Monday, 10 September 2012

The Furlo gorge

The start of the footpath along the gorge

Italy is a great country to walk in, but like New Zealand, there is not the network of public paths we are used to in the UK. We have finally figured out however that the place to look is in what they call State Natural Reserves - what we might render I suppose as National Parks. The nearest one to where we are staying in Urbino is the Riserva Naturale Statale Gola del Furlo - the Furlo Gorge State Natural Reserve.

From the Visitor Centre just north of the small town of Acqualagna, along the via Flaminia, the Roman road from Rome to Rimini, you can get for free a splendid map of the Reserve with a number of walking routes. It was very hot - about 30 degrees - so we opted for the there-and-back walk along the gorge.

As the photo above shows, a path has been carved out beside the old road, marked off with yellow dividers - there is nowhere else for it to be. Fortunately, the road is pretty quiet, there now being a new Superstrada to take the main traffic heading towards Fano, where we walked the other afternoon.

At first the road/path is separated from the river Candigliano by trees and there are only glimpses of the water - although there are plenty of butterflies, notably Silver-washed Fritillaries and Great Banded Grayling to keep you interested.

After a while, the route descends to the water side and there is a fine view ahead (north east) ...

... while the view looking back was even more dramatic, although because it was into the sun, the sky is rather washed out in this photo.

Now the path climbs to reach the extraordinary Vespasian tunnel, dug on the orders of the Emperor Vespasian in 76 BC. It runs 38m through solid rock.

On the other side you soon reach the Enel Dam built between 1918 and 1922 to provide hydro-electric power. It was bombed during the second world war and rebuilt in 1952.

This is where the path ends and as you approach the other end of the tunnel there is another nice view, this time with the chapel of Santa Maria della Grazie on the left. This very plain small chruch was built in about 400 AD.

We retraced our steps and as we approached the end a lovely view of the river and the gorge opened up which had not been apparent on the way out.

Just a little further on, the mouth of the gorge could be clearly seen, with open country beyond.

Distance: 6 km in all - quite enough in the conditions.

Conditions: very hot, about 30 degrees.

Rating: four and half stars. Just lovely.

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