Mount Cucco Park

Mount Cucco Park

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General information

How to reach the park
By train, Railway station of Fossato di Vico - Gubbio RAILWAY LINE ROME - ANCONA (The railway station is for all communes of the park).
By car or regular service bus, from the railway station of Fossato di Vico: bus service: Bucci (PU) phone 0721/33235 ROUTE ROME - URBINO APM (S.p.A) Perugia phone 075/5731707 ROUTE: TO GUBBIO, GUALDO TADINO.
Taxi service: Bensi Giannangelo phone 075/919202.
By car, from Rome: SS n.3 Flaminia (Rome - Rimini), from Ancona: SS n.76 della Val d'Esino;
from Perugia: SS n.318 ( new clearway Perugia- Valfabbrica) as far as Branca di Gubbio and then SS 298 Pian d'Assino;
from Cesena: E45 (clearway Ravenna - Orte) as far as Montecorona and then SS 298 Pian d'Assino;
from Pescara driving on to: - Porto Civitanova, Macerata, Matelica, Fabriano, Fossato di Vico, Sigillo.
Next airports: Falconara Marittima (Ancona) – phone 071.28271 - S. Egidio (Perugia) – phone 075.592141

The park operators
SERVIZIO TURISTICO TERRITORIALE - Piazza Oderisi - 06024 - Gubbio (Pg) - Phone: 075/9220693 - 075/9220790 - Fax: 075/9273409 - Email: info@iat.gubbio.pg.it

CAI - Club Alpino Italiano, sez. di Gualdo Tadino - Via Santo Marzio - 06023 Gualdo Tadino (Pg) :: Phone: 075/913119 - 914012 - 9142180 - 912290.

CAI - Club Alpino Italiano, sezione di Gubbio - Piazza San Pietro - 06024 Gubbio (Pg) - Phone: 075/9273618 - 333/3236333 - 075/9275474 - 333/3836112 - 368/3050508

CENS - Centro Escursionistico Naturalistico Speleologico - Via Galeazzi 5 - 06021 Costacciaro (Pg) - Phone: 075/9170400 9170601 - Fax. 9170400 - Email: cens@infoservice.it :: Sito Web: www.cens.it

CENTRO VOLO LIBERO - Via Flaminia 32 - Loc: Villa Scirca - 06028 Sigillo (Pg) Phone: 075/917061

CONTAVERNO - Centro di Esperienza Ambientale - Via F. Venturi 14 - 06022 Fossato di Vico (Pg) - Phone: 075/914287 - Fax. 0759149049 - Email: vallealceto@libero.it

UNIVERSITA UOMINI ORIGINARI DI COSTACCIARO - c/o Sig. Castellani Igino - Loc. Borgo San Rocco - 06021 Costacciaro (Pg) - Phone: 075/9170601

LA RUMIOLA (FIE - Federazione Italiana Escursionismo): c/o Monacelli Giuseppe - Via Ghea - Loc. Purello - 06022 Fossato di Vico (Pg) - Email: rumiola@yahoo.it Website: http://web.tiscali.it/AVVENTURA

ASSOCIAZIONE VOLO E NATURA - c/o Sig. Cassetta Enrico - Via Giacomo Matteotti - 06028 - Sigillo (Pg) Phone: 075/9177114

PROGETTO INSIEME SIGILLO Sportello Informazione - Via Giacomo Matteotti - 06028 Sigillo (Pg) - Phone 075/9177999
Roman Age
After the battle of Sentino (295 B.C.) and the Roman victory over the alliance, which was composed of the Umbrians, the Senones , the Samnites, the Sabines and the Etruscans, the area of the park and all Umbrian centres came in the Roman range and remained there for many time. The ancient Via Consolare Flaminia, which connected Rome and Rimini and was built at the request of the censor Caio Flaminio, at that time had an essential role for the area’s population. The territory of Costacciaro, even if there aren’t any evidences for that, probably was a stop on the road Via Consolare, where rose numerous housing estates and fortresses.
mount_cucco_park_16 Of remarkable interest is the territory of Fossato di Vico, where in the present Borgo di Fossato is by now identifed by a certainty the Roman “helvium”, “vicus” (village) and “mansio” ( stop with possibility to supply) along the Flaminia road (on the itinerary of the Knights of Malta it even proves to be the only “mansio” between Fano and Rome). Recently the thourough research of local enthusiastic experts has tracked down near Fossato di Vico, which still today is a strategic road link-up, the route of the "diverticulum ab helvillo - Anconam", the deviation that branched off the Via Consolare Flaminia, strictly speaking the Roman bridge of S. Giovanni, and that led to Ancona (the only one handed down in the Antonine Itinerary from the 2nd century A.D.). "Ad Ensem", in the Roman road map Tabula Peuntingeriana, was on its part an ancient stop with possibility to supply on the Flaminia road. At the end of the century Borman hypothesized that the "Suillates", listed among the Umbrian peoples by Pliny the Elder in his "Naturalis Historia", could have had a ethimological connection with today’s name of the Umbrian town Sigillo, a hypothesis recently picked up by the late Sigismondi.

