Monte Soratte - la montagna piu` bella dal mondo!


My parents-in-law live in a hilltop paradise. I've already written a bit about it. Perched on the shoulder of Monte Soratte, Sant'Oreste is a great place to visit, full of festas, sagres, medieval streets and hidden-away bars and pizzerias. However, I'm not here to write about that. I want to write about the mountain itself, a narrow, isolated limestone ridge, peaking at 691m high, with a length of 5.5 km and six peaks. What's spectacular about it, is that it's completely on its own. The Sabine mountain range to its East, the coast visible to the West, it stands proudly above a fertile plain where both high-speed Freccia Rossa trains and the Tiber flow, at different speeds, south to Rome.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it's plonking right next to via flaminia, an ancient Roman road, there is a lot going on atop Monte Soratte. First and foremost, it's a nature reserve, cloaked in deciduous trees and steep ravines, it also is home to Meri, which are sinkholes or pits, that can be up to 115 metres deep. It pays to keep to the designated paths as these pits can be buried under fallen vegetation. As our neighbor in Sant'Oreste can attest to, Monte Soratte supports a large community of wild boar (which in turn support our neighbor...), and their tracks can often be seen when walking on the extensive paths around the mountain. There are a number of walks one can do on Monte Soratte (I think the official number is 11, although there are many more), which is great as it suits all abilities and moods. Many of the locals opt for jogging along the main route, a graveled road tracking around the mountain like a contour line, dotted with various outdoor gym equipment and seats. 

Alternatively, a route we like to do is a bit more strenuous, heading up the mountain itself to the various churches and indeed, a monastery (called the 'Hermitage of St. Sylvester'), which was founded by Pope Sylvester around 340 AD. According to legend, given credit by Dante whose lines are carved in the entry portal of the hermitage, Pope Silvester came here duting the persecutions by the Emperor Costantine who, upon conversion to Christianity, was baptised by Silvester himself. Allegedly, Charlemagne also visited the monastery on his way to Rome to be crowned Emperor. As with many things in Italy, it is built on top of a pagan temple purported to be to Apollo. The monastery houses 14th- and 15th-century frescoes. Another four hermitages are found on the ridge, including the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and another to Sant'Edistio. We often do a little tour of all of them as, on a clear day, the views are spectacular.

Monte Soratte is famous for something rather more modern than Apollo, Dante and Charlemagne. As of May this year, a number of underground tunnels are finally open to the public. Between 1937 and 1944, Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, ordered the excavation of over 4km of tunnels into Monte Soratte as an ammunition store. German troops under the command of General Field-Marshall Kesselring used the tunnels and bunkers as a hiding place for around 10 months, between 1943 and 1944, as the allies subjected the whole area to heavy bombing. After falling into disuse, the tunnels were re-employed in 1967 as, at the height of the Cold War, they were transformed into an anti-atomic bunker for the Italian Prime Minister, in the advent of a nuclear war.

The locals claim proudly that Monte Soratte is "la montagna piu` bella del mondo", the most beautiful mountain in the world, and while their opinion may be slightly biased, in terms of natural beauty, history and intrigue, I find it hard to disagree.



Photo credits:
Photo 1 - Monte Soratte from a distance
Photo 2 - View of the Tiber and the high-speed train line from Monte Soratte - lazioexplorer.com
Photo 3 - View of Sant'Oreste from Monte Soratte - lazioexplorer.com
Photo 4 - Bunker

4 comments:

  1. Your parents-in-law are some lucky individuals, to be living in this hilltop paradise, and you are lucky in turn to always have a place there. What a stunning vista, indeed! The first photo, of Monte Soratte from a distance, is absolutely breath-taking.

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  2. I agree it is very beautiful but of course we all think our little piece of Italy is the best. :)

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  3. Thanks for your comments guys! It's a beautiful place, but then, there are so many beautiful places in Italy. It's truly a charmed country.

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