Monti Sibillini National Park in Umbria: As Seen from the Back of a Donkey

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Monti Sibillini is the stuff of myths and legends, no wonder though as it’s mysterious beauty would get anyone’s imagination going. I had the opportunity to explore it while riding a donkey

monti sibillini village

Monti Sibillini

Not only does Monti Sibillini have the distinction of being Umbria’s only national park. Sibilla Mountain is known for its magical properties. Legend has it that Mount Sibillini was named after a famous prophetess. Sibilla lived in a cave high in the mountain. During the middle ages, she was sought out by knights going into battle for her fortune-telling abilities.

It was named after the prophetess, Sibilla who lived in a cave high.  During the middle ages, she was sought out by knights going into battle for her fortune-telling abilities. Other versions of the legend say that the cave in which Sibilla lived was an entryway into a magnificent kingdom under the mountain. Sibilla is said to be the queen of the kingdom. Whichever story it is, one thing is true, Sibilla has long passed on but her legend remains.

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Donkey Riding: The Best Way To Explore

I explored Monti Sibillini on the back of a donkey named Nina. Before exploring the Piano Grande Plateau in Monti Sibillini by donkey, you choose your donkey.  This was easy. Nina’s confidence radiated out of us and she gladly posed for photos.

Monti sibillini national park umbria - donkey named Nina

Nina seemed to think that her left side was her best side as she posed for photos.

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monti sibillini me on the back of a donkey
Traveling in style with Nina in Monti Sibillini National Park.

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth going. Roberto from La Mulattiera informed us that donkeys have an ever-changing social structure. Nina was the leader that day, but she was also hungry, stopping to eat every few meters, then quickening her pace to pull out in front again to ensure she was in the lead.

It is safe to say she justly proved why donkeys are considered to be cantankerous. I loved her anyway, but maybe that’s because I didn’t have the difficult job of trying to lead her as Nathalie did from @perfectbotique. 

Either way, I felt like I was on a pilgrimage in search of the mystical powers that Monti Sibillini is famous for.  

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Monti sibillini
Nathalie had the difficult job of convincing Nina that she needed exercise more than she needed to stop and eat every few minutes.

Then we were off  for a view of what this magical place looks like – from the back of a donkey

monti sibillini

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monti sibillini sheppard with his sheep

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Monti sibillini taking a break from donkey riding for a photo opp
Pictured are Nathalie @perfectboutique, our guide Gigi @ViadiFrancesco and Lea @vanilleah.  You know you’re in for a good time when your guide says “Can you tell who the real donkey is in  the photo?”  Good times!Mountains hovering over the Piano Grande Plateau – photo taken from the back of a donkey – just from a side view.

We didn’t encounter any prophetess on our journey. But it was magical nonetheless and I plan to return to search for Sibilli, or at least the remains of her mystical powers.  Perhaps Nina will join me.

Know Before You Go Donkey Riding in Monti Sibillini National Park:

  • Book in advance
  • Bring a hat and gloves, it can be windy
  • Trips range from a couple of hours to multi-day expeditions
  • Donkey riding is family-friendly and children as young as six can do it (sometimes younger, but check with Roberto before you go)
  • Piano Grande Plateau is located just 40km from Norcia 
  • Donkey riding is surprisingly comfortable – although you will be sore for about 5 minutes upon dismounting
  • It’s more difficult than it looks to take photos from the back of a donkey!

Accommodation Near Monti Sibillini

I stayed at the Agri-Hotel Ristorante Hermitage in Norcia while on my trip and loved it.

The Relais & Chateaux Palazzo Seneca is also a great option and it has a 9.5/10 rating. The hotel is housed in a 16th-century palace. The hotel even has a very authentic library. Enjoy live jazz music in the lounge and exquisite meals in the restaurant.

Other Tours Near Monti Sibillini

Enjoy a tour of the Sibillini Mountains and the towns of Cascia and Norcia. You will also have the opportunity to stop and taste some local wines and other produce. This tour is perfect if you are staying in Assissi which is the most popular town in the region.

Enjoy a hiking tour that will take you through Monti Sibillini. Explore Lake Pilato a glacial lake that has many legends and myths attached to its history. Expanded your tour to include a hike up to Mt. Vitorro which is the highest peak in Sibillini. 

After visiting Sibillini I can understand why it has been the subject of myths and legends that have lasted till now. I really had fun on this trip and plan on visiting again.

Thank you to Roberto and La Mulattiera for our donkey riding experience and introduction to Nina and the piano Grande Plateau in Monti Sibillini National Park.