Communal Period
mount_cucco_park_17 In the communal period the whole area had to put up with the supremacy of the commune of Gubbio, which was supported by the German Empire, and of the commune of Perugia.The Emperor Frederick I acknowledged with the Diploma from 1163 the right of the consuls of Gubbio to administer justice in the territory of Scheggia, and Henry IV in 1191, and Otto IV in 1211 confirmed the gift of Frederick I for Gubbio.
However, the castle of Scheggia, which was rebuilt in the 11th century, didn’t remain for many time under the influence of the commune of Gubbio: at the beginning of the 14th century it was already free to belong to the renowned abbey of Fonte Avellana, as results from the bull of Pope Boniface VIII.
The civil war and the famine, which stroke Gubbio in 1384, facilitated for Scheggia the transition from feudal state to communal state. In 1240 Gubbio, which was still a strong and free commune, purchased the castle of Costacciaro, which therefore got under the dipendance of the commune of Gubbio. Nevertheless Gubbio granted Costacciaro a great administrative autonomy, maintaing free the election of the town mayor. At Costacciaro, considering its natural defence, the commune of Gubbio let build the city walls backed with seven towers, and carry out important enlargements of the whole settlement. Whereas Fossato and Sigillo underwent the domination of the commune of Perugia. The submission of Fossato by the commune of Perugia dates back to 1208, supported by the counts of Marsciano Bulgarello, who managed even to set conditions to the dominant commune. In 1274 also the territory of Sigillo underwent the supremacy of Perugia, which let build a fortress here and sent its lord of the castle. Although at times it was not well accepted the supremacy of the commune of Perugia on Fossato and Sigillo went on almost without interruption until the 16th century.

The Montefeltro period
mount_cucco_park_18 In 1392 the dukes of Urbino Montefeltro, to whom the commune of Gubbio had submitted spontaneaously, consolidated their domination as far as Costacciaro and the river Scirca marked the border of the area possessed by them. The Duke of Urbino, stricken by the valour of the inhabitants of Costacciaro, who had fought hard in order to not being subdued, applicated towards them a broad liberality and he protected them constructing a strong fortress, the Rivellino, which served for several centuries as defensive barrier for the territory.
When Fossato, Sigillo and Scheggia suffered the devastations caused by the troups of Cesare Borgia during the sack of 1500, Costacciaro was saved, maybe thanks to its strong defensive fortress. During the moderate and wise government of the dukes of Urbino, the commune of Scheggia, too, went through a wide development and in a short time it reached an autonomy, which normally was only possible in one of the most moderate signorias of Italy.

