best hike in umbria

Umbria, with its undulating landscape covered in a patchwork of fields and woods, vineyards and olive groves, medieval hamlets and isolated abbeys, is, in many ways, a walker’s paradise. Trail markings are sometimes elusive, and the paths themselves often not meticulously maintained. However, the views from the hilltops and silence of the remote countryside make up for these logistical challenges. Here is arguably my favourite hiking trail in Umbria:

umbria hiking
Monte Vettore is one of the most beautiful hiking areas in Umbria (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Hiking in Umbria: Monte Vettore

I have walked and hiked throughout this region over the years. There are many itineraries that I hold especially dear (one of these – the Franciscan Trail – runs virtually past my house near Assisi), but there is one hike that far outshines all the others: the breathtaking trail up Monte Vettore (map) in the Sibillini National Park (Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini). This rigorous hike combines all the elements that I consider crucial to a memorable trek: heart-stopping views, a picnic destination, and a (slightly mysterious) story.

Views from Monte Vettore

Starting point of the Monte Vettore hike

Just the jumping off point for this hike is enough to justify my special affection. The Piano Grande plateau near the tiny hamlet of Castelluccio is a vast tapestry of meadows dotted with wildflowers interspersed with flowering fields of legumes and lush green forage. The plain is ringed by the dramatic, craggy Sibilline Mountains, including the Cima del Redentore (Redeemer’s Peak), which you begin to ascend from Capanna Ghezzi (map), a tiny shepherd’s hut which marks the start of the trail.


As the path begins to rise from the plateau floor along the hillsides on the southern rim of the plain, the stunning view over the meadows below and the mountain peaks on the opposite side is a wonderful excuse to stop often, catch your breath, and snap some amazing photos. Don’t miss the vast copse of pines on the far ridge, planted by Mussolini’s forest service corps at the beginning of the century.

Once over the saddle at Forca Viola (map), the path begins to descend the opposite slope through Alpine scenery into the valley of Monte Vettore, where snow sometimes lingers in the boulder field at the bottom into late summer. A last steep climb under the somewhat menacing sheer rockface of Pizzo del Diavolo (Devil’s Peak) brings you to a lovely surprise past the ridge: the Lago di Pilato (Pilate’s Lake) at the bottom of the glacial basin.

The legend of Pontius Pilate

This Ice-Age lake (home to the tiny prehistoric russet-colored crustacean “Chirocefalo del Marchesoni”, which paddles through the water belly-up and sometimes lends a slightly reddish tinge to the lake) is unique not only for its fauna, but also for its checkered past.

Legend holds that the Roman emporer Titus Flavius Vespasianus, after having destroyed Jerusalem, brought the captured Pontius Pilate back to Rome and had him publicly executed. Pilate’s body was put in a rough sack and tossed on a cart driven by oxen which were left to run freely. The careening path of the beasts ended at the top of Redeemer’s Peak, where they upset the cart and Pilate’s remains fell into the lake below. Pilate’s bones are said to still lay in its depths, and the lake takes its name from this legend.

Lago di Pilato

Fact or fiction? You can take your time to mull it over while you picnic near its shores, soak in the otherworldly silence among the mountain peaks, and rest up for the trip back down to the Castelluccio plain.

About this week’s guest writer
Rebecca Winke moved to Italy from Chicago in 1993 and shortly thereafter opened an agriturismo in her husband’s renovated family farmhouse at the foot of Mount Subasio near Assisi, Umbria. She spends her time taking care of guests at Brigolante, blogging about the lovely region she now calls home at Rebecca’s Ruminations, and wondering about what strange winds blew an urban vegetarian to a farm in Umbria.

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