Geology, as it turns out, doesn’t actually rock

Imagine me enthusiastically holding my fingers against my thumb and shaking my hand violently during this post.


University is the best time of your life they said. You’ll meet new people they said. Well whoever the mysterious ‘they’ is, they obviously didn’t consider the horrors of doing a month of mapping in the middle of nowhere.

This trip was to Piobbico in the Apennines of Italy and it wasn’t entirely my choice. I was there for my Geology degree which wasn’t exactly something to celebrate. It meant too much work and too little fun. Staying in Piobbico was like being back in my home village with a few thousand people, a river and the feeling that everyone knows everyone, which isn’t bad, just not ideal for this situation. The only differences were here there were mountains surrounding the village and everyone spoke Italian and not “posh English”.


Village by the river
A picturesque Piobbico


Doing geology, the prerequisite is a deeply ingrained love of rocks. For some it’s an unhealthy obsession, where a rock can bring unbridled joy, fascination and as one of my lecturers said, the experience of a lifetime. For me it’s more of a mild acknowledgement that it’s cool that they formed ages ago and they have some interesting stuff in them but in the end, it’s just a rock. This wasn’t the attitude needed for this trip. What was needed was a steely determination to take measurements in the heat, mind numbing obedience to write the same rubbish every day, and finally the ability to walk miles without enough food. Most simply put, the geology was an absolute joke. I think most people can appreciate that mapping 14 formations of the same rock isn’t exactly an engaging activity. Our patience was wearing thin, our legs were tired and our faces were almost always in a spider’s web. Now, walking in the mountains is something I don’t mind at all, in fact I would say I enjoy it. The scenery was beautiful and getting out of Piobbico, where we knew the majority of the population within a week, was nice. But Geology was testing my love of the mountains.

There are 3 certainties of Piobbico. You will be turned into an amphibian if you don’t say hello to the old ladies of the town every day, you will love or hate the Ape (the lovechild of a moped and a pick-up truck) and by the end of your stay, Crazy Bar will probably become a second home.


The Surrounding Area


The largest of our climbs were Monte Cardamagna and Monte Nerone, which would’ve been fine if it wasn’t for stopping to look at rocks every few minutes. However, the flies, the spiderwebs and the continuous cries of ‘Capek banget’ from Rangga (meaning ‘I’m really tired’) were worth it for the views. On these mountains we could see almost all of the area we had to walk and had brilliant views of Piobbico and much further afield.

View from Monte Nerone
Capek banget – Monte Nerone


At the end of another day of mapping, where nothing made sense, we spotted an interesting looking church perched on a hill at the end of the valley, which we decided was somewhere worth exploring. The church can be seen along most of the path from Sassarotto to the south and so acted as an incentive. After hopping the occasional fence, we came into a tiny hamlet and walked around the old buildings which looked uninhabited, our hypothesis was supported when some horses came out of one. The next natural step from here is that maybe it was a village run by horses, who had learnt to use human devices. Who knows? Mark my words this is the beginning of the end, one day the horse will rule supreme. Anyway, moving away from our soon to be horse overlords, we took precautions to get to the church, where we definitely weren’t supposed to be. We skirted around the hill to avoid the houses. At the church, we wandered around for a little bit and avoided the upstairs because of the dodgy looking steps. There wasn’t much to see but it was a cool location and as we headed back we could take in the views down the valley and then the long walk back to Piobbico.


Black and white photo in derelict doorway
A down on luck Indonesian composes himself before spitting some of the hottest bars the rap game has ever known


Some of the best walks we did were in and around the valley of Rio Vitoschio where there are numerous paths serving some places for climbers but also leading to waterfalls and spectacular view points. Be warned that some of the sections here are uphill and so if you’re going in summer like us bring lots of water. One regret of our trip, was not having a swim in any of the rivers. However, around the village and on the paths, there are plenty of suitable areas.


Bright blue dragonfly on a leaf
Bright blue dragonfly seen on the Rio Vitoschio path


Final thoughts


From this post, you may now have more of an insight into my degree and how much I enjoy it. However, hopefully I also got across that this area of Italy is worth a visit for some picturesque hikes through forests and on the mountains. Piobbico doesn’t have much but everyone welcomed us with open arms and nights at crazy bar after a brilliant pizza can’t be argued with. Ciao.

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