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Morgana Fairy Effect: the magical summer optical illusion on Mount Pennino

In magical Umbria there is a place where at dawn you can see two suns on the horizon, and not because you've had one too many drinks, but because you are witnessing the "Fata Morgana" effect, an optical illusion that occurs most easily between late July and early August on the summit of Mount Pennino, a mountain in the Umbria-Marches Apennines just a stone's throw from Nocera Umbra. On the border between Umbria and Marche, with its 1572 meters and unusual flat summit, it dominates the mountain range that owes its name to it. It is named after Apennine Jupiter (Iuppiter Poeninus), the Roman god of the peaks, derived from a cult of the early Italic peoples. The landscape, 360 degrees, that can be admired from the summit allows one to glimpse a vast panorama, ranging from the Cucco and Catria mountains to, on clear days, the Adriatic Sea.

The summer mirage of the two suns is caused by a succession of layers of hot and cold air that, due to the phenomenon of refraction, make the light rays of an object, in this case the sun, curved and mirrored in the Adriatic Sea in the distance, so that it splits and appears higher than its actual position.
To physics it is all clear, but in nature the "Fata Morgana" effect is rarely produced, with surprising phenomena: flying ships over the waters of the sea, which in northern Europe have fueled legends of ghost ships, or Calabria and Sicily brushing against each other in the Strait of Messina in August and September.

Those who witness the spectacle at the summit of Mount Pennino, beyond scientific explanations, are left breathless, enraptured by so much beauty. Adding to the magic of a sunrise over the sea is the vision of an unusual red globe, devoid of rays, for eight to 10 minutes, even before the "second sun" rises over the horizon. Surreal moments, of great fascination, to be experienced immersed in nature and in the silence of the summit of the mountain, which can be reached on foot, by mountain bike, on horseback, but also with a car by crossing the dirt stretch, in no more than an hour if you start from Foligno.

The "rediscovery" of the "two suns of the Pennine", an effect that was certainly known to the ancients as well as to the inhabitants of the area, is owed, according to some sources, to Don Germano Mancini, a longtime parish priest of Nocera Umbra as well as a journalist and popularizer (he passed away in 2021 at age 87). He first organized, as early as 1998, collective gatherings to witness the phenomenon. He was imitated over time, by many other nature and trekking enthusiasts.

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