Napoleonic period until the Reign of Italy
mount_cucco_park_19 During the first 15 years of the 19th century the area of the park was subject of the supremacy of Napoleon Bonaparte, who turned in 1804 the French Republic into an empire: In this period at the present fraction of Fossato Osteria del Gatto was drawn the border between the Italian territory and the French Empire. With the fall of the Napoleonic Empire (1815) the territory of the park, which had been returned to the Church during the Restoration, in occasion of the rebellions from 1831 and 1848-49.
Still with their courage the rebels could not get anywhere against the Austrians, who had intervened to support the Papal State.
The area evaded the papal dominion in 1860, when Umbria was annexed by the newly constituted Italian Reign (after the plebiscite, in which 97 000 Umbrians voted for the annexion by the reign and only 360 for remaining under the pope).
The Monte Cucco Park includes a part of territory situated at the North-East border between Umbria and the Marches. This area, which is in the communes of Costacciaro, Sigillo, Fossato di Vico and Scheggia Pascelupo, and with that completely in the region Umbria and the province of Perugia, extends for ca. 10,5 ha and borders in the north the province of Pesaro, in the west the province of Ancona and in the south the province of Macerata. Monte Cucco and its territory strikes for the variety of the natural environment, which shows itself in all its exceptionality and its excellent condition, which is rare in the other Apennine zones.
Due to the particular geomorphological conformation, where stands out the big calcareous pyramid of the Monte Cucco, baricentre of the whole park, to the visitor is offered an extraordinary variety of natural, almost unpolluted landscapes. Here we find a great concentration of spectacular natural phenomenons, geological ones as well as faunistic and floristic ones, to render the zone unique of its kind.
The extended net of paths, which is continuously brought up to date and widespread, the not too high elevation of the high grounds, the climate after all not too prohibitive, the protection of the slopes, the carriage roads that lead to the starting points on the slopes, the accomodation and refreshment facilities in the mountains are all elements, which help to render every excursion calm, save, pleasant and instructive. mount_cucco_park_20
The extension of the Protected Nature Area of the Monte Cucco and its typical location define a morphologically diversified landscape, where rock faces alternate with slopes, which are animated by numerous rivers, with forests and grassland, to the typical zones of the valley floors. Very often one witnesses the transition from extremely cultivated and populated valley bottom zones to wild landscapes, which are typical for the Apennine and which rise just in these zones behind the Sibillini mountains to a maximum height of 1707 metres with the Mount Catria and 1566 metres with the Monte Cucco. The raising up to the maximum heights of the deepest calcareous beddings and their intense fractures, which concern this part of the Apennine to unfathomable depths, is just the direct consequence of the collision of continental plates (African and Eurasian) that has torn up the earth’s crust here more than in other places.
Didactic activities
In the territory of the Monte Cucco Park exist three visitor’s centres and facilities assigned to educational activities.

Centre for environmental experiences "Contaverno" - AULA VERDE DI FOSSATO DI VICO - Centro di Esperienza Ambientale Contaverno – Via Filippo Venturi 14 – Loc. Borgo – 06022 FOSSATO DI VICO – Phone 075/9149287 – fax. 075/9149049; e-mail: vallealceto@libero.it. The suggestion offered by The Centro di Esperienza Ambientale Contaverno offers the class “EVERYTHING HAS ITS OWN TIME”, which is divided in various parts that can be enroled separately or as a course lasting several years: MY BEING: The personal time : The rhythms : Everyday life : The value of the present. YOUR DOING: The time of creativity : depiction and measuring of time. HIS/HER KNOWLEDGE: The time of exchange: knowledge, experience and memories of who lives longer than us. OUR TRAVELLING: The time of discovering: the exploration of places on earth and in the sky through rites and celebrations. YOUR UNDERSTANDING: The time of the real relations: copying yourself for being again harmonically in the time. THEIR RE-USING: The time of things: the lifestyles and the traces we let in the environment.
Every course can be held with three hour meetings at school or for three days in the Centro. The Centro suggests also summer and winter camps. The camps are a touristic-educational project for youngsters from 6 to 17 years and last 7 or 14 days. The general idea is to increase the capacity of the participants to lead a socio-economic life which allows to nature to renew itself in order to offer to the current and the future generations the possibility to continue their life on earth.
The Centro di esperienza ambientale “Contaverno” is in a historical palazzo, restored in 1998 and property of the province of Perugia – loc. Borgo di Fossato di Vico, in the historical frame of the commune of Fossato di Vico and in a environmentally interesting area. It has a conference hall, a meeting and projection hall, a slides archive, a library, didactic laboratories, a coffee bar and a restaurant. Besides it has 50 beds. It is suitable for the disabled and has a private parking space.
The Centro is also engaged working together with the University of Perugia, the CEDRAV and the Ministry of the Environment, in a research program concerning the mountain ecosystems with particular reference to the study of the flora and the fauna and to the use of the natural risources by man.

Centro "Volo Libero" - Università del Volo Libero Via Flaminia 32 Villa Scirca 06028 – SIGILLO – Phone & Fax: 075/9170761
The educational and recreational activities of the Università del Volo Libero can be summarized as: - Guided visits of Cite d’Arte – Trips to the Monte Cucco Park – Canyoning – Two-seater hang-gliding – Guided visits of the caves Grotte di Feasassi – Night entertainments for the guests. The Università del Volo Libero is at the feet of the Monte Cucco.
The facility has been completely restored and has a conference hall, a coffee hall, a restaurant, a kitchen, a large private parking space, a large garage for motorcycles, hang-gliders and mountain bikes. It has also 13 rooms with 44 beds.
The Centro “Volo Libero” has an agreement with a well-equipped gym.

