Spring had finally come to Rome, after many rainy cold weekends. It was a perfect April Saturday to go for a hike up a mountain. We chose Monte Gennaro behind Tivoli in Lazio. And the climb is a hike, not a climb.
One sets up from a parking spot on a road outside of Marcellina, a bit beyond the towns of Guidonia and Palombara Sabina, walking up and along through a dry stream bed, under a canopy of overhanging branches. Before long, say after 90 minutes of only a gradual gradient, one reaches a vast open meadow with wild horses frolicking and old shepherds’ huts used as hikers’ refuges.
Visible in the valley are also the probable remnants of the Castrum Marcellini, the grand fortress and defensive walls that once protected the city of Marcellina. The Castrum, it is believed, was built in the 9th century when the surrounding area was ruled by the Viscounts. The Castrum and the town of Marcellina got their names from Gregorio De Marcellinis, the feudal lord of the area in the 12th century. A century later the Castrum was sold to the monks of Rome’s St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, according to the manuscripts of Popes Gregory IX, Honorius III and Innocent III.
The Castrum was then burnt in 1220 by the monks, because of feuds over its ownership with a successor of De Marcellinis’, Romano De Marcellinis, then feudal lord of the area. He was forced to renounce his claim on the Castrum due to conflicts with Tivoli, then an ally of Frederick II and the Ghibellines. In 1392, the Castrum was once again sold, this time to the Orsini family, who sold it again in 1558 due to financial problems.
After a reasonable rest in this lovely valley, we headed up to the summit, hiking again along a path for 45 minutes before beginning the final ascent to the summit at 1271 m, up scree, the only climb in the whole outing.
While at the summit, we hid a ‘cache’ and logged it in on the web as part of a geocaching exercise, a high-tech treasure hunting game played in over 100 countries treasure seekers with GPS devices who share their experiences online. (Learn more at www.geocaching.com.)
– Organized by Hikers Gone Wild (See www.hikersgonewild.blogspot.com for more photos from this hike and others.)
ItalianNotebook.com reader and Central Italy expert. Also a recent Senior Advisor at the UN’s World Food Program as well as head of WFP’s Programme Unit in Kabul, Afghanistan, for 15 months. Expert in gender issues and community health.