Explore the places of interest

The Hinton Brown Path

path length: 10.4 KM
Height difference: 840 MT
difficulty: EE (for expert hikers)
POINT OF DEPARTURE: Valico di Montelabreve
RETURN: along the same route
On foot
Technical clothing

We highly recommend you to always contact the Tourism Office in order to receive further and updated information about the paths and their accessibility.

Historical Background

This story comes from a diary. The diary of a pilot who was hit by German flak on the 3rd of July 1944 as he returned from a mission on his Spitfire.

We are on the Italian front during the last stretch of World War II. Along the Apennines of central Italy, from the Apuan Alps to the Foglia hills, the Germans built their defensive line dividing Italy in two. Consisting of countless bunkers, casemates, and trenches (many of which can still be seen today), the Gothic Line was meant to allow the Nazi-Fascists to halt – or at least slow down – the advance of the Anglo-American military forces.

Hinton Brown is a South African pilot of the British Army squadron. During his return from a firing mission on some enemy convoys, he was hit by a German anti-aircraft fire, stationed right over our mountains. He had no choice but to parachute in, landing in the countryside around Sant’Agata Feltria, which was a very well manned strategic area by the Germans.

Local peasants and partisans saw what occurred and rescued him, taking him to safety; from here he began a “journey across the Gothic Line” which lasted about a month, leading him to reunite with his fellow soldiers who had already arrived in the Anghiari area. On his way he found some guides who wisely got him through the mountains, helping him to avoid enemies and spies and finding him hospitality in cottages and parsonages.

On the Alpe della Luna, Hilton Brown probably ascended toward Ponte Presale, where the Slovaks were camped, then traveled the “Smugglers’ Trail” toward Piscina Nera and crossed the Montelabreve Pass, where German positions are still visible. Finally, following the shared section between Sentiero dei Contrabbandieri and Via Romea he headed toward the Sbocco delle Bucine.

We know with certainty that the Viamaggio Pass and the Mount Maggiore were heavily garrisoned by the Germans; in fact, there are still many remains of the firing positions and shelters that have been preserved. That pass, which was also traveled by salt and tobacco smugglers, once crossed the main ridge, descends right down to the farms mentioned by Brown: Val di Canale, il Condotto, Spinella and Montagna.

Thanks to the commitment of Alberto Merendi – a journalist and writer who translated the diary carefully kept by Hinton’s nephew Chris – and his collaboration with the Brown family, it has been possible to retrace the paths of the Gothic Line and observe the German positions the South Africa Air Force pilot traveled.

From Luna Nuova Web – “I sentieri della memoria” (2019) by Andrea Meschini and Doriano Pela.

Path Description

The creation of the Hinton Brown Path, is part of the Gothic Line Historical Park project aimed at enhancing routes related to the events of World War II in the territory of Badia Tedalda.

The trail begins at the Montelabreve Pass (919m asl). At the start it corresponds with CAI trail No. 5 in the direction of M. Maggiore. A few meters later it branches off to the left (marker with arrow) and descends into the valley (white/red paint marker) touching the villages of Montelabreve and Gorgoscura to the ford on the Auro stream (670m asl – 3 km from the start). After the ford it ascends to the right overlapping the BT6 trail and ascends the Auro valley to the ridge (1,002m asl). Here the trails divide: the BT6 descends to Colle delle Quarantelle, while the Hinton Brown trail runs along the ridge of Poggio dell’Oppione to the Sbocco delle Bucine (1,232m asl – trail CAI 90 bis + 90 – km 8 from the start). Al crinale attraversa il sent. At the ridge crosses the path 00/E1 (arrows indication + white/red paint marker) and descends to the Val di Canale locality (m. 898 asl – km 10.5 from the start).
Val di Canale is now a ruin, but it was one of the farmhouses where local peasants hosted evacuees who ran away from cities subjected to Allied bombing. The other nearby farms used for the same purpose were Montagna, the Palazzo, the Podere, the Condotto and the Spinella; Hinton Brown stayed at the Condotto, before clandestinely crossing the Tiber to rejoin his army.
At this point you can choose one of these two different options:
1. turn back (it would be best to do this at the Bucine Outlet);
2. include it in a two-day trek.

If you chose option number 2:
At Val di Canale the Hinton Brown trail joins CAI Trail No. 6, which in this section is part of the La Verna-Assisi Franciscan Trail. Then, you take CAI trail No. 6 in the direction of the Pian della Capanna refuge (1,031m asl – distance 4 km), a stopover place for the pilgrims. On the second day, from Pian della Capanna you take CAI No. 8A to the ridge (1,411 asl) where you cross the 00/E1 trail again. Here it is worth making a short detour to M. dei Frati to visit the remains of German anti-aircraft emplacements. From the ridge descend on CAI path No. 19 to the locality Casa Seccaroni (1,094m asl). The isolated cottage was used by Aretine partisans as a base and refuge. Then, you leave CAI path No. 19 to take No. 29, which – crossing the entire eastern slope of M. dei Frati – leads to the Monterano ridge to CAI path No. 5. Going left we return to the Montelabreve Pass, encountering numerous other remains of the Gothic Line. (From Pian della Capanna: length 12km. Total ascent 750m. Total descent 850m).

Organized excursions

Check out our calendar or arrange a private excursion with an experienced environmental guide.