Monday, 10 June 2013


This photo of Monte Soratte courtesy of
"Monte Soratte is a mountain ridge in the province of Rome, Italy. It is a narrow, isolated limestone ridge with a length of 5.5 kilometres and six peaks."
Google Maps view of Monte Soratte (A) the Tiber valley, and several comunes in the Sabina
That is how Wikipedia begins to describe this mountain of mystery sacred to the ancient people of the lower Tiber Region: the Etruscans, the Faliscans, the Capenati and the Sabines.

Monte Soratte by courtesy of Giorgio Clementi

With a height of 691 metres—2,267 feet, for you Americans—Monte Soratte is no Mt. Fuji or Kilimanjaro.
Monte Soratte - Mountain of mystery in all its majesty captured by Filippo Simonetti
 Corno Grande, at 2,912 metres, is the highest peak in the Apennines... And there are much higher mountains in the Italian Alps, but no Italian mountain, other than perhaps Vesuvius, commands my attention or demands my respect the way Monte Soratte does.

Monte Soratte seen from Poggio Catino, courtesy of Manuel Montanari
It is easy to see how Soratte became the object of ancient veneration. Monte Soratte is a mountain island, the lone major elevation in the Tiber valley, a true landmark, visible for miles around. The way the rays of the setting sun plays upon its slopes...

Monte Soratte from Montopoli courtesy of Filippo Simonetti
...or how it suddenly magically reveals itself from the Tiber fogs make it truly seem like a mountain set apart by the gods.

Monte Soratte by Paolo Pitoni
The ancient Etruscans, Faliscans, Capenati and Sabines worshiped the god Soranus here. In Roman times the tutelary deity was Apollo. 

Monte Soratte panorama courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Later on Soratte with its many caves became a refuge for Christian hermit monks. Legend has it that Pope Sylvester I took refuge here during a persecution under Emperor Constantine. The sixth century Hermitage of Saint Sylvester, built on the remains of a temple of Apollo commemorates this event. 

L'eremo di San Silvestro courtesy of

There are four other hermitages on the mountain, that of Sant'Antonio, Santa Lucia, San Sebastiano and the church of Santa Romana.  

Ruins of the Church of Santa Romana courtesy of
Attesting to Monte Soratte's continued veneration are a number of important religious festivals and sagre associated with these shrines, including the Festa della Madonna di Maggio, famous for its torchlight processions.

Festa della Madonna di Maggio photo courtesy of Rome for Free
Perhaps another aspect of Monte Soratte that added to its mysterious allure to ancient peoples were its many pits and caves created by karst erosion. These pits called meri can reach a depth of 115 metres. It was perhaps this ready-made honeycomb of caves along with its proximity to Rome that led the Fascist authorities in 1937 to begin construction of a series of tunnels and bunkers that were to serve as a refuge to the supreme command of the Italian army in case of war.

The bunker entrances during the initial phase of construction courtesy of

The bunkers on Monte Soratte were used during WWII as the headquarters of Nazi Field Marshall Kesselring after he was forced to leave his former headquarters in Frascati. Legend has it that the Nazi's hid a huge treasure in one of the caves under Monte Soratte which to this day has not been recovered.

The following account is written in The Lost Treasure of the Nazis by Noel Richards: The mountain village of San Oreste lies north of Rome and rests at the base of Monte Soratte. The mountain is honeycombed with mine shafts. On May 3, 1944, Nazi SS troops went to Monte Sorrate and in a rock-hewn vault deep within one of its tunnels, hid a fortune worth $72,000,000. The cache consisted of 60 tons of gold bullion siezed by the Germans from the National Bank of Italy, plus a huge amount of jewelry looted by the Nazis from Rome's Jewish community. After depositing the treasure deep in the mountain, they then buried it under thousands of tons of rock with a huge explosion. The lone survivor of this burial escaped only to be sought out and killed later on. Numerous treasure expeditions have sought this hoard without success.

Casperia's Sta. Maria in Assunta Church with Monte Soratte in the background, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
During the Cold War part of the same cave and tunnel system used by the Fascists and the Nazi's was refitted as an Atomic bunker to house the Italian government but this work was never completed. Who knows why the project was stopped, but then again, perhaps they dug down deep enough, found what they were looking for and...

Clouds and Sunset over Monte Soratte courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Apparantly tours of the bunkers are available from time to time. In the meantime, sunsets over Soratte are truly spectacular, as radiant as the lost Nazi gold that perhaps still lies under the mountain, waiting to be found.

Sunset over Soratte by Alessandra Finiti
For those of you who can read Italian and who enjoy historical fantasy fiction, Marco Borsi, who you will read about in a later post about our visit to Cottanello earlier this year, has written an very interesting book that touches on the legends associated with Monte Soratte and the ancient gods called I Primi Altari (the First Altars). 

My Italian is still not very good, so I am going through it slowly, but I am enjoying what I understand.

Soratte emerges from the Tiber fog, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
When I first thought about creating this post, I thought of it mostly as a way to showcase the various amazing images of Monte Soratte taken by, and kindly shared by, my Italian friends... I think I have done that, and I am glad this has turned into something a little more...

Monte Soratte, courtesy of Andrea Marchetti
Monte Soratte and the Tiber fogs, courtesy of Casa Fagiolina in Canneto
Monte Soratte at dawn, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Monte Soratte from Poggio Mirteto, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Monte Soratte from Catino, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Monte Soratte from Montpoli, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Monte Soratte under the moonlight, courtesy of Filippo Simonetti
Monte Soratte in the distance seen from Fara in Sabina, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Monte Soratte from Casperia courtesy of Richard Rooney
Monte Soratte with honeysuckle, courtesy of Filippo Simonetti
Monte Soratte and light on the Tiber valley, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Monte Soratte in the rain seen from Vacone, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Sunset over Sorratte, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
An apartment in Poggio Mirteto with a fabulous view, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Monte Soratte seen from Canneto in the evening, courtesy of Casa Fagiolina
Monte Soratte from Casperia, courtesy of Stefano Aperio Bella
Monte Soratte with poppies courtesy of Lorenzo Ballanti

Excellent Sabina postcard courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

I do indeed love Soratte. The next time we visit the Sabina, I hope we can take a day trip with our friends and visit Sant'Oreste, the little village near the southern peak... And then there is that gold...

Monte Soratte and a splendid Sabine sunset, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
 If you understund Italian, here is a link to a very well done documentary on Monte Soratte broadcast in July 2015 by Rai 3.


  1. Excellent post on one of my favourite mountains! I love it up there. Look one way and you can see the Gran Sasso, look another you can see St. Peter's in the Vatican, look another and it's lago di Bolsena. Stunning, and so close to Rome as well.

  2. Thanks so much for reading this post and for your comment. We can't wait to visit next time we are in Italy. Unfortunately, the day we planned to go to Sant'Oreste it was raining heavily so we had to call it off.

  3. Strepitoso omaggio a una delle montagne più ricche di energia e poesia del Centro Italia ! Molti complimenti, caro James