Start and finish: Camping Pineta car park / Start of walk & parking: 41.222094, 13.764833 / Distance: 5.5 km / Start elevation: 1 m / Max elevation: 12 m / Gain: 26 m / Typical duration: 1 hour 15 mins / Category: Easy
This walk is a beautiful and fascinating circular trail that starts on a long golden beach covered in driftwood, before taking you through mature dunes, into a pine forest and out onto a wide grassy heath. In Spring time, the landscape vibrates with life with carpets of vivid-pink cyclamen and many types of birds, butterflies, lizards and insects to discover. It’s almost completely flat with many different natural environments which means it’s great for kids and dogs. It is also perfect on a hot day, because a good part of the trail is under the cooling canopy of the pine trees. Read about my last visit in March 2016 here.
Update 14th March 2017: I’ve had some reports from walkers that this is a place where gentlemen go to hook up with other gentlemen in the winter months (in the summer it is a family resort)! I have not seen this myself, or felt any threat, but I wanted to make you are aware of what some people have seen. Please keep your wits about you and don’t visit alone.
The walk takes place in a stretch of pine forest at the mouth of the Garigliano river – the border between Campania and Lazio. It is a 4km by 1.5 km nature reserve that falls under the umbrella of the Roccamonfina-Foce Garigliano Regional Park. It’s an important site for wildlife including wild orchids, sea lillies on the dunes The ancient Romans knew it as a lucus (sacred grove), which they dedicated to the goddess Marica, nymph of the marshes and waters, whose temple was located on the opposite side of the river in territory of Minturno. From Roman times to the IIWW the river has been an important strategic marker and many battles have been fought in the vicinity. After the IIWW, the pine forest on this side of the river was developed further, with miles of new planting to stabilise the dunes and help develop tourism. The 1960s-70s was it’s heyday, with visitors arriving from all over Europe to enjoy the (once) pristine white sands and clear seas, including many important artists. A period of social and environmental decline followed which has now really begun to change as the region re-embraces tourism for income.
Directions by Car
See blue line on map and turn off the SS7qtr up a long, straight local road heading towards the coast. Continue up here to a T-junction. Go right. There will be a grassy area & fence on your left. As the road starts to bend right, look for a wide track up to your left. Take this and you will see riding stables on the right had side. Go very slowly – there are large potholes. You will reach a large parking area with pine trees and a beach ahead. Park here.
The walk starts where you park in a large car park at the mouth of the Garigliano river. It’s not very scenic but don’t be alarmed! Before you start the walk, take a little detour to the mouth of the Garigliano river to see a wide spit of driftwood – again, not pretty but unusual and worth a look. So, stand looking at the wall and out to sea and turn right out of the car park and up a slight slope with rushes on either side. Keep going until you reach a little cliff. Here you can look down on the mouth of the river and the driftwood spit and there are always plenty of men fishing. Not surprisingly, it’s also a popular place for firewood – I watched a man of at least eighty bumping his shopping trolley along the shore and filling it with sticks to take home.
From here, slide down the sandy clope right to the waters edge and turn left. Ahead of you will be a long arc of white sand, with lots of drift wood and yes at the start, some rubbish (but keep going beyond this!). To your left the dunes will rise up slightly with pine forest behind. You should be able to see the Camping Pineta boundary fence (chainlink) running along behind the dunes. Sometimes it’s harder to see as it falls beneath large bushes. Continue along here for a few hundred yards and count three square gates in the fence – the first is a large one, the next two are smaller. Once you reach a little beach shower by the fence go a couple of hundred yards further and look for a little further on a wiggly route in around scrubby bushes which takes you from the beach to the dunes. The only marker I can give is that when you turn and look at the forest you’ll see a small fallen tree leaning to the left and being held up by some other trees. Turn in left before this tree. You are trying to turn left off the beach and in to the forest where the Camping Pineta fence ends.
When you find this, stand with your back to chain link fence behind you and head straight up through the middle of the pine forest. The track goes straight along here for about 2km. At one point you have to go through some rope (you’ll see a little wooden walk way but it doesn’t go anywhere) – leave this on your right and head straight on. At one point the track bends right a little and and continues nearer to the dunes and the sea. The forest is less dense here with more open clearings – picnic country!
Eventually you will see an expensive looking house up ahead (with a white arched roof and behind a big green gate/fence) and you won’t be able to walk any further. A little way before this, look for a track on your left that takes you wiggling through some forest out onto a wide white track. Follow this for about half a km with brambles either side until you see a fence ahead and a wide grassy area on your left. Go left here following a natural track along the grass (with the road and fence on your right). You will come to the nature reserve entrance gate on your right (& alternative walk start). You can go left here back into the forest and retrace your steps under the pine canopy. Alternatively, continue on the white track that runs parallel to the road and take any of the tracks to your left back into the forest to retrace your steps. Aim to find the end of the Camping Pineta fence again and from here head back to the beach and car.
Alternative Start of Walk & Parking
See yellow marker on the map for an alternative place to start the walk. Parking is by the entrance to the nature reserve on a small local road.
When To Go
Great to visit all year but especially in Spring when the wildflowers are out and the tourists are not. Go early in the day in July/Aug.
Ideal for children. If you park at the alternative parking spot (see yellow marker on map) then you can do much of the Nature reserve area with a sturdy pushchair.
Perfect for dogs but keep on the lead until well on to the beach.
None, take everything you need.