The VALNERINA is the most beautiful part of Umbria. Strictly translated as the “little valley of the Nera”, it effectively refers to the whole eastern part of the region, a self-contained area of high mountains, poor communications, steep wooded valleys, upland villages and vast stretches of barren nothingness. Wolves still roam the summit ridges and the area is a genuine “forgotten corner”, deserted farms everywhere bearing witness to a century of emigration.
Mountains in the region are 1500m high, creeping up as you move east to about 2500m in the wonderful Monti Sibillini, the most outstanding parts of which fall under the protection of the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini. It’s difficult to explore with any sort of plan (unless you stick to the Nera), and the best approach is to follow your nose, poking into small valleys, tracing high country lanes to remote hamlets. More deliberately, you could make for Vallo di Nera, the most archetypal of the fortified villages that pop up along the Lower Nera. Medieval Triponzo is a natural focus of communications, little more than a quaint staging post and fortified tower (and a better target than modernish Cerreto nearby).