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The Path of Giustino Fortunato

“…Yet, there is perhaps no district in the whole of the Apennines…that has at the same time so much majesty of mountains and so much beauty of seascapes…”

Giustino Fortunato

This is how Giustino Fortunato, historian, economist and naturalist, describes the Lattari Mountains, which constitute the framework of the Sorrento Peninsula, between the Sarno plain and the Gulf of Salerno. These are rugged and steep reliefs, with very steep slopes that slope towards the sea with coasts and high and inaccessible cliffs, interspersed with some beaches. In 1876, Fortunato Fortunato decided to explore these fascinating territories with a three-day walking route from Cava de’ Tirreni to Punta Campanella with the aim of mapping the high route of the Lattari Mountains. This adventure offered not only the chance to explore the natural beauty of this mountain range, but also to admire the dual coastline from above, with its ports hidden behind each cape, gardens that unfolded above every hill and villages that dotted every esplanade.

In 1877, Giustino Fortunato completed the epic crossing of the Lattari Mountains in just three days, starting from Cava dei Tirreni and finally reaching Punta Campanella. The description of his journey taken from a report published in the magazine “L’Appennino Meridionale”, a culture and information periodical of the Naples Section of the Italian Alpine Club, could fully capture the enchantment and magnificence of this extraordinary adventure.

“…going up the slopes of that varied coming and going, which on every side is more or less alpine but always rich in views, you can see as if by magic the blue mirror of the water stretching here and there as far as the eye can see, and the underlying bank is surrounded in a thousand ways by silhouetted cliffs, by glittering cliffs, by dark recesses with the color of emerald green or cobalt of lapis lazuli…”

Giustino Fortunato on L’Appennino Meridionale

Who is Giustino Fortunato?

Giustino Fortunato was a leading figure in the politics of the 19th-century Kingdom of Italy, known for his vast knowledge and influence in political and cultural circles. As a politician, economist and historian, Fortunato contributed significantly to the development of southern thought, seeking solutions to address the socio-economic disparities between Northern and Southern Italy.

The importance of Giustino Fortunato in the politics of the Kingdom of Italy lies above all in his commitment to the southern question. Through his analyzes and proposals, he tried to raise awareness among public opinion and rulers of the urgent need to develop and modernize Southern Italy. His work helped promote policies aimed at improving the economic and social conditions of the South, playing a crucial role in the political debate of the time.

In 1871 the CAI headquarters opened in Naples in via Tarsia and it was also home to the botany laboratory of Nicolantonio Pedicino of the “Royal Society of Encouragement of Natural Sciences”, then “Regal Institute of Encouragement of Natural Sciences”, which had the task of promote applied and pure research in order to foster a new economic impetus in Southern Italy. In 1872 Giustino Fortunato from Rionero in Vulture joined this section and with him many illustrious names such as Baron Vincenzo Cesati, holder of the chair of the Federico II University, the botanist Giuseppe Camillo Giordano and Benedetto Croce. From here on in the Apennines Giustino Fortunato forges his political beliefs, and to continuously question himself he begins a series of intense wanderings which will lead him, over the years, to travel the length and breadth of the southern Apennines, from Gran Sasso to Aspromonte (to remember, among others, the excursions carried out between 1877 and 1878, collected in four extraordinary reports which were given the name “Memories of Mountaineering” and which refer to excursions on the Lattari mountains, on the Taburno , on the Terminio and on the Partenio, published in the CAI bulletins and then republished).

Let’s start from the beginning of his journey by covering some of the highlights of his journey

In 1876, Giustino Fortunato conceived and organized his journey, with a first failed attempt whose departure was scheduled from the Corpo di Cava hamlet of Cava de’ Tirreni. This first experience failed, but he didn’t give up and the following year he began his adventure.

The beginning of the “journey” took place at 6 am on October 15, 1877 on the “most beautiful autumn morning” from a valleyin the Contrapone area of ​​Cava de’ Tirreni, having as guide for the first day of ascent an old woodcutter that a local notable, Doctor Pisapia, had taken care to provide for our hiker. The path climbed gently between Mount Finestra on the left and Mount Albino on the right up to a “woody hill” at about 900 meters above sea level. From here our Giustino followed a path halfway up the hill that dominated the entire “rugged Tramonti valley”, to reach, around 9 am, the “Chiunzo passage”. After about an hour he reached the “Corbara Gate” from whose “steep mouth” he was able to glance over the Sarno plain and the “dead Pompeii”. After a short stop, Giustino began the ascent of the “steep peak” of Mount Cerreto. Having reached the top he was dazzled by the strong brightness that pervades this place, which almost inspires a sense of bewilderment and wonder. In this regard, it is worth reporting the exact words of Giustino Fortunato which well summarize the sensations aroused by a place that even we, modern hikers, recognize as having an almost magical charm: “there was so much splendor of light up there that the eyes were dazzled; everything shone in the vaporous atmosphere, the swaying slopes, the white cities on the shore, the two gulfs scattered here and there with sails and opposite, just six miles away, the serrated towers of Monte Sant’Angelo unfolded brightly.”.

