The old Spoleto-Norcia railway line
Third part of the Assisi-Norcia route, which runs along the charming route of the former Spoleto-Norcia railway
The final part of this route is rather different to the first two, as it runs along the route of the old Spoleto-Norcia railway line, on a gravel path that climbs as far as the Caprareccia tunnel and goes through spiral tunnels.
The railway was opened in 1926 and, for the time, was an engineering masterpiece, with 377 showpieces built in just over 50 kilometres, including spiral tunnels and the bold bridge over the Cortaccione torrent.
The railway was closed in 1968, and after many years of disuse, in July 2014 along the route of the old railway line the current cycle-pedestrian path was opened, which can currently be travelled along as far as Piedipaterno.
The route begins just outside Spoleto, along the road that leads towards Forca di Cerro. The route is compacted gravel in the first part and a little looser in the second, so we advise you to use a mountain bike. Moreover, don't forget there are several unlit tunnels which you can only get through if you have a light or torch with you. If the route from Assisi to Spoleto can be completed by anyone, here a minimum of training and experience are required; just enough to enjoy the adventure without taking any risks.
The first 10 kilometres of the route are a steady climb but never more than 5%, given that once the train travelled along it and it couldn't tackle steep inclines. Over viaducts and through tunnels, you reach the top which corresponds with the long Caprareccia tunnel, marking the passage into Valnerina. The descent towards Sant'Anatolia di Narco is spectacular, with beautiful views over the Valnerina and the unforgettable stretches inside the spiral tunnels. Reaching Sant'Anatolia di Narco, you just need to pedal a little further on the flat, along the river Nera, skirting Castel San Felice and arriving in Piedipaterno, which is today the last location to be reached along this route. From here you can return to Spoleto retracing the old railway line in the direction you came from or climbing the hairpin bends of the old SS395 of Forca di Cerro, which is today almost traffic-free. Alternatively you can take one of the buses towards Spoleto, where you can load your bicycles buying an extra ticket directly from the driver.
If instead you want to reach Norcia, at the moment you have to re-join the SS685 della Valnerina (beware of the traffic); once you have arrived in Borgo Cerreto, we advise you to continue towards Preci, not following the shorter route to Norcia, because otherwise you would have to tackle various tunnels. Once you have gone past Preci, you'll be able to reach Norcia via Forca d'Ancarano, but this route requires a good level of training.
In the meantime, in a few months' time, the stretch from Piedipaterno to Borgo Cerreto, will be opened which will allow you to avoid kilometres of busy road.
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