Hello outdoor lovers!
In this post, we will explore the possibility of taking in breathtaking sea views in Southern Lazio. As part of our "Hike by Train" series, the challenge is to leave the car at home and find out if it’s possible to easily reach the trailhead. We’ll consider factors such as travel time, the walk from the train station to the trailhead, and the overall trail quality. Let’s dive in!
Hiking from Formia Train Station
This hike requires a bit more planning, so let’s set our expectations accordingly. Once we arrive at Formia-Gaeta train station (although Gaeta is 7km away, it’s not our concern for today), we’ll need to walk through Formia on foot before reaching the trailhead. Realistically, this means a 45 to 60-minute walk before even starting on the main trail. However, Formia offers nice coffee shops and a pleasant beach view, so it’s definitely part of the experience. After all, it’s the journey, not just the destination, that matters.
What can you expect?
Overall, this hike is quite demanding. After spending almost an hour in town, we begin our ascent on a gravel road with increasingly challenging terrain. Some stretches are easier, but the road is long. You can choose to turn back at any time, for example, around Monte Santa Maria, making it a viable option. The elevation gain is a whopping 760 meters, and the trail isn’t always well-marked, requiring orienteering skills. Certain sections can be dangerous if you’re unfamiliar with the path, so it’s recommended for experienced hikers.
So, reading this, you might wonder: Why would I even consider going there if it sounds so challenging?
Because the view is STUNNING. It’s not every day that you get to see mountains on one side and the sea on the other as you ascend. Even if you decide to hike only a short distance, the view alone makes it worthwhile.
- Incredible views
- Rugged and wild trail (if you’re into that sorta thing)
- Isolated and raw nature (once you’re higher up)
- Sense of adventure (orienteering skills needed)
- Physical challenge (if that’s your cup of tea)
- Official difficulty scale: EE along trail 954
- Best period to visit: Generally all year round, but best to avoid summer months and rainy periods as the limestone can become extremely slippery when wet
- My difficulty assessment: Difficult (see the introduction paragraph)
- Elevation gain: 760m
- Elevation loss: 770m
- Type: Out-and-back
- Length: 19.8km
- Time: Approximately 5 hours
- Trail quality: The road is easy to walk on while in the city, but becomes a gravel road with varying levels of difficulty and complexity
Some things to be aware of
⚠️☀️ On this trail, you are 100% exposed to the weather. It’s best to avoid hiking during hot summer days. There is no water, refuge, or shade along the way. The same applies to rainy days, as the limestone can make the trail slippery. Although the trail is officially open year-round, it is advisable to hike it from April to September (depending on the weather) and avoid it during June, July, and August.
How to get there
Driving by car actually takes longer than taking the train in this case. It’s approximately a 2-hour drive from Rome to Formia. First, head east towards the A24. Take the A24, but after the toll station, take the exit towards Naples and continue onto the A1 highway heading South. Exit at Cassino and follow the signs for Formia. You can park at the train station or next to the trailhead on a narrow road called Via Acervara (where locals also park). You can choose other official parking spots, especially if you’re concerned about safety for your car. Here is an official and central parking space (paid): https://goo.gl/maps/Ljpg95duqwig5xWUA
By public transport
You can take the train from Termini to the station Formia-Gaeta. The average time to get there is 1h 34 minutes with the normal option (8,40€). However, there are some fast options with the Intercity train. Those cost 18€ (one-way), and take 1h 7 minutes on average. Make sure to check the available departure times and connections on https://www.trenitalia.com.
So, you’ve decided to try this trail despite all the observations and warnings I mentioned above because your curiosity and sense of adventure outweigh your sense of caution. Okay, let’s proceed then.
Once you’re at the train station, head west to reach the trailhead. Where is the trailhead? It’s right next to the train track, but unfortunately not at the train station but all the way in the west. However, there is no road parallel to the train tracks, so the only option is to walk through Formia and find a spot where we can safely walk under the train track. I’ve chosen the quickest route, with a little detour along a beach park in Largo Pasquale Gallinaro. During my trail inspection, I also made a quick stop at Caffetteria Civico 12, where the guy behind the counter is quite the character. The place was crowded, but the guy was friendly, efficient, and the cappuccino was very good.
Getting to the trail head
At some point we need to make it from Via Tito Scipione to Viale Unità d’Italia – the main street. I was trying to find a little shortcut, you can take "Via Pio La Torre", but use the road on the right at the fork, not the one on the left – which will lead onto private property and a closed gate. After the gas station we take a right turn and start heading north. Eventually, we’ll end up at a little train bridge, which gives us the chance to cross below, make it to the other side and start our ascent on the rocky trail. The beginning looks a bit sketchy, dirty and there are big fances that look like they’re from Jurassic Park (but most likely prevent people below being affected by falling rocks). Just continue, it’ll get better.
Our way up Part 1
At this point we make our way up in a kind of zig zag fashion and quickly start to gain in elevation. Along the way we also note a dry wall, probably used by shepards a long time ago, and we also start noting some ancient, abandoned trails that were used by shepards in the past. After a while it looks like we reached the end of the road and there is some strange, improvised human-made fence / entrance. We enter that gate (don’t forget to close behind you), which was most likely set up for free grazing cattle around here.
Our way up Part 2
At this point you could also call it a day, but if you feel like you’re still warming up, you can tackle the more challenging part of this hike, making our way up north to Monte Santa Maria. Once there, we follow a little ridge to the North-West, which eventually leads to Monte San Roano. At this point (at 765m) we already walked 11km, so consider you have to walk another 11km to get back – basically more than a half marathon!
Some super fit people might attempt to make it to Monte Tuonaco from here (at 1179m). I don’t recommend it and indeed for our trail inspection at this point we called it a day.
I leave you with a short video I made about our hike up. Enjoy exploring!
Want to get more out of this hiking experience?
- Book a guided hike with a certified hiking guide, to enjoy this experience in safety and to learn more about the flora, fauna, and to discover some hidden gems along the way!
Reach out to learn about our private hike and group hike availabilities.
- Alternatively, purchase a self-guided hike for a highly detailed trail description, local tips, and everything you need to start exploring on your own safely and organized: Get in touch with us to learn more.