Mount Tancia (4238 feet) is the highest mountain in the Sabini range and it is easily accessible. The view along the way is incredible, and this is a notable area in regards to both its wildlife and the archaeological finds related to human settlements.
In particular, the southern side on the mountain presents a unique microclimate due to the thermoregulation caused by the Tiber Valley nearby, which allows for unusually mild temperatures. As a consequence, the plants that have proliferated here are those that prefer warmed climates and sun exposure, like holm oaks, which are typical of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, sheltered natural areas and wildlife refuges have allowed several animal species to reproduce, mostly wild boars, wolves, foxes, hares, porcupines, badgers, weasels, wildcats and Italian stream frogs, but also kestrels, sparrowhawks and buzzards.
On the other hand, archaeological finds with decorations typical of the Central Apennines area prove that people have lived on and around Mount Tancia since the prehistoric era, when they inhabited little huts built on terraces. However, the mountain is mostly renowned for the Tancia Mountain Pass (Valico del Tancia), at 802 metres above sea level, which represented in the past the only natural route between Rieti’s Plain and the Tiber Valley, as well as the meeting point of four main itineraries (towards Rieti, the Farfa Valley and the Tiber Valley) and several secondary ones that do not exist anymore. Being under Farfa rule and along the border between Rome and the Duchy of Spoleto meant that merchants, shepherds, bandits and pilgrims alike often came this way, starting from the 8th up until the 20th century.
Along the way they eventually built, in the 15th century, an ‘Osteria del Tancia’ (Tancia inn), later renovated and now functioning as a starting point for hikes on the mountain. You can also catch sight of the ruins of the Rocca di Tancia (Tancia Fortress) and the Fatucchio Castle, tangible proofs of the encastellation characterising the Sabine region during the 10th century, when ecclesiastics and local lords ordered for fortifications to be built all over the place in order to exert their power, control their estates and protect land and people from enemy armies.
Finally, on the western slopes of the mountain you will find the Cave-hermitage of St. Michael (Grotta di San Michele Arcangelo), which used to contain a sculpture, later stolen, of Sabine goddess Vacuna sculpted in a stalactite. According to legend, it was pope Sylvester who gave the cave its name after he saw two angels banish a demoniacal snake.