The Tifatini Trail
Years ago, as part of a project aimed at promoting the relevant region, the Caserta Division of the Club Alpino Italiano came up with the idea of Tifatinvita: an annual two-day excursion from Maddaloni to Sant’Angelo in Formis (Capua district), taking in Caserta Vecchia and the “royal delights”. A charming itinerary that combines points of historical, artistic and landscape interest and the “cult of the Archangel”.
St. Michael is the Patron Saint of Maddaloni, and the hill that overlooks it, known as Monte San Michele, the Western slopes of which feature the castle and towers of Carafa, is home to Santuario di San Michele, a divine stronghold that protects what remains of the “mountain”, which has been eroded by quarrying activity. The Duomo di Caserta Vecchia, the Caserta Cathedral and the entire diocese of Caserta are dedicated to St. Michael. The Benedictine abbey of Sant’Angelo in Formis is dedicated to St. Michael, and is located in the Capua region: the old site (now Santa Maria Capua Vetere) and the new (Capua, since 856), which fell under the control and duchy of the Lombards between 593 and 1139.
Why Tifatinvita? Tifata/ti/invita [Tifata welcomes you]!
While Monte Virgo (620 m) is the highest peak of the Tifatini Mountains/Hills, Monte Tifata (603 m) is certainly the most charming and iconic. It looms directly over the “Capua” region and the “ager campanus”, where its ridges stretch like tentacles, in an enveloping embrace, marking out the boundaries of the various gullies that travel to the bottom from its peak and crest, and that distinguish it, even from afar.
“Tifata”, which gives its name to the entire range, means wooded mountain. The Tifatini range runs along the East side of the fertile Campania plain (Campania Felix), and today represents a distressing geographical boundary: deterioration and devastation have befallen the area, particularly around the plain. Not so long ago, they were covered in various species of oak, and home to refreshing mineral and thermal springs; an unspoilt natural habitat for animal and plant species, and a residential area with breathtaking views over the old cities of Capua (Santa Maria Capua Vetere) and Calatia (Maddaloni) below.
Let there be an end to the damage! And in the spirit of St. Michael, let good win out over evil! These sincere wishes have for years underpinned CAI Caserta’s initiatives aimed at restoring Tifata’s ancient status as a “sacred mountain”, as a “lucus: bosco sacro”: “Amid the ruins of the ancient temples on the slopes of the nearby hills of the Tifata, Christian churches were built.
And so the temple of Diana was transformed into the church of St. Michael, in honour of the Archangel, protector of the Lombards;…” (Pietro Borraro, da Tuttitalia, Editrice Sansoni, 1962).
Of all of the initiatives undertaken, the most significant is certainly the “alta via” [high trail] from Maddaloni to S. Angelo in Formis, known as Tifatinvita. It is seen as one of the potential ways to restore the mountain, halting the devastation and deterioration and enabling the residents of the plain to begin to enjoy its resources in a modern way: strolls in nature just minutes from their homes, with interesting views and intriguing references to the past. What is more, these aspects can also be used to appeal to hikers. And not just members of other divisions of the CAI and other associations, but all enthusiasts, particularly those from abroad. Seasoned walkers with a 19th century spirit, seeking the opportunity to comfortably follow in the footsteps and discover the routes recorded by travellers past: from the French designer and engraver Abbot of Saint-Non, the landscape painters Coleman and Hackert, the poet Goethe and scholars such as the German historian Theodor Mommsen. And, closer to home, Amedeo Maiuri with his “Passeggiate campane” [Campania walks].
The itinerary starts at Maddaloni, but it can also be followed in reverse. Upon leaving the Maddaloni Inferiore station (54 m), having taken a guided tour of the city (Guide: Gruppo archeologico Calatino “Franco Imposimato”), travel to the Santuario di San Michele (427 m), via the Carafa castle. Continuing along the hilly route – which does not present significant differences in altitude, but which offers breathtaking views of the Campania plain and the gulf of Naples, despite the devastating quarrying activity – you will comes to the medieval village of Caserta Vecchia (406 m, piazza della Cattedrale).
The route continues as far as S. Angelo in Formis. Starting from the church of San Rocco (372 m), a somewhat uphill journey takes you to the highest peak of the Tifatini range: Monte Virgo (620 m). Heading downhill to Torre Lupara (434 m), follow the Montagne Baccalà plain as far as the state highway that connects Caserta and Castel Morrone (Termopili d’Italia, named after the achievements of Garibaldi’s army under Pilade Bronzetti in the Battle of Volturno in 1860). Cross the highway and follow the hills overlooking the Volturno plain.
There are, in fact, two possible routes from the Montagne Baccalà: the more direct route takes you to the state highway via Casa Leonetti, before continuing through the woods behind the wall surrounding the San Silvestro woods (WWF Oasis), while the longer, more scenic route takes you through the Monte Coppa uplands (394 m), characterised by the presence of Comole (unusual Karst features). Then, by way of Monte San Leucio (200 m) with views of the homonymous Real Sito [Royal Site], continue on to Vaccheria (191 m). Crossing the state highway that connects Caserta with Caiazzo, begin the moderately uphill climb to the second peak of the Tifatini range: Monte Tifata (603 m), taking in the splendid views of the Campania plain and the Volturno valley.
Then continue downhill to the Basilica (101 m) of Sant’Angelo in Formis, a small village in the Capua district. Alternatively, you can travel round Monte Tifata, taking one of the two low roads: one overlooks the Volturno valley (maximum height 300 m) while the other looks out over the Campania plain, between Monte Marmolelle and Monte Sommacco (maximum height 350 m). Having visited the Benedictine Basilica in Sant’Angelo in Formis, with its breathtaking frescoes, the itinerary ends at the small station of ex Alifana. Alternatively, you can continue on to Santa Maria Capua Vetere, approximately one hour away.
To: Basilica di Sant’Angelo in Formis
Distance: 26 Km