EXCURSION: the Montalto Ring
Municipalities: a number of municipalities share slivers of Montalto but Gambarie is the closest to it.
Elevation difference: about 337 metres
Elevation and timing: Montalto base (1,852 metres above sea level) – Croce Serrata (1,653 metres above sea level; 1.40 hours) – Montalto (1,955 metres above sea level; 2 hours)
Total time: 4 hours
Water: periodic spring at Pantano di Montalto and a small fountain between Serro Juncari and Serro Priolo
Signposting: red and white from Serro Priolo to Montalto (a part of the Park’s route which from Samo ascends to Montalto)
Ordinance Survey Maps:F° 602 I Gambarie
The climb to the highest point of Aspromonte would be rather trivial for demanding hikers if they chose to use the now dilapidated stairway, which starts from the tarmacked road. After careful research into the old pathways that converged on Montalto, we have plotted a circular hike that provides numerous panoramic views. Fundamental is the Ordinance Survey map, scale 1: 25,000 which covers the entire route. It is interesting to take note, en route, of the changes in the aspect of the beech trees caused by wind and snow: the tall and column-like specimens at Croce Serrata gradually change into sad, prone, twisted, bush-like plants at Montalto.
Arriving by car
It is possible to reach Materazzelli from Melito di Porto Salvo by taking the SS 183 for about 45 kilometres in the direction of Gambarie. Before Gambarie, turn right for Montalto. At the following junction (4 kilometres) continue left and after about 10 more kilometres you will meet a ruin, right, on a plateau. After about 1 more kilometre, you reach the Montalto base where you leave your car.
Walk back to a tarmacked road, right (towards Vocale and the S. Luca barrier). On the left you will find an opening in the wooden fence (altitude 1,852 metres above sea level): enter the beech wood and follow the pathway down through a number of bends until it joins a cart track. Turn left; here there is a small spring and a fence bounding the Pantano di Montalto. Continue as far as the following junction and turn right into a clearing which provides an ample panoramic view of the landscape. Paying attention to the lower edge of the clearing, you will find, under a rocky spur, the point from which the path departs. In any case, while descending in a south-eastern direction, it is impossible not to find the track that begins from the Pagliai locality. If you have been particularly clever, you will also find the small shelter which is usually open. You are now on the dirt road leading down to the Canovai shelter, a trail practically parallel to the asphalted pathway from Materazzelli. Continue left along a series of upward and downward slopes that take you through beech and silver fir woods that provide glimpses of Montalto. Having covered about 2 kilometres, high up to your left, you will find Serro Priolo and the pathway leading up to Montalto. You can reach it by following the red and white signposts which mark the dirt track to climb the Serro. Some breaks to the right in the vegetation allow you to see Serro Iuncari. The vegetation then thins out to provide panoramic views of south-eastern Aspromonte. For a while, follow the remains of a barbed-wire fence. A little farther on, the signposts indicate the north-eastern route around Montalto , but a section of this trail is rough and uneven. We suggest, instead, that you disregard the signs and follow the fence that enters the forest until this ends near a path. Turning left, you will follow the route approaching Montalto from the south. This route is clear because reinforced in various points by stones. The trail ascends gently and after a short uphill spurt takes you to the top of Montalto, right in front of the statue of the Redeemer, where the stairway from the tarmacked trail arrives. A few metres from the statue there is a compass rose indicating the exact direction of the places you observe. To return to the car, we suggest not taking the stairway, but following the pathway bordered by the wooden fence and signposted in red and white.
Source: Guida Naturalistica della Calabria Greca– Alfonso Picone – Rubbettino Editore – Collana Parco Culturale della Calabria Greca