Blog Post/

The nature reserve of the Navegna and Cervia mountains is among the least known of Lazio’s protected areas; protecting over 3,500 hectares in the Carseolani mountain range, this protected area stands out as one of the best places for hikers looking for stunning views and landscapes.

The views from Ascrea towards Castel di Tora and Antuni

In another article I will be describing the history of the two artificial lakes on either side of the mountain range, the Salto and Turano lakes, which have shaped much of the region’s 20th century. This area, known as the Cicolano, is administratively part of the province of Rieti though it has always been closely connected to Abruzzo and it is largely a rural region, with very small historical villages either on the shores of the lakes or on the hilltops. It’s not a region which is easily accessible by public transportation – a car would make life a lot easier, sadly.

On Wednesday December the 5th, I drove to Ascrea (about 1h15 drive along the motorway – exit at Carsoli, follow the indications to Rieti/Castel di Tora/Rocca Sinibalda), a spectacularly-positioned village perched atop a cliff overlooking the Turano lake. My purpose in coming here was to hike the trail from the village to the highest peak in the protected area, the Navegna mountain.

On the peak!

Ascrea on a weekday is a sleepy village – its 250 inhabitants were clearly elsewhere when this lonely hiked walked up the steps of the village to the start of the trail. However, it has its charms though it does not rank among the oldest villages of the region: it is believed to date back to the 14th century, not that old in Sabine terms!

The Church of Saint Nicholas in Ascrea

The landscape of the nature reserve, established in 1988, is largely one of barren mountain peaks, beech forests, and below that, turkey oaks and deciduous trees. Wolves are occasionally present and the most interesting animals are, of course, birds of prey. The landscape has only been partly shaped by man and as the human presence in the Apennines dwindles, the forest returns to its earlier territories.

As I passed by the main building in the village, the church of Saint Nicholas beautifully set against the mountain’s bare rock, and looked down towards the lake and the stunning site of Antuni (also the topic for a future article), the few noises from the village vanished and I climbed up a tough trail (trail n.334).

The trail was one of two that wound up the mountain, leaving behind the deep canyon known as the Gola dell’Obito (where one can still hear echoes of the cries of the Moors brutally slaughtered by the inhabitants during the Middle Ages, or so the stories tell us) and through low vegetation (where a boar surprised me, or viceversa!) after two kilometres it reaches the bluff upon which the early inhabitants of Ascrea originally were settled: the abandoned hamlet of Mirandella.

This village was most likely abandoned towards the end of the 13th century, when the inhabitants settled in more accessible site of present-day Ascrea, and though only a few walls stand (among which some claim to recognise the site’s ancient church), it’s still a spectacular site with an unforgettable view (here I first spotted the snowcapped peak of the Monte Velino, in Abruzzo).

The view from Mirandella

After leaving behind Mirandella and its mysteries, the trail passes through a pine wood and then a more “natural” beech forest until it reaches a small passage in between the mountains known as Fonte le Forche (1140 metres a.s.l.) where the hiker can rest at some nice picnic tables. Here I made my first, and only friend of the day, a very lonely donkey who seemed to be out of place among the free-ranging cows and horses who had gathered around the old fountain.

From the fountain, the trail turns left and follows the flank of the mountain until it takes a turn at an intersection (Colle Nogaro) and then after a small forested ridge, rises in a very steep track to the peak of Monte Navegna. It’s surprisingly tiring and the sight of the crucifix atop the peak is a welcome one.

A friend donkey at Fonte Le Forche

I reach the scattered stones by the crucifix (1508m) and stare in wonder: it’s a 360° sight all around me. I can spot all of the major mountain ranges in the region: starting with the Monti Lucretili, the isolated profile of the Monte Soratte, the Monti Cimini, the Monti Sabini, the Terminillo, the snowcapped peaks of the Gran Sasso just behind the Salto Lake, the snowcapped peaks of the Sirente-Velino, the mountains of the National Park of Abruzzo and the Simbruini mountains.

The ruins of Mirandella and the Turano lake

I sit and watch in wonder, recognising all the familiar features and mountains that I have climbed these years; seldom does one find such incredible viewpoints and this is also a chance to stand atop the two lakes, taking them both in. It’s worth the sweat and the effort, no doubt.

The sun is past its zenith and I must return to Ascrea. I complete this 12-km loop by returning to Fonte le Forche and descending the much more accessible 333 trail through dense and tangled forest.
I return to Ascrea, still spellbound in its lethargy and silence and I wonder was I even truly there or was I a lonesome spirit of the mountain?

The view towards Lago del Salto and the Gran Sasso mountains

Distance 12 km

Duration: 3-4 hours (depending on fitness levels, not including breaks)

Altitude difference: 757m – 1508 metres (total of about 900 metres according to my Garmin device)

What you will find in Ascrea: a minimarket, a bar/restaurant, a small visitor’s centre (should be open everyday – here you can also find information on certified outdoor guides)

What to do nearby: kayak/swim in the Lago del Turano, take a guided visit to the abandoned village of Antuni, explore beautiful Castel di Tora, hike to the Vallocchie waterfalls, explore Rocca Sinibalda and its castle, wakeboard in Lago del Salto!

