18. Monte Mauro, Italy

On top of the world

Here’s one for you: you’ve walked a lap of a famous race track in a town that has little else to offer, and it’s still only early afternoon. What do you do? Answer: drive to the top of a mountain and witness one of the best views you’re ever likely to see. Obviously.

Yes, I know, I’ve already raved about spectacular views in other recent posts, and I probably will again in the future, but despite already being treated to the drama of Lucerne and the tranquillity of Bologna, nothing quite prepared me for my experience at the summit of Monte Mauro.

Situated not far South of Imola, reaching the peak of this impressive-but-not-quite-tall-enough-to-be-snow-capped hillock involves driving up a “road”, that pushes the boundary of the very meaning of the word. Successfully negotiating the narrow “I hope I don’t meet a double decker bus coming the other way” dirt track, with all its hairpin turns tighter than a nun’s nethers, is rewarded by, of all things, a church.

Yup, it seems the Italians love to put churches on top of hills, but while the Santuaria in Bologna was a popular tourist destination on top of an easily(ish) accessible hill, the Eremo di Monte Mauro is a modestly sized, quiet little structure that receives far fewer visitors per day. Those that do visit, though, are treated to one hell (sorry) of a view.

Situated right next to the church is a solitary bench, which, occasional massive-quadded cyclists notwithstanding, allows one to sit and contemplate in peace, with the glorious view of the Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso Romagnola (yes I copied and pasted that rather than trying to remember it) and beyond laid out in all its various shades of green in front of you.

The picture at the top of this post is some of that very same view, as much as I could fit into my lens anyway, but if that isn’t enough tranquillity and fabulousness for you, and you have a decent pair of walking shoes and the ability to climb some steps that would make your health and safety boss at work wince, then there’s an even better view just up ahead.

And when I say better, I mean this much better.

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Now imagine that, but in 360 speech-stealing degrees.

Of course, there are taller mountains and higher spots in the world, but this is the highest peak within the confines of the horizon, so standing at the summit – which consists of little more than around fifteen square feet of flat stone – really gives you the sensation that you’re standing on top of the world, a sensation unlike any that I’ve ever felt before.

I’m often (by which I mean never) asked what my favourite view of all time is, and before I set off on this planetary conquest, my answer would be the view from a bench, on a hill, near the town of Pateley Bridge, in North Yorkshire.

Now? I’m not so sure.

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