Raul Fortini: Man of the Mountain


by Libby Weber

The outdated Fiat comes to a halt as dust from the gravel road temporarily veils the previously clean car. Without hesitating, Raul Fortini shifts into reverse, peers beyond the dashboard, and intently scans the ground for a tiny bird he worries may have gotten in his way. Satisfied the bird is safe, Raul continues up the 10-kilometer, zigzagging road from Cagli, Italy, to the breezy plains on top of Mount Petrano.  Photo of Raul

More than 40 years ago, Raul says, he became a member of the Cagli branch of Pro Loco, a national organization that promotes awareness of the environment through community activities. He now volunteers each day at Mount Petrano, maintaining the campgrounds that Pro Loco opened to the public in 1990. 

As the “go-to” mountain man, Raul manages the general upkeep from a small, wood-sided shed – complete with a front porch – that he proudly calls his office. The dusty windows are draped with faded tapestries he brought back from mission trips to Malawi. The title “Direzione” is unevenly carved into a wooden plaque nailed above the door, the letters stained a darker shade than the plaque frame. He unlocks the door, steps inside, and takes a look around to make sure things are in order. 

Satisfied with what he sees, Raul moves back outside to examine the campground, watchful of any needed repairs. The open showers are clean and functional. The swing set no longer squeaks, and the small gathering of campers appears content. These hot July weekends don’t attract too many regional visitors, Raul says. They would rather journey east to the beaches of the Adriatic Sea. Regardless, Raul doesn’t shirk his responsibilities to the campsite.

After a lifetime as a mechanic, Raul is now retired. He still practices his trade in a garage below his Cagli home where he occasionally works on projects for friends. Yet, he says, his priority lies with Pro Loco and Mount Petrano.

Raul with wild horsesEvery time Raul makes his daily trip up and down the mountain, he searches for the colony of wild horses that roams the grassy fields. He knows their patterns, and it doesn’t take him long to spot these elegant animals on the horizon. Seeing them awakens his attention, and he abruptly stops the Fiat.

Raul’s exit from the car matches his impatient walk toward the horses. He knows exactly which part of the barbed-wire fence is best to fit through, and he continues steadfast on the narrow dirt trail created by the horse’s traffic. 

There is something peaceful about Raul while he watches over them from a safe distance.  Like the horses, he is shy. But there is also something distant in his eyes, something more thoughtful behind the weathered creases that appear when he squints in their direction. 

Raul’s devotion is not just to these horses or the campers on the mountaintop but also to this land and his community. He is quietly proud of his work. “But I’m getting old now…” Raul mutters. Nonetheless, tomorrow he will still make the same drive to his rural office – just as he did yesterday and the day before.



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To find out more information about how
you can participate or support the Cagli project, contact:

Name: Shannon Zaranski
Phone:+1 509 - 313 - 3569
Email: zaranski@gonzaga.edu
Director: Dr. John Caputo
E-mail: caputo@gonzaga.edu