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Outside the city walls, the natural treasures of Cagli by Chas Davis


Trails wind through the mountains of Cagli


The trail markers

The three mountains of Cagli

At the top of the mountain, hikers are rewarded with a striking view


click to go sky diving



the wildflowers







Photography: Danielle Lizardos

Video: Jillian Strait

Web Design: Natalie Joseph





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 officials say.

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 breathtaking view.

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 and lodging.

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.






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