About 45 kms. north of Rome, Monte Soratte looms up like a great fin between the Tiber to the east and Via Flaminia to its west. It has six summits, and does not look overly challenging at only 691 m (2,267 ft). One parks in the village of Sant’Oreste, named after the saint who was martyred here.
The mountain is full of history, old and more recent. It was used by ancient tribes for their worship of the God Soranus; it was mentioned by Horace, Virgil and Ovid in their writings; and it became a WWII hideout.
After entering the Riserva Naturale (protected land), you can set out following one of the 11 trails, with enticing names like Strada Militare (Military Road), Casaccia dei Ladri (Den of Thieves), and Degli Eremi (Monks’ Refuges). These pass by old WWII tunnels and bunkers which Mussolini built in 1936 as a hideout for his troops. German Field Marshall Albert Kesselring then used them for his headquarters for nine months, holding Italian prisoners of war there as well, until he abandoned them after being bombed by the Allies.
After heading up, down, and then up again, you will reach the Eremo di S. Silvestro, (hermitage) founded by Pope Sylvester during Emperor Constantine’s era, around 340 AD. This church also saw a visit by Charlemagne on his way to Rome to be crowned Emperor, and was built on top of a pagan temple, possibly to Apollo. An active church for over 1000 years, it still has frescoes dating to the 13th-14th centuries on the inner walls.
From there back to the car in the village is an easy stroll down on a hard-packed narrow road. Those who want to avoid the steep climbs can choose this route, starting up this way and just stopping at the hermitage. On a clear day, the views west over Lake Bracciano and of the sea beyond are truly worth the effort. Of course, for those who have had enough of nature after all this, or who don’t want to bother with hiking at all, there is always the shopping outlet below Soratte!