Start & Finish: slopes of Monte Massico / Sat Nav: 41.16211, 13.93484 / Distance: 2 – 4 km / Start elevation: 273 m / Max elevation: 427 m / Gain: 254m / Typical Duration: 30 mins – 2 hours / Category: Easy / Mountain bike route: Yes, 19km
Monte Massico is the first walk I found in Campania, ‘off the tourist trail’ and I really love it. You wind through beautiful mature woodland and there is complete peace. In a few places the forest opens up to reveal the most astonishing views across the Campania-Felix plain from Ischia around to Vesuvius, the Partenio range, Mont Maggiore and Caserta. The short option is very straightforward (0.5km) – a great walk for children or a group friends and there’s an excellent spot for a long, lazy lunch al fresco. There are a couple of options to extend the walk and it’s also the start of a fun mountain bike trail.
Monte Massico is one hill in a spur of limestone hills that runs from Mondragone in the West to the foothills of the Roccamonfina National Park in the East. It consists of two main hills; Mont Crestegallo (which has the ruined Fortis Rocco Mondragonis on top) and then the larger of the two, Monte Massico (800 m), which rises to a sharp point and has a huge white quarry at the Southern base.
Directions (by car)
Take the SS7qtr to Mondragone and follow signs to Falciano del Massico. Once you reach Falciano, (A) go up the long straight high street until you can’t go any further (No Entry). (B) Go left and follow the narrow road until you reach another T-junction (see blue left/right arrows on the wall ahead). (C) Go left and keep going until it looks like you can’t go any further but you reach a very sharp left bend up along a very narrow street. Carry on up here – you will come out into some trees/gardens and eventually reach a T-junction with a kind of building site directly ahead. (D) Go left here and follow the road up the side of the hill. It is narrow, windy and full of holes but keep going up into the forest. Eventually you will see a blank forestry sign on your right (E) with the main track coming in at a sharp angle also on your right. Park here and begin! If you carry on driving up this road it comes to a dead end with a fantastic view.
Short walk description
The main trail heads up straight in front of you, up a gentle hill. It’s wide and slightly stony but suitable for dogs, children, robust pushchairs and mountain bikes. A few hundred yards up this main track there is a narrow trail which comes in sharply from the left and goes up hill. If you go up there and switch back to the left you come out of the tree line and have the most incredible view. I have not walked any further on this trail, but it’s a 5 min detour and well worth it just after you start. Go back down to the main track and carry on for about half a mile, going round a big right hand bend and continue up hill. You may see another high trail up to your left with a picnic table – however, we tried it and it is completely blocked. Continue on the main track and after a short while you will see a little path to your right, leading to a woodman’s hut. It has terraces where you can stop and enjoy the view and is absolutely perfect for a picnic.
Longer walk description
After the hut, the track winds on and you will see another narrow trail coming in from the left. This is a nice detour through thick woodland which eventually comes back on to the main track further along. In the middle of this trail is a short but steep descent into a valley and back out. It’s only suitable for reasonably fit walkers (& kids 8+).
If you carry on the main track then continues along the side of the hill winding in and out of the spurs for several kms with many more trails to explore.
Mountain bike route (19km)
Start in the same place as the walk and cycle up the main track. Contiune for about 8km along the track – sometimes it is wide gravel and others it narrows. Eventually, the track goes slightly down hill and opens out into a clearing. There are a choice of routes but the main route sweeps down to the right. This track then turns into a tarmac road, Via Granceisa. Carry on down here (passing the turn to a tiny church on your right) until you reach the the village of Casanova. Take the second right after you reach the village along a back street, then the third left to wiggle through on to the main road Via Nazionale. Go straight along here, past a cemetary on your left when the road becomes Via Crocelle. At the next cross roads, go right on to Via del Re. Stay on this road all the way up hill back to the parking.
When to go
Best in the morning through to early afternoon when the sun is on the right side of the hill.
There are no cafes or toilets (until you drive 5 mins back down to Falciano del Massico) – take all you need.
Organic Olive Oil Farm (visit by appointment)
Buffalo farm (visits by appointment)
Monte Massico is part of a WWF Oasi that also includes Lago Falciano. I went and had a look at Lago Falciano just below the village of Falciano del Massico and I was really disappointed. It’s a beautiful lake with a large picnic area and lots of interesting bird life – we sat and watched herons in the trees right beside us. However, there is rubbish everywhere – in the picnic area, in the lake and on the trail – which also seems to go over an illegal dump. I took my kids in great excitement thinking ‘WWF it must be nice’ but was so sad when I arrived. Like a lot of places, it’s still really beautiful, just tarnished. I thought of contacting the WWF to do something about it but short of 24hr surveillance I’m don’t know how they’d maintain any clean up….