Maschio d’Ariano, Acqua Donzella & The Gorge: Connecting the Earth to the Heavens

Maschio d’Ariano, one of the peaks of Mount Artemisio located in the Castelli Romani Regional Park, and its Circuito delle Fonti dell'Artemisio is a perfect destination for those who want to reach a panoramic  summit or walk on a trail full spirituality, history and nature.


Canyon dell'Artemisio

I was first drawn to hike the Maschio d’Ariano to search out its beautiful gorges; tall lava walls, dug out by water over the centuries. 

Once on the trail, I discovered the hike offers so much more: Ruins of a medieval castle, tombs from the iron age, panoramic views and most interesting, the Fonte Donzella, a source of water that dates back thousands of years, which became famous for the apparition of the Virgin Mary. 

Our Hike 

Following the map for path 523 & 523A from the Parco regionale dei Castelli Romani, my friend Anne and I set out from Fontana Marcaccio on a sunny winter day in January, and we gladly embraced the sun on the wide path which gently brought us uphill.   


Section between Fontana Marcaccio and the Rifugio Forestale

After 25 minutes we reached the Rifugio Forestale, Forest Refuge,  and it’s outdoor gym, kids playground and gorgeous wood picnic tables.


From here, you can take a right or continue straight. We continued straight until we reached the Valletta del Lupo and the 523A, turned left, and continued our trek up to Maschio d'Ariano. We passed the remains of the medieval Castello d'Ariano.


Once at the top of the Maschio d'Ariano, (891 m), we took in the vast panarama of the Tuscolani Mountains and Rocca Priora on one side and the Lepini Mountains and Circeo on the other.


Along the way down, we took a left for 523A, and passed ancient tombs. 


While on 523A, shortly after the tombs, there is  a small detour  that takes you to the glorious canyon a short distance from the trail.



It can be confusion to get to the gorge, as  it's the only part of the trail not very well indicated.
Fellow hikers told us to look for the deviation, marked by "a piece of wood", shown above. 

Once back on the 523 you can continue left to reach the Fonte Donzella and complete the loop or turn right to return to Valletta del Lupo and Fontana Marcaccia.

Spirituality along the Route

It was reported a local woman Angela Bartoli saw an apparition of the Madonna on October 1st, 2010 near the Fonte Donzella, while foraging for mushrooms.


Novelli, Sofia. 2021 "Apparizioni Fonte Acqua Donzella" . Olio su tela

It is now believed the apparitions take place every first day of the month, and pilgrims to make the trek to Fonte Acqua Donzella to pray around its chapel and small heart-shaped lake. 


Although we did not see the Madonna during the day, we were treated to both early crocus flowers and late snowfall on the trails.


Useful Information

Fontana Marcaccia to Monte Artemisio is a magnificent circular walk of about 11 km which combines small canyons,  ancient archaeological finds and mysticism.  It took us 3 hours. It is  suitable for both amateur and experienced hikers.  

Parking is available at Fontana Marcaccia and follow the  523 & 523a path.  Picnic areas are found along the route, eg at the Rifugio Forestale and Fonte Donzella.   

We immagined the hike would be quite hot in the summer, and most enjoyable during the other seasons.


The path is well maintained, easy to follow (apart from some trial and error trying to find the gorge), suitable for kids and adults, although you may want hiking boots and poles. The paths can be covered by bicycle and on foot.