A side of Cagli sometimes overlooked lies just outside the
city gates. However, the miles of trails that wind their way
through the surrounding mountains have become a haven for
both tourists and training athletes in recent years, tourism
Running in every direction out from town, the rugged trails
carve their way around the three mountains that surround Cagli.
For those not satisfied with merely looking at the mountains
from town, they offer an exciting escape into the untamed
Italian wilderness. Those adventurous enough to explore are
most often hikers, cyclists, and wind sports enthusiasts,
whether in search of challenging training conditions or a
From Susa to Castellucho, the Sentiero Italia leads trekkers
through Cagli and on a unique tour of Italy. Painted on rocks
and trees, a white stripe in between two red bands, with the
letters “S.I.” stenciled in the white, keeps travelers
on course, whether it is simply up Monte Petrano or across
the peninsula. According to Monte Petrano resident Piero Tomassini,
Dutch and German hikers, as well as other occasional European
tourists, frequent the trail. However, local residents rarely
use the trail.
“Sometimes I wonder whether locals take their ideal
surroundings for granted, as I rarely see them hiking up here,”
said Tomassini. “I guess it is simply home to them,
though, they are so used to it.”
Jane Heath and her husband, James, both 54, from Cambridge,
England, began in Susa in May, passing through Cagli in June.
Both on sabbatical for two months, they set out simply wanting
to travel, although not as conventional tourists. More interested
in the journey than the destination, the Heaths stay wherever
they find themselves at night
“We heard about the S.I. from an Austrian friend who
had hiked it before, raving about it when she returned,”
said Heath. “For us it is more about the exploration,
the uncertainty of every day.”
If the Heaths came in search of relative isolation, they
chose the right path to follow. Unlike the well-trodden paths
over the Rocky Mountains of the United States and the Alps
of Switzerland, the Cagli stretch of the S.I. is not nearly
as accessible to the casual hiker.
“We haven’t seen any other people on the trail
for days … and we hardly ever see Italians,” said
Heath. “Our only human contact is usually down in the
small towns we find ourselves in.”
Nonetheless, the trail has not gone unnoticed by the well-traveled
hiker, and Cagli is situated at a key stop on the trail. The
Cagli Tourist Information Office (I.T.) encounters many weary
travelers as they find themselves in Cagli searching for food
Fredericca Ducci, a Tourist Information Office official,
says that despite the interest from Germans and Dutch, the
I.T. knows the trail’s appeal could be promoted.
“First we have to get the locals more active in their
surroundings, to spread the word past the few who know of
the S.I.’s existence,” Ducci said.
The Comunita Montana of Catria and Nerone, the forest service
of the surrounding area, is charged with the S.I.’s
maintenance. Officials of the Comunita Montana travel through
the trail once a month clearing out debris. They also make
sure the trail markers are visible. A far cry from the wide-open,
well-groomed trails of North America however, the challenging
terrain may leave some questioning whether the trail is maintained
at all. The surrounding foliage inevitably grows over, making
the trails difficult to navigate at times, enhancing the feeling
of adventure. The Cagliese wilderness is a welcome change
to those backpackers who feel more like they are on natural
highways in national parks.
Europe’s second most popular sport after futbol, according
to Walter Basili, four-time Amateur Acrometer Cycling Champion,
is cycling. For the determined trainer, the lure of inclines
and altitude is too much to pass up, and Cagli offers both.
Since the mid 1990s, cycling has become more popular in Cagli.
This was also before Basili’s success and before two
professional cyclists began training in the area. In 1997,
Basili opened the only bicycle shop in Cagli, Basili Sport,
and formed the Cyclist Sporting Group.
“For such a small town, cycling is extremely popular
in Cagli, and should continue to increase in popularity as
more people become aware of Cagli’s natural beauty and
training advantages,” Basili said.
Composed of both recreational and competitive riders, the
club has rapidly grown over the last few years, hosting cycling
outings as well as competitions. The more competitive cyclists
of the group regularly ride the mountain trails on weekends,
challenging the steep rocky terrain of the S.I. as well as
the paved roads that wind up Monte Petrano.
“Once Massi Rodolfo [of the Tour De France] and Giunti
[another professional riding the European circuit] began training
in the mountains around Cagli, people from all over Le Marche
came to train here as well,” said Basili. “We
see several German and American cyclists coming into the store
to rent mountain bikes or get trail directions.”
Basili says these tourists usually aren’t looking for
the harder trails around Cagli though, because many of the
paths lack anything resembling a gentle switchback; instead
they feature long, steep, rocky inclines.
Of all the mountains near Cagli, Monte Petrano is the main
attraction, perfect for hiking, cycling, and with its flat
windy summit, wind sports.
In 1995, Robert Magi, president of the Italian Association
for Kite Traction, or AIAT, began a school for wind sports
in nearby Urbino, taking locals as well as tourists up to
the top of Monte Petrano. In winter, snow boarders take advantage
of the windy plains to strap on a kite and ride across top,
while in the summer, they use three-wheeled, low-lying buggies
pulled by kites.
“Monte Petrano is well known by wind athletes all over
Europe and is the best place in Italy for its ideal setting
and conditions,” said Magi. “Now we just have
to generate more interest.”
Magi focuses on promoting wind sports to the younger generation
so that their popularity will grow.
“Hopefully in the next 10 years or so, people will
realize that we have one of the best places for wind sports
in our own backyard [Petrano] and can appreciate how fortunate
we are to have such an ideal setting for such an exciting
sport,” he said.
Click to top of page