Borgo Didattico C. E. N. S. - Centro di Costacciaro - Borgo Didattico di Costacciaro Centro Escursionistico Naturalistico Speleologico Via Galeazzi 5 06021 COSTACCIARO Phone & Fax. 075/9170400 – 9170601 e-mail: mail@cens.it :: Web: http://www.cens.it
The Borgo Didattico di Costacciaro suggests the classes "PROGETTO MONTE CUCCO", which are environmental didactics classes for elementary schools and junior secondary schools and can be divided in two courses: - Annual course “The discovery of the natural phenomena: sensations and knowledge”, 2 introductory lessons and a 3/5 day-stay at the Borgo Didattico. Three-year course “Man and natural phenomena: history of the achievements of science and technics”, 1st year: 2 introductory lessons and a 3/5 day-stay at the Borgo Didattico. 2nd year: 1 introductory lesson and a 3/5 days-stay at the Borgo Didattico. 3rd year: 1 introductory lesson and a 3/5 days-stay at the Borgo Didattico.
The activities take place at the Borgo Didattico di Costacciaro, which is in a convent of the 13th century, completely restored after the criterion of functionality, comfort and safety.
It has a didactic hall with computerized programs for the natural science, a video library, a library and equipment for naturalistic experimentation. It has 55 beds, 13 showers, 9 bathrooms, a laundry, living rooms and a cloister.

Sports activities
Hang-gliding - The orographic characteristics of the Upper Chiascio Valley and the heights of the Monte Cucco massif, and the lack of serious obstacles for the Atlantic and Balkan currents make the territory of the Park a very suitable for air sports, in particular for hang-gliding. The fair orographic and meteorologic conditions favour the startings and landings and at the same time make the Monte Cucco an ideal training ground for beginners and high-level experts. Pian di Monte as well as the Sella del Culumeo (Val di Ranco) are among the very few places where starting and landing during the same flight are possible. Val di Ranco, Pian di Monte, La Pianaccia are the regular starting points of the zone, where the flights can start at any wind condition. The Monte Cucco is one of the few places where national and international air sports competitions of high technical level are carried out. Sigillo is the only commune in Italy which has housed 7 of the 21 Open Hang-gliding championships. In this commune is regulary organized and carried out the international competition, the “Trofeo Monte Cucco”, where participate many foreign national teams, as well as the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN HANG-GLIDING (in 1999 for the first time). Downhill are some institutions which offer hang-gliding lessons, and skilful associated instructors organize residential and week end courses. The hang-gliding and paragliding activities are coordinated and fostered by the Centro Volo Libero "Monte Cucco" which has its seat in the Università del Volo Libero di Villa Scirca.

Speleology - A quite particular sports activity is the speleology, which is not just sports, but above all geographic and multidisciplinary science research. Thanks to the wide range of information in the enormous underworld of the Monte Cucco concerning research in geology, karst phenomena, hydrology, mineralogy, paleontology, fauna, flora, meteorology, chemistry, physics and human biology the National Centre of Speleology at Costacciaro has founded the National Speleology School. The speleological activities of the Borgo Didattico at Costacciaro merits a particular attention, because there take place most of the technical and scientific speleology courses, as well as regular vocational training courses for speleological guides.

Canyoning - In an environment uniquely suitable for sports becomes manifest a by-product of speleology very popular in these days: canyoning, that is the going down streams which are embanked in gorges and ravines using different techniques of cave hiking, alpinism and skuba diving (a discipline that emerged just at Monte Cucco with the first descendings down the Forra di Rio and in the Orrido del Balzo dell’Aquila in the fifties and sixties). Particularly in summer hundreds of excursionists test their strength going down the canyons of the Park, mainly the Forra di Rio Freddo (more than 3 kilometres long with a difference in altitude of 350 metres), which is a real El Dorado for the enthusiasts of this young alpinism discipline. The going down is made quite easy and safe through a series of artificial anchorages for the hooking and the running of the ropes fixed above every waterfall and every rapid. These anchorages are continually controlled and maintained.

Trail riding - Various organizations in the valley of the Chiascio foster and organize horseback trail riding. The entertaining and safe practice of this sports activity is guaranteed through the use of paths, mule tracks, cart tracks and carriage roads, which have a good, compact subsoil and are and hardly uneven and which cross the area of the Park in a net of more than 2000 kilometres length. On the Monte Cucco and in the surrounding valleys can be carried out mountain bike excursions of any lenght and difficulty. A detailed and easy to look up guide (Umbria in Mountain Bike by Francesco Salvatori, published by the Centro di Costacciaro) describes in great detail the main itineraries of the zone.

