At the beginning of the path on the right we see the Vallecupa, with stables on land once owned also by the Sipari family. In the “fabulous” 60s horse races at national level were held here with the participation of riding champions, as the brothers D'Inzeo.

A “pollard” tree in the forest of La Difesa. The cutting head (in latin, capitis) was made about 2 meters high. The grazing cattle could not graze with this practice, in use until about the mid-twentieth century. The new branches of these plants grew back in a characteristic way.

The whole area of La Difesa and Mount Tranquillo lends itself to hiking on foot, with snowshoes, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Particularly beautiful the forest of La Difesa, characterized by “pollard” trees and crossed by the path C2, a ring trail relatively easy and family-friendly.

la fontana della Difesa (foto Stefano Dark)
The fountain of La Difesa

The area of outstanding natural beauty includes the Macchia della Rocca and points of archaeological interest still undiscovered. The scenes of the film The Fox and the Child by Luc Jacquet (2007) were shot here.

baita di Padre Terzi alla Difesa (foto Stefano Dark)
The chalet of Father Terzi at La Difesa

Starting from the track that climbs on Mount Tranquillo, the long trail C1 leads to Macchiarvana, beautiful plateau that with the winter snow is a haunt for the lovers of cross-country skiing.

la Madonna di Monte Tranquillo nel giorno di festa verso il santuario (foto Stefano Dark)
The Madonna of Monte Tranquillo in the feast day towards the sanctuary

The path C3 leads to the sanctuary and then to the pass of Mount Tranquillo. In the climb we see the mantle of the Virgin Mary, with a rock and a crucifix clearly visible. Popular belief has it that the Virgin, after an exhausting journey, have sat there to rest leaving on the rock the imprint of her celestial mantle.

santuario di M.Tranquillo all'arrivo del sentiero (foto Domenico Roselli)
Sanctuary of M.Tranquillo at the end of the path

The first historical mention of the church dates back to the twelfth century. Until the sixteenth century it had a rector and received donations, until it joined in 1606 the parish church. A stone set in the wall shows “HABET ONUS OSPITALITATIS 1683” and refers to a hospitale (shelter) built near the old little church by Dr. Loreto Pastore in 1644.

lapide chiesa M.Tranquillo (foto Stefano Dark)
Plaque in the churc of Mount Tranquillo

In the Second World War, the sanctuary of St. Mary in Mount Tranquillo was in the firing line of the Cassino front and suffered serious damage. People of Pescasseroli took a vow, asking to save the village from the destruction of war. As thanks, in 1956 they restored the temple with extraordinary commitment. Also the women manhandled the stones for the retaining wall.

vecchia fotografia del Rifugio della Difesa (foto PNALM)
Old photo for the mountain hut of La Difesa

From the sanctuary the worshipped ancient Black Madonna, was stolen in 1979. The current Marian statue is a copy of the original, which was in wood and of French school. From the theft the two crowns, of Mary and the infant Jesus, were spared.

This explains the ancient and highest devotion to this Madonna (black, as well as the Crowned Madonna and that of Canneto in the neighboring town of Settefrati).

Text by Stefano Dark – Images by Stefano Dark, Domenico Roselli, Umberto Esposito and NPALM

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