Umbertide Market where we can stock up on supplies for our picnic lunch. Afterwards we head to nearby Montone, a beautiful hill top village for the start of a beautiful walk through wild countryside. Picnic Lunch

Day 7. Thursday Oct 9th, Gubbio Walk. A quick visit to the medieval town of Gubbio, afterwards, we take a cable car ride to the top of Monte Ingino for the start of the Madonna della Cima walk in the countryside behind Gubbio. Picnic Lunch

Day 8. Friday Oct 10th Departure. Drop off at Terontola station or Perugia airport

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Monte Acuto Walk

The first day of 2014 was bright and sunny – a perfect winter day for a walk up Monte Acuto, a mountain near our house on the Tuscany Umbria border. Monte Acuto’s distinctive pointed shape is responsible for the mountain’s name; it’s height and shape make it visible from miles around and many people must have thought about walking to the summit, even if they didn’t put their thoughts into action.

The view from Monte Acuto towards Monte Tezio

The view from Monte Acuto towards Monte Tezio

The urge to climb this mountain is not new, the Etruscans built a temple at the top and prehistoric people built a fort about half way up. Unlike the modern visitor who climbs Monte Acuto in order to enjoy spectacular views, the Etruscans were probably more interested in sun and deity worship and the prehistoric people in the defensive position of their fort.

View from the site of the Etruscan temple on Monte Acuto, Umbria

View from the site of the Etruscan temple on Monte Acuto

The walk starts with a stiff climb through a planted pine forest pine forest. After about 20 minutes, just as the pines give way to oak trees, you come across the remains of the prehistoric fort. From here you get the first good views onto the Upper Tiber Valley and the Appenine mountains. I could pick out Migianella, the Sant’Anna Antennae, Umbertide and several castles including Polgeto, which we had driven past on the way to the start of the walk.

Polgeto castle viewed from the prehistoric fort on Monte Acuto

Polgeto castle viewed from the prehistoric fort on Monte Acuto

As we climbed from the hill fort the oaks became thinner and the trees petered out after a few minutes. The path became narrower and eventually undefined – other than the occasional red and white marker. At this point it doesn’t really matter, it is obvious that if you want to get to the top you have to keep climbing!

Near the summit of Monte Acuto

Near the summit of Monte Acuto

Eventually we reached the summit, because it is still the Christmas period the large metal cross at the summit had blue neon lights attached. I had always imagined that they were turned off in the day, but, now that we were up close I could see they were on. The effect gave an impression of a piece of modern installation art that you might come across in a Sculpture Garden.

Blue neon lights attached to the cross at the top of Monte Acuto

Blue neon lights at the top of Monte Acuto

The cross was erected by the people of Umbertide in 1933 to remember the soldiers killed in the First World War. From here the hills to the south became visible including nearby Monte Tezio and Monte Subasio behind Assisi. In the distance were the snow capped Appenines and, for the first time in several walks to the top of Monte Acuto, I could clearly see the town of Gubbio to the east. It was surprisingly still up on the summit although noticeably cooler, especially as we stopped for several minutes to admire the view.

The town of Gubbio seen from the summit of Monte Acuto

The town of Gubbio seen from the summit of Monte Acuto

Then we began the long descent down the other side the mountain, strangely, we came across a couple of butterflies that must have been fooled into waking up early by the sunshine. Once at the bottom of the descent, the route goes around the side of the mountain back towards the starting point.

The ruined church of the Madonna della Costa on Monte Acuto

The ruined church of the Madonna della Costa

Deep in the woods along the path you pass the ruined church of the Madonna della Costa. At first you wonder who would have used the church, but a few minutes further on you pass  several houses. In the alcove at the back of the church there used to be a large wooden statue, the Madonna della Costa (Madonna of the Slope). This statue had been there since around the year 1200., as the hillside community abandoned the houses in the 1950’s and 60’s, the church fell into disrepair and the Madonna was moved to Perugia.

A restored house on the route of my Monte Acuto walk

A restored house on the route of my Monte Acuto walk

The first two houses along the track have been restored but there are also several overgrown ruins further along. Across the ravine to the left we could see the ruined castle of Monestevole, normally, it’s hard to see as it is overgrown by trees, however, without their foliage the shape of the castle was clearly visible.

The ruins of Monestevole castle

The ruins of Monestevole castle

From here, it’s not far to the starting point and back the end of the walk. You can find instructions for the Monte Acuto walk in my e-book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border (by Martin Daykin), available for download from Amazon.

