Italy’s longest ultra trail, the AVP501 crosses many areas interlaced by spirituality.
First of all let’s set the scene. We’re in central northern Italy. The race route follows Italy’s long distance hiking trail, the “Alta via dei Parchi”, partly situated in the Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco Emiliano one of Italy’s 25 National Parks.
It crosses three regions:
- Le Marche
One of the most frequent questions that we get asked regarding the AVP501 is:
What can we expect to see whilst trail running along the 501km race route?
There are four main areas of interest that we’re going to cover here on ItalyOnTrail.com in the following weeks:
- Nature & Villages
In this first part we’re starting with Spirituality. We look at some of the most significant landmarks connected to faith that you will experience en route from race start to finish.
Keep in mind that the maximum cut off time is 200 hours, that’s 8 days and nights. So you will have time to savour your surroundings.
Here’s the link to the AVP501 official race website: http://www.avp501.com/en/
In search of stillness, silence and serenity
Let’s go far back in time, to the early middle ages.
Due to the area’s remoteness, to its deep, protective, emerald forests and to the vicinity of Apennine passes leading southwards to Rome, these distant lands became refuge to a large number of pilgrims, monks and devotees.
Persons seeking solace, peace and safety far from the turmoil and trouble that characterized Italy’s turbulent past.
A Hermit’s life
In the eleventh century a hermit’s life gained recognition as a pathway to salvation under the Catholic religion.
Many who came to these parts of Italy remained, creating and developing monasteries and holy sites, plenty of which are still thriving today.
#1 Santuario de La Verna
KM 75 (of 1° segment) – Santuario de La Verna at 1128m a.s.l.
On the slopes of Monte Penna in Tuscany’s Casentino area, Arezzo, lies one of the most famous Franciscan monasteries in Italy, the La Verna Sanctuary – Santuario di La Verna.
This is the site where Saint Francis of Assisi resided. It’s said that the Catholic patron saint of animals and nature also received the stigmata here in 1224. The La Verna Sanctuary today is a site of pilgrimage and centre for Franciscan studies and devotion.
#2 Camaldoli Monastery & Camadoli Hermitage
KM 41-43 (of 2nd segment) Camaldoli Monastery 815m & Camadoli Hermitage 1103m a.s.l.
Built way back in the early eleventh century, the Benedictine Camaldoli Monastery, is situated deep in the ancient forests of the Parco Nazionale delle Foerste Casentinesi in Tuscany.
The land was gifted to a benedictine monk San Romoaldo, who started out building just five small cells and an oratory. Things progressed and the community grew. This vast monastic complex is today open up to members of the public, pilgrims and those seeking retreat. This cluster of individual buildings today is a working community, with a library, a working pharmacy, publisher, distillery, and farms.
#3 Pieve di Monte Mauro
KM 33 (of 4th segment) Pieve di Monte Mauro 515m a.s.l.
Above the silver gullies of Monte Mauro, past the narrow ridgeline that traces along the crest of this small, but perfectly formed mountain, lies the remote Chapel of Monte Mauro. With uncertain origins, today the Chapel, is a coveted destination for those seeking out a moment of reflection and peace.
#4 Santuario di Boccadirio
KM 39 (of 5th segment) Santuario di Boccadirio 728m a.s.l.
Set right on the border between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, the Boccadirio Sanctuary is a well loved pilgrim site.
According to tradition, right by the banks of the stream, a young boy and girl, Donato Nutini e Cornelia Vangelisti, reported experiencing an apparition of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus in her arms. The Madonna, announced that the two children would later go on to become a priest and a nun. This so happened, and the two went on to deovte their lives to the church.
In Boccadirio, initially a small chapel was built, which, throughout the five centuries that followed expanded to become a popular holy site for many seeking solace today.
# 5 Berceto
KM 53 (of 8th and final segment) Berceto 808m a.s.l.
Berceto dates back to Roman times, however when we reach the end of our journey, we’ll be welcomed to a hamlet with a Medival ambience and feel. Tiny winding alleys, stone houses and the ruins of a castle all contribute to give finishers of the AVP501 ultra trail a sense of ‘coming home’ after a long journey.
Berceto throughout the ages has been a crossroads for commerce between the Po Valley and the Tyrrhenian Sea, and a resting point for pilgrims on their way to Rome from Caterbury, as here passes the famous Via Francigena route.
Legend has it that in 718 the Bishop of Rennes, en route to Rome, stopped off for a rest by the Passo della Cisa, near Berceto. Making himself comfortable, he took off his burden, which contained sarcred relics.
He hung it on a branch in a nearby tree. Later, refreshed the Bishop went away along his route but forgot to take the relics. He soon realised what had happened and went back. But on reaching the tree, he noticed that it was impossible to reach his load, as the tree had grown and the branch was too high up.
It was only when the Bishop announced that he’d donate the relics to the hamlet of Berceto, that the tree, lowered itslef down, enabling the Bishop to claim his relics. Which were subsequently donated to the town.
Here follows the Map and the course profile divided into detailed segments for the AVP501 ultra trail. Remember though, that this is a single stage event!
AVP 501 ROUTE MAP
AVP 501 RACE PROFILE – IN SEGMENTS
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.