On the Brigands’ Trail, Off the Beaten Strada

IMG_0183It was an ideal autumn day. Sunshine, cool temperatures (but not too cool) and my new LL Bean hiking shoes. So my husband grabbed his backpack, I threw in some water and snacks, and off we went to explore one of the many brigands’ trails that wind their way across Mt. Rufeno – just a few kilometers from our house.

Three of Italy’s regions converge at Mt. Rufeno: Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. The forests here are dense with oak and pine, and a multitude of brigands’ trails weave throughout them – a virtual maze of centuries-old pathways.

IMG_0198It’s an intriguing area in which to hike. Today’s trails are marked with signs and widened for hikers, but on this day, aside from one mushroom hunter, Luigi and I had the trail to ourselves. It wasn’t difficult to imagine these forests a couple of hundred years ago – teaming with brigands. The notorious brigands (bandits) are a dark piece of history in this part of Italy. Unlike Robinhood, these bandits didn’t steal from the rich to give to the poor. Instead they stole from everyone and gave to no one.

IMG_0217If stones could talk they’d certainly have some tales to tell. And there’s no shortage of stones along the brigands’ trails. We even discovered an ages-old stone fence line, running for several kilometers through the forest. All those hand-chiseled rocks, dry fitted into place. Moss-covered, but still standing after so many years.

So we walked and wandered and climbed and picnic-ed our way across the eastern side of Mt. Rufeno. Not another soul in sight – except for that one mushroom hunter. He likely went home with a sack of porcini. We went home with memories of an ideal autumn day hiking together in bella italia. What’s not to love about that?

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