At one
with the landscape

The great outdoors,
nourishment for the senses

Descending upon the landscape that lies between the seas of Le Marche and of Tuscia is not just a physical experience. In the same setting you can encounter both the untamed and history, you can bare your body and your soul, your muscles and your senses. Hiking among the ancient oaks, or befriending horses, even donkeys, brings us closer to the old ways of the wayfarer.

Thermal waters help to relieve tiredness, but they can also mean exploration and challenge, such as rowing in the gully of a river. Rock has become a human element. It has protected villages and is now a training-ground for courage and harmony. You progress from the fear you feel upon a rope bridge to navigating with open sails in the shade of the mountains, then you mount your bike and descend the mountain at breakneck speed amongst the beech trees.

Travelers face many challenges, they descend upon the Etruscan mysteries, they dive into rivers among the basalt canyons, they watch birds of prey flying over Roman bridges.

“Here I see lots of people walking around looking for something or someplace, looking for the landscapes, which are the main artwork around here.”

Giuliano Giuliani


The tightrope walkers’ thicket

Ripatransone, Le Marche

They call it the Monks’ Thicket because it is found in a wood of centuries-old oak trees that belongs to a Benedictine monastery in the medieval town of Ripatransone, a wonderful example of heritage conservation in Le Marche. But more than mysticism, this thicket is full of enjoyment and adrenaline: there are approximately ten aerial trails that soar through the treetops on steel ropes, suspension bridges, zip lines, ladders, nets and pulleys, creating a network of itineraries of varying heights and levels of difficulty, which can be safely accessed from five years of age and upwards.

A sense of balance is needed to walk on these tightropes among the trees, but what you most need to do is to believe in yourself and desire to surpass your own limits. When you are tired, you can rest on the platforms suspended among the branches and admire the old walls of Ripatransone before moving on to the next challenge.

To spend the afternoon in close contact with nature, climbing oaks and feeling as free as Calvino’s Baron in the Trees, is a regenerating experience.

The vertical dance

Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche

The water factory

Crognaleto, Abruzzo

Adrenaline in faggeta

Prati di Tivo, Abruzzo

On the donkey’s back

Norcia, Umbria

The leader of our rope team is named Mozart, and he is an extremely intelligent donkey indeed, fully aware of his job to take us on a journey to discover the Sibillini Mountains, one that starts at the plain of Norcia and continues up along the ancient nomad trails. Our guide is Roberto Canali, and he and a group of friends set up the oldest, therefore most futuristic, outdoor activity: hiking on mules and donkeys.

It is a genius way to explore the magnificent Umbrian countryside, unintrusively, on a donkey’s back. You also have less of a load to carry as these comforting travel companions carry our backpacks too. Mozart stops every so often when he sees some herbs or plants that he thinks could be of interest to him and his friends. Roberto explains how the excursion works, especially for families with children, so they can best manage their travel. Fortunately, these patient animals are always ready to welcome children onto their saddles, and most kids get a real kick out of it. The rope team expeditions rely on a network of agreements among mountain hut owners, river and rafting experts, professional climbers, and, on animals.

The group climbs slowly upwards, meeting various locals along the way: someone producing jam and honey can make for an ideal snack, or a mountain cottage where you can taste cheese and ricotta that are still warm. Woods, old towns, Romanesque churches and grazing flocks are all a feast for the eyes.

Grand tour waterfalls

Cascata delle Marmore, Umbria

The Pilgrims’ Spa

Viterbo, Lazio

We are almost at the end of our itinerary, and have traveled like water diviners, following the water’s path; we stop to rest in the thermal baths found in the Viterbo area. At the natural hot springs of Bagnaccio, in the open countryside between the road to Martana and the road to Castiglione, pilgrims of Via Francigena keep us company. They lay down their backpacks and walking sticks to soak with us in the well-cared-for baths and speak about the land, their thoughts and the people they have encountered. The atmosphere of this place is relaxing, the sulphurous steam blends with the stories and the scent of the exotic plants that thrive here due to the nearly tropical microclimate.

These open-air spas, a regenerating and affordable experience, are found all over near Tuscia. The Terme del Bullicame host two natural pools where the water is channeled with some force directly from the spring, which lies only a few meters away. The white mud at the bottom of the smaller, warmer pool is used to massage and exfoliate the skin, “a miraculous cure for scars”, according to the regulars.

They say that the Carletti pools, three kilometers from Viterbo, are famed for nocturnal baths, especially when it is cold as the waters reach up to 58 degrees Celsius. Obviously there is no shortage of quality establishments suitable for traditional tourism at the thermal baths, but that’s a different story.

Archeo-trekking in Tuscia

Vulci, Lazio