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Paths and mountains to yourself and stunning scenery, from deep, atmospheric gorges to high plateaus, and it’s all in Italy – what’s not to like? Author of our new guide to the little-known Sibillini National Park, Gillian Price, offers her top tips for making the most of your visit.
The outermost, lower altitude districts, such as those covered by the GAS (Grande Anello dei Sibillini) trek, are often accessible as early as April. The refuges on that route are owned by the park authority and should be open from mid-April through to mid-October. To explore the higher ridges and routes in the heart of the Sibillini it’s best to wait until June for optimum conditions.
From Midsummer to August, and at the weekends in particular, the park can be overcrowded at key spots such as Castelluccio and Lago di Pilato. But September and October are quieter and generally see clear crisp conditions and stable weather, brilliant for walking.
If you want see the best of the wildflowers, brave the crowds and go for the Fiorita in early June when the immense Piano Grande di Castelluccio is transformed into a blaze of colour. And climb any of the central crests or peaks to admire the tiny violets, gentians and Apennine edelweiss.
By air: The most convenient places to fly into are the airports on the Adriatic coast: Ancona and Pescara are served by RyanAir, and Rimini by Easyjet. A good distance inland is Perugia, another handy arrival point thanks to recent services by Ryanair. Also fairly convenient are Rome’s two airports: Fiumicino and Ciampino. All have bus connections to railway stations.
Trains and Buses: Services are reliable and fares reasonable thanks to state subsidies intended to discourage visitors from introducing more polluting vehicles into the wonderful Italian countryside. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that public transport is not feasible – this guide was researched using it! While not every corner of the Sibillini can be reached in this way, remember that most villages have someone on hand to act as a taxi driver – ask at the local café or bar. Moreover don’t hesitate to request a lift from your hotel or rifugio, as most will happily drive you to, or collect you from, bus stops and walk starts.
You can take the train in Umbria as far as Terni on the main Rome–Florence artery (then a bus to Visso), or to Spoleto, for a bus to Norcia. In the Marche there’s the Civitanova Marche–Fabriano line: get off at Castelraimondo for a bus to Camerino (10km), a key transport hub. Further south, another branch line on the Adriatic coast reaches Ascoli Piceno.
English is spoken only in the Umbrian parts of the Sibillini near Norcia but people everywhere go out of their way to help visitors and linguistic exchanges are often part of the adventure of travelling to these little-visited places.
The lovely B&B Due Torri in the town of Visso (start of the GAS trek) which has beautifully renovated premises right in the heart of town. Breakfast is taken at a nearby ‘pasticceria’ (cake shop).
It has to be the mouth-watering lentils stewed with tangy sausages served in Castelluccio.