The best known path in the Aurunci Mountains is probably the Redentore Trail or Path of the Redeemer, locally known also as “Path of the Statue”. It starts in Maranola, a lovely ward that can quickly be reached from Formia, and continues along a narrow paved road with some hairpin bends that climbs up the mountain.
At the crossroads in Campone (in the woods, while ahead is a clearing with a building) you continue to climb to the right until you quickly reach the sign marking the beginning of the trail, in sight of the shelter of Pornito (840 m). You walk uphill along the very clear track that rises halfway up. The path is ancient, used for at least a millennium to reach the Hermitage of San Michele Arcangelo nestled between the rocks of Mount Altino. The beginning section, in late spring, is alive with amazing sage blossoms, followed by a series of bends bursting with violets, potentillas and centauries.
After approximately an hour and a half of comfortable walking you reach the Hermitage of San Michele, dating back to 830 AD, but rebuilt in its vaguely “gothic” present forms at the end of the 19th century. Behind this is a cave.
This same cave is the destination for an ancient procession of the devout from Formia and Maranola who, twice a year, reaffirm their bond with the protection that St. Michael guarantees to the mountain people.
The pilgrimage towards the cave takes place the last Sunday of June, to bring the Saint’s statue there. The procession leaves at dawn and arrives about three hours later. There is then a mass and the distribution of bread and quagliata, a curd cheese. The procession returns to Maranola, carrying back the simulacrum of St. Michael, at the end of September.
On the rocky walls above the small sanctuary you can see the nests of a colony of balestrucci, a swallow rarely found in such wild environments, and often the majestic flights of a pair of ravens, also ideal for birdwatchers.
From San Michele, it is not far to the top of the Path of the Redeemer, where there is a large cast-iron statue of Christ, one of the twenty raised in 1900 on twenty mountains in Italy.
The position offers exceptional panoramic views, especially on clear winter days, from Vesuvius to Mount Circeo, and the Pontine and Campanian archipelagos. Behind the summit, airy pastures open toward the main ridge of the mountain group where you can find mullein in blossom and, more hidden, the tiger lily.