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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hiking the Alban Hills from Rocca di Papa: Monte Cavo, Monti delle Faete, Colle Lano

A view from late in the hike: Rocca di Papa's cemetery in the foreground, ancient Tuscolo on the ridge behind
RST goes hiking in Rome's environs regularly, using our scooter.  We don't usually report on these expeditions because the trailheads can be difficult to access or locate without a scooter or automobile.
But yesterday, on the May 1 holiday, we found a lovely loop trail--you end where you began--that's reasonably accessible.  The trail begins and ends at Rocca di Papa in the Alban Hills. It more or less follows, counterclockwise, the rim of an ancient volcano, with a populated plain at its center, skirting the summits of Monte di Cavo, Monti delle Faete, and Colle Lano.  Although the area was logged, the new growth--now perhaps 20 years old--provides pleasant greenery and cover.

The map at the end of this post encompasses the itinerary.  Monte Cavo is at left, Monti delle Faete at lower right, Colle Lano upper right.  The red star covers the descent from Colle Lano.

Bring: lunch, 2 or 2 1/2 small bottles of water per person.  Wear: clothing for the season, and hiking boots (no sneakers).  Hats, hiking pole, sunscreen recommended.  We found a few bugs but none irritating.

Time and distance: takes about 4 hours (about 8 miles [12 km]), more if you're slow or stop often. Dislivello (total vertical): c. 1600 feet.  That's not insignificant, and two sections of the trail are steep enough to make hearts pound; so if you're without hiking experience, think twice.  It's likely you'll be on your own for most of this hike, especially after Monte Cavo.

Transportation: car, scooter, or take Metro A to the end (Anagnina), and at the big Cotral terminal, catch a bus for Rocca di Papa.  It makes numerous stops, including several in Grottaferatta and several in Rocca di Papa before reaching your destination, Piazza della Repubblica.  You'll need a Cotral ticket before you board the bus.  You should buy a round-trip or day pass.  The trip takes about 40 minutes once you catch the bus at the end of the Metro line (Anagnina to Rocca di Papa).  Our research indicates that the last bus out of Rocca di Papa for Rome leaves at 5:20 pm, and that it may depart from via Ariccia.

Note the image of the rocca on the fountain and high above,
remains of the actual castle

The hike begins at the main piazza of Rocca di Papa--Piazza della Repubblica-- below the old, medieval part of the city.  "Rocca" refers to the large castle at top of the town, once occupied by 12th-century Pope Eugenio III and the site of several scientific experiments by Guglielmo Marconi. The fine fountain in the center of the square bears the image of the tower.

May 1.  Big card game in front of the Caffe' Europa. The
Malaguti in foreground. 
Park here and, after a coffee at Caffe' Europa,  proceed uphill on the road that leads to the right at the upper end of the piazza.  Follow this road (be careful, the sidewalks, such as they are, are narrow and the traffic moves rapidly) for about 2 kilometers (1+ miles).

Magnificent house, on the road

At the gas station, keep right.  Once past a church on the left, look for a road up to Monte Cavo on the left--it's about two hundreds yards ahead.  Go up that road for ten minutes, more or less. Watch on the left for a path with a chain across it, marked by a large arrow pointing right.

On the via Sacra, walking where Romans walked

Take this trail up--it's steep but quite direct--and it will eventually spill you out on the via Sacra, a ceremonial stone road held dear by pagan Romans and then Christians.

Dianne, amid Monte Cavo's cell towers; a far cry from the Temple
to Diana that once stood here
You'll pass a shrine and come to a lookout with great views of Lago Albano and Lago di Nemi (the smaller one) and, beyond the lakes, the Agro Pontino and the sea.  Continue on the road and poke around among the towers at the top, once the site of a restaurant.

Here at the top of Monte Cavo you've completed about 1,000 feet of the 1600 total dislivello.

Retrace your steps to the asphalt parking lot/road.  Follow the asphalt road as it curves several times, then becomes straighter as it heads roughly southeast.

Nice woods between Monte Cavo and Monti delle Faete
After about 10/15 minutes on the road, be on the lookout for the entrance to a trail on the left (shortly after a road, on the left, with a sign noting that the road is for military access).

 You should see a sign giving time estimates to Monti Delle Faete (.55 hours, or about 30 plus minutes), and beyond that, to Colle Lano (another 50 minutes).

Take this well-used and red-and-white blazed trail east, along and about the ridge between Monte Cavo and our next destination, Monti delle Faete (more cell towers).  Enjoy the woods as you go.

The top of Monte delle Faete is enclosed with high fences, but along the fence to the left there is a place to eat and enjoy the views of the Campi di Annibale, where Hannibal is rumored to have quartered his troops during a futile effort to conquer Rome.

Shrine on the trail.  Avoid the trail that goes off to the
left (on this photo) here.

Retrace your steps a few meters and pick up the trail to Colle Lano.  It goes off left and a bit south (if we recall correctly) before rounding Monti delle Faete and  heading north/northeast, steeply downhill.  As your descent (about 800 feet) ends, you'll come upon a small, yellow-painted shrine and, to its right, a trail--don't take it.  Stay on the road here.

Follow the path with this kind of
Just ahead there's a junction of several roads/paths.  Take the road to the right, characterized by
low pole fencing along its sides.  As you wind your way uphill (about 400 feet of ascent), follow the signs for the lookout (Colle Lano).  At some point you'll come to a major fork: take the left--and steeply uphill--branch here.

Monti delle Faete--that tuft of uncut trees--as seen from Colle Lano

As you approach the top there's what looks to be an almost cultivated field of (in early May) flowers.  There's no great place to eat here, but the views--of Monti delle Faete on the left/east, Monte Cavo on the right), are worthy.

Weird space

When you leave Colle Lano, continue on the road you came on, now going downhill and west and perhaps a bit north.  Rocca di Papa isn't far.  About 10 minutes out, you'll face a choice between a seldom-used trail/road straight ahead and a more traveled path to the left that descends sharply downhill, initially to the south. Take the path left, downhill.  You'll go through a weird space with broken down cars, a house, and something resembling a jungle gym.  Go through that space and take the more traveled path out of it, the one on the right.

Built 1935,  Likelyonce HQ for local

That path will turn into a road, and that road will lead you into Rocca di Papa.

 Follow this road past a church with a huge white facade (on the right), around left and downhill (don't go up)
through the medieval section, past a school and ex-Fascist headquarters (marked 1935) on the left and, just ahead, the piazza where your journey began.

The view--of Monte Cavo--from Bar Centrale

Have a beer on the patio of the Bar Centrale (on your right) and enjoy the view of Monte Cavo. Love those towers.


1 comment:

Marco said...

Hi! Enjoyed your excursion on the Alban hills; this is truly a nice article. However, being the personificaton of pedantry, I shall point out that the correct spelling is "Agro Pontino".

Also, I find it unlikely that he building in the photo may have been once the Party's HQ - not only the style is not Fascist in appearance, but the Fascist Era (Anno XIII E.F.) mark is nowhere to be seen on the building's façade, as are any remnants of chipped-away fasces one'd expect to find on such buildings.