Sport fishing - Sport fishing can be satisfactorily practiced along the river Sentino and the stream Rio Freddo.

Cross-country skiing - Due to the climate, which is influenced by the cold currents from the Balkan, the territory of the Park is often exposed to intensive snowfalls that let for many days a thick snow layer also in lower reaches. The persistence of the snow makes some zones of the mountain planes particularly suitable for cross-country skiing on competitive and excursional level. Pian delle Macinare (1135 metres altitude), above Costacciaro, is one of the most known and suitable places for this sport.
Naturalistic itineraries - Excursions of geologic interest
The spectacularity of the natural phenomenons of the territory of the Park of Monte Cucco allows it to involve the visitor under so many points of view. Given the vastness of the natural attractions in this portion of territory it was considered opportune to stop on particular geologic-naturalistic phenomenons for then to continue with the list of the itineraries. Among the spectacularities of the geologic phenomenons enter first of all the Forra di Rio Freddo, a deep incision that marks big part of the oriental Border of the Park. It is an imposing gorge - dug in the last million of years by the stream Rio Freddo into the calcareous massifs of the lower Jurassic (Lias) - that strikes for its vertiginous crags and dark gorges as well as for its out-of-the –world adventurous athmosphere which one feels descending waterfalls and overcoming rapids and lakes, which are between steep and inaccessible walls, always in faint light because the rays of the sun cannot enter. Entirely similar to the Forra di Rio Freddo is the Orrido del Balzo dell’Aquila, deep incision of the lower Jurassic calcareous of the Monte Catria, but the descent on it demands elevated technical knowledge and is not recommended for the unpredictability of the water flow. This doesn't exclude that the Orrido, also seen from outside, is one of the most suggestive shows of the territory of the Park and the best point for observation, also easily reachable by car, it is along the road that climbs with narrow hairpin bends from Fonte Avellana to the top of the Monte Catria (Road of the Stairs).
Another gorge that deserves a particular attention is the Orrido del Ponte a Botte, in territory of Scheggia, dug in the colored stratifications of Scaglia Rossa by the stream Sera, the visit of which doesn't ask for any particular technical device. Also Valle delle Prigioni is a deep and engraved canyon, here the crossing doesn't demand any particular technical knowledge and all can enjoy the enthralling spectacle produced by the corrosion of the stream on the limestones, a show that has its peak when the course of water and the path cross the immanent rocks of the Scarpa del Diavolo. Le Lecce, imposing wall on the western slope of the Park situated a little above the built-up area of Sigillo, the gorges of the ditch Secca above Costacciaro, the eastern walls of the Monte Cucco, La Muraglia delle Liscarelle, the Corno del Catria above Island Fossara, are only some examples of the effects produced by the intense fracturation of the calcareous stratifications. But the Park of the Monte Cucco it is also the Park of the sources and on every excursion one of them is visited, maybe smaller or greater. The most important is surely the Scirca, resurgent of all the collected waters in the Cave of Monte Cucco (the least visitable one since its access is denied to the public: there begin the aqueducts of Costacciaro, of Seal and of Perugia). Nevertheless the most beautiful are the Resurgent of the Lecce, that pours out like a fan from a horizontal breaking of the rock, the Sturo della Piscia , which forms a leap of over 20 metres, building porous and friable rocks of travertine, the resurgent of “too full” denominated Hole of Mazzapane, that begins working only after intense precipitations.
An extra discourse deserves the Source of S. Pietro at north - east of the Val of Ranco, that escapes to the contact among the limestone maiolica, fractured and permeable and the underlying layer of jasper, compact and impermeable. The Monte Cucco is also and above all the park of the caves. The most imposing karstic phenomenon is surely the Cave of Monte Cucco, a vast underground system that extends for over 30 Kms, reaching the maximum depth of 923 metres. For long time it has been the greatest and deepest karstic system of Italy, one of the greatest among those known. Currently they know three entries, all places on the north-east slope of the Monte Cucco: the Ingresso Principale at 1390 metres, the Pozzo del Nibbio at 1509 metres. (it practically opens on the top of the Monte Cucco), the access to Pian delle Macinare at 1395 metres, which recently was obstructed by a modest amount of deposits. The Ingresso Principale, after a well of 27 metres of depth, allows to reach a series of enormous saloons in rapid succession: The Cathedral, the Sala Margherita, the Giardino di Pietra, the Sala del Becco, the Sala delle Fontane, the Sala Simonetti, the Condotte Terminali Behaviors, the Sala Terminale Room (which can also be reached by the access toward Pian delle Macinare). It is mainly this spectacular zone with its unbelievable and imposing stalactite and stalagmite formations, where every drop has repeated for hundredthousands of years its job to deposit crystals and candid castings. An excursion in these places leaves a deep sign: it is as if we were in an immense tenebrous casket together with gems of mineralogy and litogenesis, with eyes that try to penetrate the dark to decipher the thousands and thousands graven forms on the immense walls that overhang and loose themselves in the high vaults scarcely illuminated. And when one looks doen, between the channels and the stalagmite flows, it is here where appear the so many little esmerald ponds where the drip-drip-drip draws trembling circles.
