Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hidden Havens: Gola di Jana

The backroads around Matelica in the middle-western part of the region are peppered with signs announcing that you're on the Franciscan Assisi-Loreto pilgrimage route. It's been well-trodden over the centuries, but there are others without signposts that are even older. The town once stood on a route that connected the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas, and dates back to the ancient Etruscan and Umbrian civilizations. The names of the area bear testament to this history, perhaps none more so than Gola di Jana, which lies to the north-east of Matelica beyond the village of Braccano.

Jana (or Giana) was an ancient deity of the sun and guardian of the gates of heaven, opening them at dawn and closing them at sunset. The east-west conjunction of Gola di Jana suggests that it might have borne some relationship to this pagan god, since it has a natural alignment with the arc of the sun as it traces itself across the sky, particularly during the summer soltice's rising sun and the setting sun of its winter counterpart.

Conjectures and conjunctions aside, however, the gorge's stands of tall trees provide welcome respite from the summer sun, its steep sides converging into a narrow canyon whose precipitous cliffs you can touch with outstretched arms before you're boxed in by a waterfall fronted by an inviting pool with its crisp, clear water.

There's a whole host of different plants and trees on its short trail, attracting butterflies, dragonflies, and other inhabitants that likely seldom venture beyond this small pocket of natural diversity.

The road beyond the gorge's parking area opens up on to the hilly plains enclosed by mounts Canfaito, Pagliano and Argentaro, where you'll find the abandoned ruins of the Abbadia di Rotis. Old stone slabs in front of the abbey suggest an ancient temple where the very same Jana may have been worshipped.

(If you click on the photos, a full-scale version opens.)

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