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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hiking: Tivoli to San Polo, 10 miles, 2300 feet, great views

One view from the long ridge between Tivoli and San Polo de' Cavalieri.  The hill town at center is Castel Madama.
We've hired near it too in the past, encountering one of our more brutal brier patches.
As the body ages, long rides on the scooter become less enticing.  And so we've taken to doing some of our hiking from train depots.  On a hot Sunday in early June, we scootered in the a.m. to Piazza Independenza in central Rome, walked 10 minutes to Termini, and caught the train for Tivoli (takes about an hour, less on the return).  Our plan (we've done it twice before) was to hike from the Tivoli train station to San Polo de' Cavalieri, a small hill town roughly 5 miles distant.  10 miles total.  Varied terrain, delightful views.

Monte Cattillo, seen from the Tivoli bar,
with requisite beer, after the hike. 
The hike goes up over the shoulder of Monte Catillo (seen here from a bar after the hike).  The trailhead is about half a mile from the train station: exit the station right, downhill to the roundabout, take the road right, up to the arch, and turn right up the road, where you'll find the marked path around Monte Catillo).  Then uphill through scrub to a lone oak (this much we described in an itinerary in our first book), through a lovely grove of oak trees and onto a long ridge, finally pitching down off the ridge, then up on a road and some other tracks to San Polo, where we ate the tramezzini we had purchased in a Tivoli bar in the morning.

Benches line the right side of the street in San Polo.  
We sat on one of the benches on the town's main street.

Bar Centrale.  Quiet, but open, on a Sunday afternoon. 

Or you could buy lunch at Bar Centrale.

Or, from San Polo, you could go on to Monte Gennaro - another 6 hours or so!  We've climbed Gennaro half a dozen times, from several directions, but never from this one.  Tivoli and San Polo are in the Lucreteli, and Monte Gennaro is the highest mountain outside Rome.  The Tivoli to San Polo hike gives you the flavor of the Lucretili and some small town and farm ambience as well.

The ritorno (return) is a reversal of the andato (no good translation, sort of "going" or "the way there"): down from San Polo, steep climb up a hot road to the ridge, more or less flat journey along the mostly open ridge (great views on both sides, especially left), descent through the oaks, the scrub, and along the shoulder of Monte Catillo and down into Tivoli.

There used to be a lot of cows in these pastures, and bathtubs were used as rural fontane (fountains) to provide the animals with water.

Dianne at the oak grove, on the descent.  Several years ago, during a drought,
we feared the oaks might die.  Today, they appear healthy.  Red and white trail
marker on the tree.  A clear path.

Descent into Tivoli.  The white triangle just below the horizon and about 2/3 of the way toward the
right side of the frame, is Santiago Calatrava's famous, but unfinished and unused, swimming pool.  
A short section of road at the beginning and end of the hike. 

The numbers are hours and minutes estimated to reach the
destination, not distance.

Grateful for the shade. 
The trail is well marked (above, a typical sign) in a way it wasn't some years ago, when we first did the hike.  There are just a couple of places where one can go wrong: on the way to San Polo, having passed the lone pine, bear to the right and slightly upward at the fork (the intersection is marked).

Then, about halfway to San Polo, be careful to avoid pitching downward to the left (that's another trail, and a shorter hike) and stay more or less on the ridge.  There are some lovely and cool shaded stretches.

The total dislivello (elevation gain) is about 2300 feet (total for both directions, which involve ups and downs both ways).  That means this one's for hikers, not walkers.  Lots of rocky paths, so hiking boots are highly recommended.  There's water at the Tivoli train station (look for the eagle fountain at one end) and at the fountain in San Polo's main square--but none on the trail, with one exception that's quite close to San Polo.
Water is available at the eagle fountain on the north end of the Tivoli train station.  
You'll be headed for Monte Catillo, whose top is marked by the cross in the center
of this photo.  You can go to the top or across the shoulder on the way to San Polo..
We described another hike from the Tivoli station to the higher Monte Sterparo in 2016. That blog post includes some photos of our "cow map" that has part of this hike on it as well.

We've been partial to Tivoli for a long time, not only for hiking, but also for just the feel of this small, very old town (dating from the ancient Romans), the magnificent 19th-century Villa Gregoriana (#6 on the RST Top 40) and the more famous 16th century Villa d'Este with its fountains (the wild and the ordered, respectively, were compared in Rome the Second Time).


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