Winter hike on Monte Scalambra
I'd like to thank my friend and travel companion Giovanni De Rosa for most of the pictures published in this post, follow this talented video maker on instagram!
I have traveled numerous times in the shadow of this mountain, and I promised myself that one day I'd explore it and climb it. Yet it seemed that I always had to postpone my first ascent of Monte Scalambra, the bulky offshoot of the Ernici Mountains guarding the Sacco Valley and the border between the provinces of Frosinone and Rome.
The heavy snowfall of January 2021 and my desire to take out my snowshoes convinced me that the time had finally come: Scalambra, here I come!
The uncertain weather and a cloudy sky framing the mountain ranges of central Lazio had made me hesitate but I chose to remember an expression that my beloved Sweden taught me in the years I lived in that wonderful country: Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder: that is, bad weather does not exist, only inappropriate clothes!
We set off with my backpack, warm clothes, thermos and snowshoes and we started our hike from the village of Serrone, that clings to the slopes of the mountain (and origin of the name of the country) since the days of the Ernici, an ancient population of pre-Roman Lazio, and dominated by the remains of the fortress of the Colonna, undisputed lords of the town between 1400 and 1700.
We found the village curiously populated by the many figures of a nativity scene distributed along the alleys, in the cellars and squares of the town; figures often dressed in the traditional clothes of old Lazio, perhaps a tribute to the most famous town of Serrone, Beatrice Minori, seamstress to the playwright Eduardo De Filippo, who chose to donate the theatrical costumes made during her long career, in which she also worked for the national television channel RAI, to the local museum. For more information on the museum, clearly closed in this period, have a look at the page of the Ministry of Culture. How can one fail to mention the other important contribution of the city of Serrone and the neighboring towns: the of the famous Cesanese del Piglio DOP wine, which will certainly be a topic for a future article!
The hike to the top of the mountain begins just past the paved road above the ruins of the Colonna Tower. Along the way there are wooden signs indicating the path of the SCI area (or Site of Community Importance) of Monte Scalambra. The signage on the ground is not constant but the path is generally evident and climbs steeply up the mountain until it enters a stunning holm oak forest where these evergreen and deciduous trees are wrapped in dense moss that offers a unique contrast with the snow of these days. After a few kilometers, but almost 400 metres in altitude later, we find ourselves under a splendid limestone cliff where the Hermitage of San Michele Arcangelo (1105 m.a.s.l.) stands, a religious site that offers an unforgettable view that embraces the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Lepini Mountains, the Castelli Romani and the mountain ranges that fringe the Valle del Sacco to the east.
The hermitage is closed, and seems to be open to the public only for two days a year, but the combination of rock, history and roots certainly ranks it among the most beautiful in Lazio: in fact a majestic monumental holm oak seems to emerge with a sheer natural power from its walls. Tradition associates it with the work of Saint Benedict, and the foundation of the site dates back to 1100, and it is said that a hand imprinted in the rock is the testimony of the struggle between the saint and the devil.
From here the path continues to climb steeply between holm oaks and hornbeams and after crossing a tarred road, it fringes the houses of a residential complex which unfortunately represents yet another terrible example of land speculation and devastation of the landscape inflicted on our region after the war. Such reflections on our past mistakes is a painful exercise in the face of so much beauty. In the last few hundred metres, the climb becomes more and more tiring because in some points the snow is almost one metre deep and the weather starts changing, the sky becomes darker and we can sense sleet in the air as we climb at our slow pace.
However, the summit we are facing is not Monte Scalambra, but a slightly lower peak dominated by a monument known as Croce del Popolo, or Madonna della Pace, at 1404 meters, separated by a saddle and a splendid beech forest, from Monte Scalambra at 1420 meters .The monument, from which ice stalactites hang, is dedicated to the victims of all wars. Beyond the relay stations, the closed and abandoned houses, the winter beech forest paints a silent and intimate landscape; if we close our eyes we could imagine being in Lapland and this thought excites us!
Just enough time to observe the view that surrounds us and also embraces the Prenestini, the Lucretili, the Sabini Mountains, and even Terminillo, and it is already time for us to descend; the sky darkens over and the temperature is below 0 °! I will never forget my first time on Monte Scalambra!
Details of the hike:
Length: about 10 km
Altitude difference: over 700 metres
Departure: Serrone (alternatively, there is a trail from nearby Piglio too)
Water: not present on the trail