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THE BRIGANDS’ TRAIL, BETWEEN MYTH AND REALITY

Not only the ancestral land of the Etruscans: Tuscia is a place filled with mysteries and curiosities, as well as the Brigands’ Trail reminds us, a route of nearly 100km, accessible on foot, by bicycle, and on horseback, that takes us to discover natural wonders like the Monte Rufeno Nature Reserve, Bolsena and Mezzano lakes, the Vulci WWF oasis, the basins of the Paglia and Fiora rivers, and countless archaeological sites.

The trail, a project realized by the “Alta Tuscia Laziale” Mountain Community in collaboration with the municipalities of Canino, Farnese, and Ischia di Castro, allows us to follow the tracks of those legendary bandits who spread terror in the area during the 19th century.

Few communication routes and the presence of large forests made the entire area at the time a perfect place for ambushes and robberies. The region was a true borderland, and gunfights between these bandits and the law enforcement were a daily occurrence.

It is precisely through the thickets and fields that we now traverse that legends like the figure of Tiburzi came to life. The brigand became a legend after managing to create a real gang and for being particularly ruthless and vengeful. However, the myth also portrays him as a “good” person, close to the people and always ready to protect them from other bandits.

Today, these dangers are of course averted, and in fact, the trail is heavily frequented by tourists and trekking enthusiasts.

The ideal starting point is represented by Acquapendente, a city with medieval notes, rich in history thanks to its Etruscan foundation and subsequent Lombard domination. A place we can discover by staying at the wonderful establishments in the area, like the Il Tesoro Farm (note: the link will be added upon receipt of the material), which offers a place of relaxation and refreshment among the hills of Alta Tuscia, immersed in greenery and with an exceptional view.

To make our journey even more interesting, there are many typical locations scattered throughout its length, which also allow us to rediscover the ancient flavors that still characterize these lands. Unique flavors like those of the lentils of Onano, a village located along the route named the Fioravanti Trail after the brigand of the same name. Passing through here, a stop at the Pacchiarotti Farm is a must, in the neighboring municipality of Grotte di Castro, known for the production of fine wines and Aleatico.

Immediately after, our journey continues with the trail segment dedicated to the brigand Ansuini. From here, we can easily reach the village of Gradoli, on Lake Bolsena, famous for hosting the annual “Lunch of Purgatory” based on local products such as the eponymous Purgatory beans, eels, and lake fish.

Next to welcome us is the Menichetti Trail, which allows us to leave the lake shores to once again enter the undergrowth and reach one of the highest points of our route, the Montagnola Pass (639 m above sea level), for a breathtaking final farewell to Lake Bolsena. Just ahead, however, we encounter another of Tuscia’s beautiful freshwater basins: Lake Mezzano. The small but marvelous pond is known not only for the beauty of the natural landscape that surrounds it but also for the archaeological discoveries dating back to the Bronze Age that have made it famous.

On its shores, we can refresh ourselves and even stay at the beautiful AgriSpa Fra’ Viaco, ready to welcome us with a cuisine characterized by local products and meats, comfortable rooms, and services dedicated to personal well-being.

The fourth and penultimate route is dedicated to the myth of the brigand Tiburzi. Thanks to this, we discover the Natural Reserve of the Selva del Lamone, near the town of Ischia di Castro. A territory rich in hermitages, abandoned rock centers, and a lush and diverse flora. From here, it is easy to reach the village of Farnese, famous for hosting one of the historical palaces of the important family that gave birth to Pope Paul III, and delight in a stay at Il Podere di Marfisa, a wine estate with an attached spa and a restaurant dedicated to local dishes, where we can replenish our strength and prepare for the final stretch of the Trail.

Separated from our hypothetical destination, now only the Biscardini Trail remains. Thanks to it, we will cross the large archaeological areas of Castro and Vulci, as well as easily reach some ancient hermitages in the area, like those of Poggio Conte and Ripatonna Cicognina, dating back to the Roman era. Inevitable, even in this last stretch, are the typical wooded areas of the region, which provided shelter for the bandits, like the Baccano forest.

Our long journey, after crossing mountains, hills, lakes, and tasting unique local products, ends near the village of Montalto, with the breeze of the nearby sea ready to welcome and refresh us.

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