Start & Finish: Vaccheria / Sat Nav: 41.107399, 14.300226 / Total distance: 6 km / Ascent: 344m / Highest Point: 574m / Typical Duration: 2 hours / Category: Moderate-Difficult
This walk had me hollering for joy when I reached the top of the first hill and realised how incredible the views were. It takes you to Monte Tifata, the highest peak in a long ridge behind Caserta. You can see Vesuvius to the South, the Matese Mountains to the North, Monte Leucio beside you with lush valleys and the River Volturno below. It is very special. The trail is fairly straightforward but there are some steep and scrambly sections and sometimes you are on a high narrow ridge. It’s the perfect day out if you want to clear your head and do some more exhilarating hiking.
Monte Tifata is a well-known local landmark because of the huge cross on its peak. It lights up at night and is visible for miles around. There are many historical remains on it’s slopes and it is much loved by the people who live at its base. Vaccheria, where the walk begins, is the home of the Presepe Vivente – La Natività, a living nativity display which is very popular. The other highlight is the Belvedere di San Leucio, where silk was made for the palaces of Europe.
Directions by car
Head to San Leucio, through the circular piazza and up a straight row of old shops/houses out of the village. If you need coffee/croissants before or after your walk there is a little Cafetteria-Wine Bar just as you drive up this straight row on the left. It has a wavy maroon sign. Carry on up a slight hill, past a garage and then signs for Hotel Belvedere on your left until you see a grand gate on your right – a sort of fork. Don’t take this. Slow down go round a slight left and look for a tiny left turn. The first house after you turn left (on your right side) has big metal railings all round. Go straight on and take the next left. It is very narrow and steep. Keep going until the road widens to a parking area with lots of solar lamps. Park here.
Head uphill out of the parking area on a stony track. Ignore the other track that drops down to your right immediately as you set off. Look for the first little right turn up a narrow bushy looking track. If you miss it you will reach a locked gate. Turn around and look for the little track. Follow this for a short way (it is overgrown in places) until you pop out onto the main track. Turn right and follow this for about a mile. It twists and turns up the hill, sometimes flat, sometimes quite steep. There is mixed woodland and as you get higher you get glimpses of the surrounding area – look out for the tower of Casertavecchia or even the tips of the Matese mountains.
After a short while, the track opens out onto a wide grassy area (col) between two hills. On your right you will see a small refuge. There are great views across Caserta and the Campania-Felix plain one way and towards the Matese mountains the other. With the refuge on your right turn right and head up a small rocky track to the top of the first hill. There are low bushes and the track splits and rejoins but just keep going up to the top and then slightly around the right side of the hill to the ridge line. Once you reach the top you will see a wider area and a low stone wall. I love to stand here and just absorb the views.
Follow the track for another 1km along the ridge line. Sometimes it is open and others you are in wooded, grassy sections. Look out for a small wooden post on the ground. This marks a point where the track splits. If you carry on, you will climb up a steep hill to the Temple of Jupiter. here you need to follow the track between the back between the temple and the woods. If you prefer to miss out the temple and do a gentler climb, go right at the wooden post. Follow this track around the side of the hill and into some woods. It’s fairly overgrown in places but push on!
You will pop out in a grassy area under some trees, just past the Temple. By now you will see the big cross and Monte Tifata ahead. Follow the track up the slopes until you reach the remains of a building and a little shrine on your left. You will also see a giant derelict advertising board up ahead. The path continues right past this, into the woods and taking you around the back of the cross. It’s a great place for a picnic. If you look right you’ll look down on Mount Sant Nicholas where there are the remains of a small chapel dedicated to Sant’ Offa.
If you’d like to make the walk longer you can continue down Mont Sant Nicohlas to Sant’ Angelo in Formis where you can see wonderful frescos in the Byzantine Basilica, which was built in the tenth century. (Full details coming soon..)
The full walk would only be suitable for kids 9+. Younger children will enjoy the initial section up the woodland track to the refuge and perhaps make it to the top of the first hill to see the view.
As above, the first section would be fine, to the refuge and perhaps to the top of the first hill. After that it gets too steep and is not safe for dogs.
When to go
Oct-May. Avoid the hot summer months. This walk is all about the views and pretty high in places so choose a day with clear skies and very little wind.