After descending from Cerreto, our adventurer crossed the plateau called at the time “Aja del Cerreto” and today known as “Megan plans”; he then headed in the direction of the Mount Cervigliano and, after having partly traversed the slopes, he stopped at the sources of theAcqua Brecciata, a place that dominates the Castello valley and the town of Gragnano. Having resumed our journey, after about an hour, the underlying Agerola basin appeared to our hiker at midday “all green with its small villages with sharp chestnut roofs, solitary and silent like a remote valley in the Alps”. There, in the farmhouse of Ponte Fortunato, he ended the first stage of his “travel through the mountains” on the Lattari, as a guest in an unspecified “Casa Cuomo”.

The following morning our hiker begins the hike at around 8 am, with a “Sorrento countryman” as his guide. In about an hour you reach the crest that separates Agerola from the Pimonte valley. He follows it in the direction of the concavity over which the imposing mass of Sant’Angelo a Tre Pizzi dominates“all cracked in the plumb walls and cut in some places by deep grooves of rainwater”.. Following an exposed edge along the walls of the deep valley, you finally reach the path that leads to the source of the Acqua Santa. From here it continues to the top of the San Michele peak (today called “Il Molare”), which with its 1444 meters is the highest peak in the Lattari chain. Having reached the summit, at first our Giustino’s expectations were disappointed by the presence of thick clouds rising from the ”southern bay” , leaving only a gap in the north in which the peak of Terminio could be glimpsed. But after a while a whirlwind of wind cleared the air of the clouds and allowed Giustino to look at “the crags below which showed themselves one by one, a wonderful spectacle in themselves”. At this point, he was enraptured by the beauty of this spectacle of nature and strongly expresses the thought that “the mountain is the queen of nature, an indomitable and proud queen because it is like the symbol of its strength, of its mystery, of its uncontaminated purity: the first that the sun turns purple, it is the last that it abandons”.

Leaving these “airy thoughts” behind and after having refreshed ourselves, ours resumed its journey towards midday along the “sandy south-west ridges”. For about two hours he descended the “splintered cliffs of the Conocchia” at the bottom of which the Positano marina glittered. Having reached the Santa Maria a Castello, ass, he quickly headed towards Mount Comune, on whose summit, where he made a brief stop, he arrived around 4 in the afternoon. He soon resumed his journey and, passing through the “Chiossa”, inlet, he finally arrived at the top of Vico Alvano when “the sun was already tilting over Naples at sunset”, enjoying the view “of the entire plain of Sorrento”.

He soon descended from Vico Alvano to head to the Villa di San Pietro in Ceremenna where he was “kindly welcomed” by Prince Colonna of Summonte.

On the third day Fortunato set out at dawn; the sky was covered by large clouds, “but a thin breeze still ensured good weather”. He headed towards the Colli di Fontanelle, went up a street to the Maracoccola and then, after two hours, reached the “pleasant pastures of the village of Sant’Agata”. From here he continued, passing the hill of Santa Maria della Neve, to the farthest village of Termini. He then ascended “both summits” of Mount San Costanzo, on which he made a brief stop around 10am. Once the sun reappeared between the clouds, we were able to admire the beautiful landscape which he described as follows: “the greenish cove of Jeranto closed at our feet, silent and deep, and far to the east the islets of the Gauls were golden, the Sirenuse feared by Ulysses; ahead, now three miles in a straight line, was the entire, deserted and fantastic, Tiberian Capri.”.

After about an hour he finally reached Campanella “one day sacred to Minerva”, the final destination of this nineteenth-century excursion to the Lattari Mountains. The return took place along the small road on the western side of Monte San Costanzo which leads to Termini. From there he continued on ”the old road from Massa Lubrense to Sorrento”. From here he set off in a carriage at two o’clock for the Castellammare station where he took the train to Naples “with the intention, half hope and half desire, to return to the Lattari Mountains on other occasions”.