Among the Italian mountain railways, the Spoleto-Norcia, designed in 1912, represented a daring, difficult undertaking, almost a work of railway art.
The Swiss engineer Erwin Thomann realised the final design of the Spoleto-Norcia according to the examples of the Swiss railways: the route became shorter, the gradient increased, instead of steam, electricity was used and the narrow-gauge tracks allowed the curvature to be contained in the very tortuous sections.
Nestled between the Apennines, but due to its altimetric characteristics therefore considered an alpine railway, the Spoleto-Norcia was a real jewel of engineering: in just 51 kilometres there were 19 tunnels, including the Caprareccia pass, almost 2 kilometres long, 24 bridges and viaducts, with gradients of up to 45 per thousand!
The construction of the railway, slowed down by the Great War, was only completed in 1926.
From that moment on, the city of Spoleto was connected to the Valnerina and Norcia: at a cost of 17.70 Lire in first class, and 11.80 Lire in second class, one travelled for about two hours through panoramas of incredible beauty!
The last run of the mountain train on the "little Umbrian Gotthard" took place on 31 July 1968.
A veritable artistic and landscape heritage abandoned for too many years, which has finally returned to shine in 2014.
After the restoration and consolidation of the old route, an unparalleled pedestrian and cycle path of about 34 km made up of tunnels, viaducts, impervious gorges and watercourses has been inaugurated.
Spoleto-Norcia is a historical and naturalistic itinerary included among the Italian Cultural Heritage that attracts nature, outdoor and mountain lovers.
A route to do on foot, on horseback and obviously by mountain bike, suitable for expert hikers and families: it is important to decide in advance how to divide the stages!
The viaducts and tunnels are pure fun for young and old, the gradients do not exceed 4%, the views are incredible.
From Spoleto you climb up to the Caprareccia pass and cross the tunnel of the same name inhabited by a colony of 3000 bats which leaves you breathless and makes the adventure even more fun; you descend to the bottom of the valley of Sant'Anatolia di Narco where the old railway station is still visible.
We then skirt the Nera River, cross Castel San Felice, Piedipaterno, Borgo Cerreto as far as Triponzo.
After the long tunnel, there are two 700-metre calcareous massifs of the Gola di Balza Tagliata, a canyon on the valley of the river Corno.
You then cross the iron bridges over the river until you reach the suggestive Biselli Strait.
From Serravalle you enter the valley of the Sordo river until you reach the old station of Norcia in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains Park.
Some stretches of the old railway are still being restored, but Spoleto-Norcia deserves to be travelled in its entirety through timeless landscapes and villages!
Discover the old railway with Dreavel:
Umbria Bike Tour: Spoleto-Norcia Old Railway by e-Bike
Umbria Bike Tour: Nera river Greenway by e-Bike