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The Battle Of Lake Trasimeno

Lake Trasimeno is entirely within the Italian region of Umbria but, in places, the Tuscan border runs very close to the northern and western shores. There was intense fighting in World War II near the Lake as allied forces pushed the Germans back from what was known as the Trasimeno Line. However, when people talk about the Battle of Lake Trasimeno they are referring to fighting which took place 2200 years ago and had a higher death toll.

Map of the Battle of Lake Trasimeno on a wall in Tuoro

Map of the Battle on a wall in Tuoro

The Battle of Lake Trasimeno took place on the northern shore of the Lake in 217 BC. It was one of the bloodiest battles (and worst defeats for the Romans) of the second Punic War. The Punic Wars were fought between the Mediterranean super- powers of Rome and Carthage (a city on the coast of what is now Tunisia); they ultimately led to the destruction of Carthage and the dominance of Rome. Carthage was a city founded by the Phoenicians, a people who traded widely around the Mediterranean and who originated from the Middle East.

The flat ground where most of the fighting took place

The flat ground where most of the fighting took place

The Carthaginian general at Lake Trasimeno was Hannibal. The unorthodox military tactics used by Hannibal led to a series of defeats for the Romans; he came very close to halting the rise of their empire. The capture of Rome seemed a likely prospect after Trasimeno; if the non-Roman tribes had joined him in his campaign it could easily have happened. Memories of Hannibal’s campaign were still fresh in the minds of the Romans six decades later when the Senate voted to completely destroy Carthage in what would become known as the 3rd Punic War.

After crossing the Alps, and having won a resounding victory at Trebbia (near Piacenza), Hannibal’s army was marching towards Rome. Hannibal was deliberately laying waste to the countryside and towns that he captured. This tactic was intended to provoke the Romans into a hasty, ill-considered attack. The Roman Commander, Caius Flaminius (Caio Flaminio), was advancing south down the Val di Chiana from Arezzo. He thought he was well behind the enemy army and was probably hoping to meet up with reinforcements south of Perugia before facing Hannibal in battle.

A Legionnaire at Trasimeno

A Legionnaire at Trasimeno

Hannibal had in fact deployed his army in the hills above Sanguineto, just to the north west of Tuoro. From here he could watch and surprise the advancing Roman army. At dawn of 24 June 217 BC, the Romans were advancing into the ambush. During the night, some of Hannibal’s men had lit fires on the hill near Castel Rigone to give the impression that they were still half a day’s march away.

To the right of the marching Romans was the swampy shore of the Lake. The water level was higher than today, roughly equivalent to the route of the road between Tuoro and Terontola. To their left were the slopes hiding Hannibal’s army. This carefully chosen topography meant that once the Roman army had entered the narrow gap between the Lake and hills (now called Malpasso), there was no escape. To make matters worse, fog blanketed the lake and lower ground, further obscuring the Carthiginians’ presence from the Romans. Without warning, Hannibal attacked the marching Roman columns. They did not have time to organise into battle formation and, for the Romans; it rapidly became a case of every man for himself. 15,000 Romans were killed for the loss of 1,500 men in Hannibal’s army.

Gaulish cavalry fightng at Trasimeno

Gaulish cavalry fightng at Trasimeno

It seems likely that several place names in the area have origins resulting from the Battle. Sanguineto, (the place of blood), Ossaia (the place of bones), Sepoltaglia, (the place of tombs), Malpasso (bad pass) and Pian di Marte (Plain of Mars, the Roman God of War). Others claim that Marte is a corruption of martire, Italian for martyr, and refers to the Roman prisoners who were executed there.

For the next two years, the Romans avoided meeting Hannibal in open battle. When they tried again at Cannae in southern Italy (215 BC), they lost 70,000 men out of an army of 80,000 deployed against a force of around 45,000 on Hannibal’s side. In a battle still studied by military tacticians, Hannibal deployed his heavy Gaulish infantry in a thin convex curve. As the Roman infantry attacked, the curve gradually fell back into a concave shape. Hannibal had held his elite African troops in reserve and they now attacked the Roman flanks. The Romans found themselves surrounded on three sides and unable to use their greater numbers to their advantage. Meanwhile, the superior Carthaginian cavalry chased the Roman cavalry from the battlefield and then attacked the infantry from behind.

Once again, Hannibal failed to take Rome after the battle and gradually the Romans learned to copy his tactics. He was defeated in Africa 13 years later (202 BC) by the Roman general Scipio Africanus, who had been one of the few to escape from Cannae. Instead of fulfilling his dream of destroying Rome, Hannibal had inadvertenly taught them the military tactics that helped them to create their empire.

You can follow a Battle of Lake Trasimeno walk in my book Circular Walks on the Tuscany Umbria border. The walk starts and ends in Tuoro sul Trasimeno and takes you on paths high above the battle ground before crossing the flat ground where the majority of the fighting took place.

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