Monte Scalambra today, with Serrone resting across its slopes, is the centre of paragliding near Rome. The mountain was for many centuries the natural protector of Rome due to its incredible view stretching from the Eternal City to the valleys to the south.
Today, the experience of free flight, paragliding and hang-gliding, brings extreme sportspeople to Serrone dreaming of soaring in the sky following the desire of nearly all humans who yearn to fly and see the marvels of nature and man. And it is only relatively recently that mankind has escaped being earthbound and learned to glide in the skies.
A desire for freedom but also a curiosity to see the world from another perspective, to be ‘superman’ for a while. From Serrone you can fly over the amazing scenery south from Rome, of natural landscape and of important ruins and monuments, built even before the Roman empire.
In fact, many of us do ‘fly’ in our dreams, climbing into the sky and floating over our streets, parks and towns, moving with the sun, the drafts, sharing with the birds. Heaven is in the sky in many religious traditions. Yet except in stories of religious assumption and space walking, mankind has failed to achieve flight without wings, as his efforts have inevitably ended in an untimely descent to the ground, thereby reinforcing the ever-powerful law of gravity.
Yet, over 1500 years ago, the Chinese invented kites that would support the human frame, but subsequent attempts to make man into a winged creature had little success. It was Leonardo da Vinci’s dream that was only partly successful until Lilienthal built gliders in the 1890s that he could control by shifting his weight just like in a modern hang-glider. The hang-glider is a heavier than air winged device that depends on wind and air currents, as well as human skill and dare-devilry, for its success.
There were two inventions that brought hang-gliding to its ‘day in the sun’. In 1948, Francis and Gertrude Rogallo sought patent protection for a fully flexible kited wing known since as the Rogallo wing. Many modifications and improvements followed with recognition for development of the modern hang-glider going to John Dickenson in 1963 and the Rogallo wing has been the most successful aerofoil design for hang-gliding.
Today the preponderance of flyers are not so much hang-gliders as para-gliders. The theory of flying under a parachute has been known since the 1950s, but the term paragliding was only coined in 1985. It is due to three French friends in Mieussy who six years earlier, calculated that on a suitable slope, a “square” ram-air parachute could be inflated by running down the slope. They then proved their calculations sufficient in practical experiment.
Why is Serrone is so special for gliders?
Serrone is spread over the kind slopes of Mount Scalambra that stands out in the countryside south of Rome. It offers a particular advantage in being accessible and less dangerous for flight initiation than many mountains with steep escarpments and cliffs. This may be why Serrone has such a relatively long history in gliding, since 1978, and is now known around the world as one of the top towns to experience ‘free flight’.
For most flyers, gliding is a spring or summer sport when the heat of the day creates updrafts and cross currents that enable the Serrone flyer to soar high above the hills and to travel well over 100 km, touring over the famous Cesanese vineyards and the towns of the Ernici, with their middle-age fortresses, ancient walls and medievel castles, or even link to the Simbruini Mountains over the high plain of Arcinazzo.
Serrone has its paragliding and hang gliding club “Serrone Vola”, which offers a wide range of take-off possibilities, at three levels on Mount Scalambra, and provides gliding lessons with tandem gliders. There are lessons and demonstrations for both hang-gliders and paragliders, mostly in the warmer months.
But there is barely a fine day when staring into the sky from the medieval village of Serrone that you will fail to see an intrepid adventurer para-gliding far above the hillsides testing and taunting the breezes and currents. Whether in practice for the annual Trofeo Serrone Vola, or just a soul sharing the skies with the birds, you have witnessed another glider Serrone dreaming.
For more information on paragliding near Rome contact the association Serrone Vola (http://www.serroneweb.it/parapendio/parapendio.htm)