And if the silence impends, the incessant stream of myriads of drops makes the sense of the drain of the rain water evident that flow down and towards the fountain Scirca. But the Cave of Monte Cucco doesn't end certain with this series of saloons, rather these are only the antechamber of the system. From the Room Margherita in fact depart so many galleries and wells, that give access to deepenings and developments of all the dimensions. One of these is an ascending branch, the Galleria delle Ossa, among the most beautiful of the Cave, candid as not never and perfectly preserved, ends in a great room with the floor covered with deposits: the external surface is near and also here a landslide has obstructed an existing entry. But the exceptionality of the place is especially in the fact that the whole Gallery and the terminal room are a deposit of bones of ancient animals. Here have been found several times bone rests of rhinoceros, bear, ibex, marten, cervids, bovids, all animals, that lived when the climate of the zone was much colder than the actual one, as exactly around 20.000 years ago during the last glacial period. Always in the Sala Margherita another phenomenon of the Park, for now hardly visitable, are the Cave Sotterranee of Valdorbia (Scheggia), a network of scores of kilometres of great galleries, artificially digged on the left and the right bank of the Sentino to obtain marl for cement marna and litographic stone
It is a hypogeous world, unique in his kind, where the study and the observation of an important find of industrial archaeology overlaps with the geological-scenic interest.
The climate of the Marches-Umbrian Apennine can be defined “temperate subcontinental” (with Balkan origin) in contrast with “temperate back-coastal” (Mediterranean origin) è definibile come "temperato subcontinentale"(di origine balcanica) in perenne contrasto con "temperato sublitoraneo" (di origine mediterranea). The average year temperature differs from 11 degrees Celsius downhill and 5 degrees Celsius on the highest summits (1550 metres). The lowest temperature are around 3 degrees Celsius at January-February, the maximum is above 20 degrees Celsius at July-August.
The precipitations differ from yearly 1100 mm at Valle del Chiascio and yearly 2500 mm on the mountain plains higher than 1000 metres, where concentrate the highest precipitations in central Italy. The snowfalls are more frequent in January and February (but rather often they happen also at the end of November and in December).
At the meteorological station at Scirca, at the feet of the western slope of Monte Cucco at an altitude of 560 metres, the yearly average snow height is 51.7 cm. The wind conditions indicate – on a 30 years base - a predominance of NE winds (Tramontana) and in a subordinate position SW winds. The first blow for about 90 days/year, the second for about 70 days/year.
Attention to not be surprised by the Bora at high altitudes: it can achieve a speed of 160 m/hour (inserire grafici della Stazione di Scirca).
For thousand years the Upper Umbrian Apennine with the Monte Catria and the Monte Cucco is a favourite land of the hermits: let us just think of the saints Romualdo, Pier Damiani, Domenico Loricato and the Blessed Forte de Gabrielli, Tommaso da Costacciaro, Paolo Giustiniani and of many others that have led a solitary life here for more or less time. Santa Croce di Fonteavellana, Santa Maria di Sitria, Sant’Emiliano di Congiuntoli and San Girolamo di Pascelupo are places, which still today give evidence for a Christian vocation that for sure has become a rare exception, but is precious and vital for the spiritual health of the Mystical body of Christ, which is the Church.
mount_cucco_park_22 The hermitage of San Girolamo rises at the eastern part of the Monte Cucco massif (1566 m) and precisely at the eastern side of the Monte Le Gronde (1373 m). It is in the commune of Scheggia, at about two kilometres from Pascelupo, at 661 metres above sea level. The hermitage is situated at the base of a calcareous rocky amphitheatre that overhangs frighteningly over hundred metres and has caves in its steep wall. The buildings rise on a spur that dominates the valley of the Rio Freddo which constitutes here the border between Umbria and the Marches. The bold construction makes think – particularly if seen from the bottom of the valley - of certain monasteries on the Mount Athos or in Tibet. The difficult access to this place wasn’t a hindrance, but an invitation for the hermits, who were looking for an ideal place, far away from the inhabited world, for their life dedicated to the spiritual battle and the union with God in a peace which the world cannot offer. Up to few years ago a narrow mule track led to the hermitage, but now it is accessible on a very steep ascent which is difficult to travel over. May be due to the water that drops continually all over the year from the rocks and can easily be collected in tanks, the place is inhabited for almost thousand years.
