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Discover the Piceno region

The massif of the Sibillini Mounts (Giacomo Leopardi liked to call them  “Blue Mountains”) conceals a secret, perhaps such a well known secret that it is told by the name itself of these mountains and many place names: Grotta del Diavolo (Devil’s Cave), Passo del Diavolo (Devil’s Pass), Fossa dell’Inferno (Hell’s Pit), Gola dell’Infernaccio (Infernal Gorge), Lago di Pilato (Pilate’s Lake), Grotta delle Fate (Fairies’ Cave) or Grotta della Sibilla (Sybil’s Cave). A very long cultural tradition also talks about it; a legend gathered in 1420 by Antoine de la Salle and already known since 1391 by the poet of the Guerrin Meschino, who places the kingdom of a mysterious Goddess of Profane Love and Prophetess in a cave of the Sybil Mount. Anyone reaching the mountain today from the open road from Montemonaco is immediately struck by a singular 10 metre high basalt cliff that rings the mountain, almost the anthropomorphous outline of a queen. It is sure that throughout the Renaissance this mountain was the centre of a very important communication route to Rome and was the endless destination of visits. French and German knights errant told about their “meetings” with the sorceress in the caves of the mountain, followed by repentance or not. The result was the “Guerrin Meschino” by Andrea da Barberino, the French “Paradise of Queen Sybil”, and the German “Poetic Warburg Dispute” by Felix Hemmerlin. Sorceresses of all kinds, if not exactly magicians and demons, certainly lived on the mountain and in the cave according to more or less direct witnesses like Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Benvenuto Cellini, Luigi Pulci, Ariosto and Flavio Biondi. It seems that the Holy Abbots of Sant’Eutizio, ghost-busters of the times, already in the 8th century, by order of Pope John, had made the cave collapse, an operation then repeated by the suppressor Albornoz in 1354, and unfortunately also in more recent times, due to a clumsy attempt at digging with dynamite. The Belgian Royal Academy carried out an expedition in 1953, with the meagre result of a spur, a knife and a Henry II 16th century livre tournois. Until the Sixties, among the farmers it was still thought that winds and storms had been unleashed by the passage of wizards and witches. Similar legends also surround the sinister mirror of Pilate’s Lake, whose diabolical inhabitants would even have asked for the sacrifice of one man a year and which in Renaissance times was also a place of particular cults. The lake is in a depression of Mount Vettore below the Devil’s Peak. Perhaps there is no hidden mysterious knowledge, but certainly there is a unique being in the world, a very famous, tiny creature that does not live elsewhere, an endemic creature that is similar only to other branchiopods of Asia Minor and the Caucasus: the Chirocephalus Marchesonii. Isn’t that enough in terms of the mystic powers of the natural forces and arcane secrets? Precautions if you intend to climb the Sybil Mount: sudden storms, the sorceress’s revenge, are real.