The Road of Peaks

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The Road of Peaks

LA SILA

La Sila is one of the most enchanting places in Italy. Its healthy air and natural predisposition to agriculture and pastoralism have always made it a fundamental hub for Calabria. Unlike the rest of the Apennines, it is a plateau, and its orographic conformation tells the story of a people as proud as the Bruzi, yet incapable of portraying the right image of the landscapes that make up this land of boundless beauty. Silvia Brutia is the name the Romans gave to Sila, a place so enchanted that it sometimes recalls Scandinavian photography. From the peaks, under favorable weather conditions, you can admire the Pollino to the north, the Ionian Sea to the northeast, Mount Etna to the southwest, the Aeolian Islands and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. In particular, there are three highest peaks: Monte Scuro (1,640 m), Monte Curcio (1,768 m), and Monte Botte Donato (1,928 m). However, particularly charming is the famous “Via delle Vette” (Road of Peaks) that crosses the forest and offers enchanting dives into the wild nature.

MONTE SCURO

The “Via delle Vette” starts from the Monte Scuro pass, exactly at the foot of the Christ monument. It is a monument of small dimensions, greatly revered and honored by passersby. It is made of metal, a testimony to the silence and deep Sila nights. The journey is fascinating, and after about 5 kilometers, you reach the Macchia Sacra plateau. Before us lies a territory that has remained in its natural state, with characteristic “cowherds’ huts” and the fresh spring water gushing from the Colonel’s fountain. In places like these, cows graze undisturbed for several months a year, feeding on the fresh and natural herbs that Sila offers. During heavier winters, the snow remains until early June, so small stretches with short ice piles can be found. As you ascend to considerable heights, the forest becomes sparser, with pine and beech alternating with meadows. It is customary, if you want to experience the thrill of venturing deeper, to encounter squirrels jumping from branch to branch or mushroom hunters. From June to October, indeed, the entire Sila plateau generously offers its undergrowth fruits to lovers and experts alike. Along the “Via delle Vette,” there is a meteorological station of the Italian Air Force. Also visible is a radio-television transmission facility of Rai Way. Finally, at the end of Monte Scuro, there is a commemorative stump dedicated to Nicola Misasi, a distinguished writer and incomparable singer of Sila.

MONTE CURCIO

Continuing along the path, you reach Macchione, a location near Camigliatello, the tourist center of Sila. The peak is Monte Curcio, where the typical cowherds’ huts, small wooden and sheet metal structures, can be clearly distinguished. In the past, they also served as refuge for brigands sought by the Piedmontese and protected by Calabrian communities during the unification of Italy. However, from time immemorial, they have served as mountain warehouses for shepherds. A few kilometers further, still ascending towards the main pass, you come across a true paradise for any respectable hiker. We are talking about the Macchia Sacra plateau, a territory that has remained in its natural state. For skiing enthusiasts, it is useful to know that the Monte Curcio is the starting point of the cross-country ski trail, following the path of the “Via delle Vette.” Although with difficulties not hidden from the view of enthusiasts, it winds for about 24 km through pine forests and beech woods. It also offers a breathtaking view of Lake Cecita and Lake Arvo. Continuing along the Road of Peaks, you can refresh yourself with the fresh spring water gushing from the Colonnello Fountain.

BOTTE DONATO

Monte Botte Donato is the highest point of Sila and offers an enviable 360-degree panorama. When weather conditions are extremely favorable, you can see Lake Arvo with the Lorica valley, the two Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas, the peaks of the Pollino Massif, Lake Cecita, Mount Etna, and the Aeolian Islands all together. From a hiking perspective, its prominence makes it a must-visit. Experts suggest taking a walk on the pastures of the summit area, driving by car to the meadow below the peak and the little chapel. This latter is a wooden chapel that precedes the peak of the mountain and seems like the gateway to the forest that extends behind it. The peak hosts repeaters and telephone antennas and is reachable via an asphalted road and then a wide path. The nearby hillock, where the refuge and the arrival station of the cable car are located, can be reached with a short stretch of the ski slope. Continuing, you reach the rural villages of Rovale, Silvana Mansio, S. Nicola, and Sculca.

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