While the presence of San Girolamo, Doctor of the Church, should be considered just a legend, the hypothesis that San Domenico Loricato († 1060) was one of the first inhabitants of the hermitage is quite plausible. Indeed, San Pier Damiani reported that Domenico lived for a certain time in a hermitage not far from Sant’Emiliano di Congiuntoli, the abbey just about four kilometres away from the hermitage of Monte Cucco. Anyway, the antique chapel of San Girolamo, a cave that is closed with a walling, as well as the foundations of the buildings of the hermitage show medieval architectural elements datable to the 11th century. On the 25th March 1337 died the blessed hermit Tommaso da Costacciaro, a young monk from the near cenoby Santa Maria di Sitria, who had retired here with the consent of his abbot to lead a solitary life for – as it is said – 65 years. He wasn’t a priest, and at least occasionally he had with him some brother. After years in a totally hidden existence he was discovered and the fame of his holyness grew. The Lord gave him the gift to heal illnesses and he has been said to have done also other miracles. One of the best known is this: “It is said, that some priests came to the hermit on the feast of San Girolamo in order to gratify their devotion as well as to visit the venerable hermit, who noted that the wine for the Holy Sacrifice was missing. He took the ampulla with water and after a short prayer the water turned into a delicious wine”.
Also for later periods the sporadical presence of hermit brothers at San Girolamo is documented. A document from 1368 reports from a construction or an enlargement of a church in the hermitage. It cannot be about the antique oratory already there which does not show any alteration in Gothic style. During the recent restoration of the hermit the part of a Gothic window has been found. Probably it was a part of the church which was built in the 14th century, maybe on the place of the present church. A new chapter of the Apennine hermit’s history, which is still in progress, opens with the arrival of the Blessed Paolo Giustiniani in September or October 1520. The Blessed had just left the Hermit of Camaldoli with the intention to carry out in a better way and another place his hermitic vocation. San Girolamo, which was not inhabited any more, belonged to the parish church of Pascelupo, whose rector did not look favourably at the foundation of a new group of hermits in this place. Therefore the Blessed did not stay for long time at San Girolamo for this time, but soon went on on his way in order to retire to the hermitage in the caves Grotte di Massaccio, today Cupramontana. As he considered Monte Cucco rather suitable for a solitary life, at the same time he exerted himself sending for his friends at Rome so that his hermits could return to the hermitage. A breve from pope Leo X from the 8th April 1521 dismantled the hermitage San Girolamo from the parish church Sant’Angelo di Pascelupo, diocese of Gubbio, and gave it to Brother Paolo da Venezia so that he could retire there with his coreligionists. From this time on the hermitage Eremo di Monte Cucco is connected to the hermitic institute, which was found by the Blessed Paolo Giustiniani and which today is called Congregazione degli Eremiti Camadolesi de Monte Corona. From the 28th July to the 2nd August 1524 at San Girolamo took place the second general Chapter of the new religious institute. Few days after that, precicely on the 7th August 1524, during the celebration of the Holy Mass here the Blessed Paolo was deigned his highest mystic experience, which was given evidence of and later on theologically mediated in the treatise intitled “Secretum meum mihi”. Several times during the last centuries the Coronese hermits were tempted to leave the place and in our century they have surrendered to the temptation … just to be led back to their original hermit by Divine Providence.
The place of San Girolamo has always exhaled a special fascination, but there have also been some problems … Therefore in the 16th century an enquiry was held at the Holy See to move to another place. But on the 3rd August 1585 Pope Sixtus V in person made the hermits understand through the cardinal bishop of Gubbio his explicit will that they should not leave this hermitage, but confide in Father God’s goodness who would have defended them in future from dangers coming from the mountain as he had done it in the past. They should not fear the bandits, because the Pope himself would ensure personally that they would be chased away and extirpated. Apparently the pontiff kept his word, because no more complaints about thieves and bandits were heard. But the fear caused by the stones and rocks, which from time to time fell on the hermitage, went on, since in the past they had caused even heavy damages. For instance in February 1607 the prior of the hermit, Don Ridolfo Oddi, patrician from Perugia and from 1603 to 1606 Superior of the Congregation of Monte Corona, was killed by a boulder that fell down the mountain.
