On a chill spring afternoon, my friend Diletta and I decided, very randomly, to go for a hike. We parked just outside the small village of Albacina, along the road that leads to Poggio San Romualdo and we continued on foot. Just after the first sharp hairpin bend, we turned right following the trail n.116, that enters the Valle della Vite. Once reached the religious shrine, we turned right again along the beautiful, steep and challenging path that climbs up to the suggestive hermitage of Acquarella.
The path is steep but very well marked, as it is one of the most touristic trails suggested by Parco Naturale Regionale Gola della Rossa e di Frasassi. After a silent walk into the woods, a mighty statue of Jesus Christ announces the nearby hermitage.
Eremo dell’Acquarella, also known as Romitella, is perched on a spur of rock in an extremely remote position while enjoying a breathtaking view of the valley below and the entire Apennine ridge.
The church we see today was built in the first half of the 1400s. It was in this small hermitage that the first chapter of the order of the Capuchin Friars Minor met in April 1529 and thus came to life in this silent place.
A source of fresh and pure water quenches the thirst of pilgrims and hikers who reach the hermitage and the centuries-old trees offer an unforgettable peace.
According to legend, the Holy House stopped here on its flight to Loreto, a stop during which the Madonna wanted to quench her thirst right at the source of the Acquarella. A sign of this passage is the the basin at the bottom of the small valley, shaped by the mantle of the Madonna.
The legend is a popular way to remember that the hermitage was located on one of the many routes of medieval pilgrimages to Loreto.
Here the pilgrims following the ancient Roman road crossed the San Vicino ridge and through the Musone valley reached the Adriatic coast and the Lauretan sanctuary.
The church of Santa Maria dell’Acquarella is leaning against a watchtower, which allowed to control a large part of the upper Esino valley. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the year 1441 for the interest and at the request of Fra ’Frandeno eremita.
The tower, given its strategic position with a wide view over the Giano valley, could belong to a previous era, that is to the feudal period, when defense bulwarks were on almost all the hills surrounding Albacina.
In April 1529 Matteo da Bascio and Ludovico da Fossombrone convened the first Capuchin General Chapter at the church of S. Maria dell’Acquarella; during the meeting they drew the constitutions (called Albacina) of the new order of the Franciscan congregation of the Friars Minor of the Hermitic Life, better known as the Capuchins who, with few variations, will govern the Order for almost four centuries. Indeed, this trail is also part of the Cappuccini pilgrimage.
You can relax under the trees surrounding the hermitage or continue along the track, proceed uphill again until you reach a grassy plateau. At the barrier, you have three choices. You can proceed on track n.116 on the left, towards Monte Maltempo. After a while turn right on the steep road towards Caprareccia. On the road, keep the left side and take the uphill track 111AG until Casetta. Here turn left and follow 116A for a fun downhill track. Continue downhill until you come next to the religious shrine you encountered at the beginning of the trip.
If you prefer continue on asphalt, at the barrier go down to the right on the paved road to reach Cerreto d’Esi. On your way down you may even stop at the San Leopardo Martire Church, for another beautiful vista.