Ruins of Mirandella


  • Oggi siamo qui! Alla presentazione del #librofotografico di @liberomiddei #Latiumvetus a Palazzo Ruspoli, #Nemi
  • A spasso nella fitta vegetazione e paesaggi rupestri della Selva di Malano, a nord di Soriano. Gli Etruschi o i loro precedessori trasformarono questi massi vulcanici in altari sacrificali e luoghi rituali.
  • Dal piccolo borgo di San Vittorino raccolto intorno al piccolo Castello Barberini, un sentiero non segnato raggiunge le suggestive cascate di San Vittorino tra resti di acquedotti romani ed un antico mulino. 
The waterfalls of San Vittorino are beautifully located at the end of an unmarked trail from the small village of San Vittorino. As you walk this short trail you will pass by the ruins of an old mill and remains of Roman aqueducts.
  • Presso il chilometro 28-29 della Polense, tra San Vittorino e Poli, un cancello sulla destra apre su un sentiero che porta nella Valle dell'Acqua Rossa. All'improvviso, sulla sinistra, la valle è chiusa dalle arcate massicce del Ponte Lupo, imponente opera ingegneristica Romana alta 30m e lunga 100m, che permetteva alle acque dell'Aqua Marcia di superare le profonde forre della zona. Il luogo è tra i più belli di tutto il Lazio!

The massive arcades of Ponte Lupo, a marvel of Roman engineering, connects the steep flanks of the Valle dell'Acqua Rossa. It is part of the Aqua Marcia aqueduct and it can be reached on foot on a trail along the Via Polense (after San Vittorino).
  • Il Lazio è terra di palazzi e magnifiche residenze rinascimentali ma spesso dimentichiamo i nostri tesori nei piccoli paesi. Ieri sono andato ad esplorare Oriolo Romano e dintorni, con la faggeta del Monte Raschio e la vecchia mola, e ho esplorato in solitudine le magnifiche sale del palazzo Altieri, del tardo 500, e restaurato nel 600, affrescate con vicende classiche, bibliche e splendidi paesaggi della campagna romana, ma soprattutto la galleria dei papi con i ritratti dei pontefici. Un luogo che merita sicuramente di essere conosciuto e visitato!

An extraordinary gem in the small town of Oriolo Romano, surrounded by forests, such as the UNESCO beech forest of Monte Raschio: Palazzo Altieri, a late 16th century residence with magnificent frescoed halls and a gallery of papal portraits!
  • #latiummirabile

Exploring the Scala Santa sanctuary in Rome with my dear fellow adventurer @allamericanroman 
The stairs that are believed to be the ones that Jesus climbed upon being judged by Pontius Pilate were brought to Rome by Helena, mother of Constantine. It is a ritual for every Roman, whether religious or not, to climb the stairs on one's knees and we did it too! We also visited the stunning chapel of San Lorenzo in Palatio ad Sancta Sanctorum, with the icon of Christ Pantocrator and the stunning cosmatesque pavement. This was the Pope's private chapel until the French captivity of the 14th century. 
Esplorando il complesso della Scala Sancta con la mia fedele compagna di avventure! Siamo saliti per la scala dove si dice che Gesù sia salito prima di essere giudicato da Ponzio Pilato in ginocchio ed abbiamo visitato la cappella privata dei Papi prima del periodo avignonese con l'icona Acheropita e i pavimenti cosmateschi!
  • When the Romans defeated the Faliscans, they resettled them in the 3rd century B.C. to the new Roman colony of Falerii Novi. Little remains of that Roman town, other than the impressive walls, the gate of Jupiter and traces of the theatre, and fields of poppies and spring flowers bloom over the ancient city's grounds. The 12th century abbey and church of Santa Maria in Falerii is the most notable site within the walls and is a wonderful example of a Cistercian abbey that has been restored after two centuries of abandonment. 
Quando i Romani sconfissero i Falisci, spostarono le popolazioni nel nuovo abitato di Falerii Novi nel terzo secolo a.C. Della città romana oggi rimane ben poco: due chilometri di poderose mura, la porta di Giove e resti del teatro. Il resto è ricoperto da papaveri, fiori primaverili e silenzi profondi. Al centro dell'abitato l'abbazia cistercense di Santa Maria in Falerii del 12mo secolo, ricostruita dopo due secoli di abbandono. Un luogo suggestivo ed imperdibile!
  • Il Monumento Naturale delle Forre di Corchiano è una stupenda riserva naturale raccolta intorno al borgo di Corchiano, nello storico Ager Faliscus, e in pochi chilometri si incontrano tombe falische, un ponte romano, resti di mulini, cascate e stupende chiese rurali, come la chiesa di Santa Maria del Soccorso. Questo luogo dalle molteplici valenze naturalistiche e storico-archeologiche meriterebbe una tutela ed una gestione differente! 
The Monumento Naturale delle Forre di Corchiano is a stunning nature reserve at the heart of the historical Ager Faliscus, the heartland of the Faliscan people. In the gorges below one comes across Faliscan tombs, ancient mills, a Roman bridge, waterfalls and stunning rural churches, such as the church of Santa Maria del Soccorso! Visit Corchiano!
  • Passeggiando tra le rovine di Galeria Antica, il borgo medievale abbandonato nel 1800 per un'epidemia di malaria, si incontrano rovine di palazzi, mura possenti, chiese e mulini. Un luogo suggestivo a due passi dalla Cassia! 
Galeria Antica, a medieval settlement a few kilometres west of the Cassia, was abandoned in the 19th century because of a malaria epidemic. The fortified settlement can be explored with some caution and it will reveal ruins of palazzi, churches, mills and impressive walls!
  • A Collalto Sabino, stupendo borgo medievale sopra la Valle del Turano, si respira un'aria di tempi antichi! Il paese, la cui storia racconta delle epoche longobarde, sveve ed angioine, si trova nel Parco dei Monti Navegna e Cervia a quasi 1000m. Forse uno dei grandi tesori della provincia di Rieti!

Collalto Sabino is a small medieval town built around a medieval (though its present architecture dates back to the 16th century) castle. It is almost 1000m a.s.l. and it is located in the Navegna and Cervia mountains reserve. One of the treasures of the province of Rieti!

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