Atlas Obscura would not be possible without the dedicated work of our community, who help us add more wondrous places to the site every day. We want to give some of our most dedicated contributors a chance to share collections of some of their favorite entries, and tell us all a little more about themselves. Atlas Obscura user LatiumMirabile has been a dedicated contributor since 2017, and he tops our leaderboards in places visited in his home country, Italy, and has added many places there himself.
“My name is Jan Claus Di Blasio, I’m of mixed Dutch, Italian, and Swiss ancestry. I grew up in the Castelli Romani, a regional park just outside of Rome, famous for being a hotspot for Grand Tour artists during the 18th and 19th-centuries,” he says.
Jan grew up surrounded by the sights that impressed authors such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Stendhal. Despite the urbanization that has swallowed up much of the areas surrounding Rome, he has remained curious about the cultural and natural heritage of Lazio, Abruzzo, and Umbria in Central Italy.
A high school teacher with degrees in archaeology and environmental sciences, Jan occupies his time out of the classroom hiking, kayaking, trail running, snowshoeing, and cycling to explore the Italian countryside. He often documents these excursions on his blog, Latium Mirabile, with the hope of one day publishing an English guide to Lazio.
“I am particularly drawn to sights that exemplify our region’s [ancient] history, especially rural Etruscan archaeological sites, and medieval Christian hermitages,” he says. “For this list, I focus on the latter, as these are often extraordinary testimonies of the ascetic lifestyles of holy men, who carved rustic dwellings from the limestone cliffs of the Appennine Mountains, often in places previously associated with pagan beliefs and numinous connections.”
Many of these locations, hundreds of years old, are still important and cherished by local communities, and are often sites of religious festivals and processions. For him, however, it’s the solitude and closeness to nature that lures him in: “I am particularly drawn to their quiet isolation and the way they harmoniously blend with the environment surrounding them.” Many of the locations listed below are located along the Sentiero dello Spirito (Path of the Spirit), a nearly 50-mile trail that Jan has tackled.
“In many of these, architectural features, frescoes, and other such archaeological traces are still visible,” he adds. “This makes them particularly valuable for us to understand what drove these nonconformist, renegade monks and individuals to pursue a spiritual lifestyle of deprivation, meditation, and detachment from the material world of organized religion.”
As for why he uses and contributes to the Atlas, “I feel that Atlas Obscura is both a resource for my travels, and an extraordinary platform for my contributions for a community of adventurers and explorers like me.”