Also the earthquake from the 3rd June 1781 made slump an enormous rock on the roof of the guest quarters, which was to a great extent destroyed, so that the decision was made to leave the hermit, but then the cellarer and a lay brother were left there to restore the place. This cellarer was Don Doroteo Zuccari from Fabriano who died still young the 2nd April 1782 at Sassoferrato; after his death his devotees attributed many miracles to his intercession. His tomb stone, which is kept in the church Santa Croce at Sassoferrato, carries amongst other inscriptions the beautiful words: “ingens sui desiderium reliquit”. The two statal suppressions of the convents of the previous century have for sure caused great problems, but the hermits could return to San Girolamo in a relatively short time with the help of God and many good persons. It seems that the lack of hermits and introits led in 1925 the highest authority of the Congregation of Monte Corona to decree to close and sell the house – with the consequence of a kind of disrespect of the rules.
Four centuries of history, of hidden holiness, of steadiness in prayer and work, of penitence and waiting for the Lord apparently had arrived at their definite end. The incident that happened at the beginning of last century was characteristic for the spirit of faith that animated the hermits: Some visitors, who were accompanied by the prior, heard a mournful singing from a cell window. Amazed by this fact – usually in the hermitage reigned the silence - they asked for an explanation. But they were even more surprised by the answer, which was that it was a brother who was dying. He sang, because he was happy to go to paradise for the eternal feast. After the departure of the “white monks” the hermit of Monte Cucco remained uninhabited, with the exception of the war period from 1939 to 1944, when the people of Pascelupo and Perticano and even Fabriano went to the house to find shelter from the artillery and air force attacks.
When the fury of the war had passed, the work of dilapidation accelerated.
Half a century after the suppression the hermitage had turned into a heap of ruins. But the Benedictine motto “Succisa cirescit”, the cut grows green again, becomes reality once again. Due to the good offices of Dr. Mario Luconi, pharmacist at Gubbio, in October 1981 the 31 owners of the hermitage with exquisit sensibility and generosity gave it as a gift to the Congregation of the Hermits of Monte Corona so that they could come back. The restoration and a great deal of the reconstrucition were carried out from 1985 to 1991 by expert bricklayers from Gubbio who did an excellent job. It was possible to make everything as it had been before or even better. The regular life of a small community marked by the toll of the bells could start again in November 1992. The consacration of the reconstructed small church, which was carried out with solemnity by monsignor Pietro Bottaccioli, bishop of Gubbio, on the 8th May 1995, has sealed a bold and arduous undertaking, which had been led safely to a good end. The life of the Camaldolese hermits wants to be one of silence and solitude, full of charity and contiunuous prayer and penitence, dedicated to the praise of God and the salvation of the world. The monks of San Girolamo should according to the constitution of the order “always avoid to favour in any way people running around in the hermitage”. Therefore they do not wish it to become a tourist attraction, but they are quite pleased if they can offer a glass of fresh water to possible wanderers when they should need it. It is also possible, that single guests are welcomed in the hermitage for a period of spiritual retreat. mount_cucco_park_23
It is not easy to understand solitary life today. The life of a Christian hermit it is not characterized by a flight from reality, as sometimes sustained by the critics, but by the approach to the sense of life from the point of view of eternity. When the monk dissociates to a certain extent from the changeable empiric reality of this world, he does so only in order to be able to give his life more easily an fundamental orientation according to the Christian belief. Describing the life of the Christian Saint Paul said: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).
The hermits “show to people this inner aspect of the mystery of the Church, which is the personal intimity with Christ. Hidden from human eyes, the life of the hermits is the silent preaching of Him whom he has handed over his life, because He is everything to him (Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, n. 921). EREMO DI SAN GIROLAMO DEI P.P. CAMALDOLESI, 06020 PASCELUPO (PG) Tel. (075) 9229802.

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