The Mysteries of Monte Nerone

July 20, 2011 / Places
Apecchio, Le Marche
In the 1980s a group of young men from the small town of Apecchio near the border of Umbria and Le Marche became fascinated with the huge, spiral-shaped fossils they found on Monte Nerone, the massif east of town. The locals had always believed they were petrified snakes, but the truth was more intriguing. Identified as ammonites, precursors of the chambered nautilus, they had been deposited in the mud at the bottom of the vast Tiber Lake, one of several lakes that covered much of central Italy in prehistoric times. The friends formed a geology club and collecting began in earnest. Searching for the ancient remains contained in the rocky cliffs and canyons of Monte Nerone became their passion, and they spent every spare moment on the mountain.

During one of the annual truffle festivals held every year in October in Apecchio, the club was invited to exhibit their finds as a curiosity in the subterranean rooms of the 15th century Palazzo Ubaldini. The scientific world took note, and eventually the Museo dei Fossili e Minerali del Monte Nerone was created to house the more than 2500 fossils and minerals researched, cleaned and classified by the group, along with donations from other collectors.

Twenty-five years later, it is an intimate, well-designed and informative museum, displaying among other objects, the skull of an enormous bear discovered with the remains of many others in a small cave, panels showing grottoes located deep within the mountain accessible only to seasoned spelunkers, and the bones of a hippopotamus found in a quarry near Promano, indicating that the Upper Valley of the Tiber once enjoyed a tropical climate.

Note: The labels to the exhibits are in Italian, however the exhibits are fairly self-explanatory. It is wise to call in advance to confirm that the museum will be open.

Museo Fossili e Minerali del Monte Nerone, Apecchio, Le Marche
Palazzo Ubaldini, Via XX Settembre 24
61042 Apecchio, on the road between Città di Castello and Fano
Tel 0722/989004 (Comune di Apecchio)
0722/99279 Ufficio Turistica
Fax 0722/989006

Admission: free, donations appreciated
From Easter through the October Festa del Tartufo
From Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30-12:30, 4:00 to 7:00
Closed Monday
From Monday through Friday, on request
Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 10:30-12, 3:30 to 6:30

– Please welcome ItalianNotebook’s newest contributor, Elizabeth Wholey. Elizabeth has lived in Umbria for 18 years and is writing a guidebook to farms in the fertile Upper Valley of the Tiber. Her websites are, and

3 Responses to “The Mysteries of Monte Nerone”

  1. Ammonites were deposited more than 100 million years ago in the Piemonte-Liguria basin of what is called the Tethys Ocean, separating Europe from Asia 200 to about 30 million years ago. The Lago Tiberina existed from about 10 million to about 400 thousand years ago, after the ammonites had become extinct. Thank you to Anne Robichaud’s son, the geologist, for this correction!


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