Designed by GZ

Compiled by Giorgio Zanetti (Links checked Feb, 2010)

*** PART 4 - ABRUZZO ***
*** PHOTO ALBUM by Giorgio Zanetti ***



Described in the following pages is a tour of Central Italy that my family and I undertook in the summer of 1989.
We arrived at Fiumicino airport, near Rome, on June 17 and departed from the same airport on July 16. After picking up a pre-booked rental car at the airport, we followed a broadly pre-outlined itinerary and, as we progressed on our journey, decided when and where to go next .

We will be visiting about two dozen locations during this tour and I will be adding them at different stages.

The towns with a

coral background

are towns where we stayed one or more nights.







(1442 m. asl)

We stayed at: HOTEL ST. ANDREW

We left Norcia regrettably without attempting the hike to Mt. Vettore due to the uncertainty of the weather.
We proceeded to the man-made Lake of Campotosto situated in the Abruzzo region just accross the boundary with Umbria. The lake is approximately 80 Km. southeast of Norcia.

The main reason that attracted us to this lake was the fact that from here there is an exceptional panorama of the north side of the Gran Sasso. We also found the area surrounding the lake very peaceful.


* We chose this trail from the book "A PIEDI IN ABRUZZO" (WALKING IN ABRUZZO) (see bottom of page for references)

1) Hike to Mt. MASCIONI (1595 m. asl)

a) 220 m. gain in elevation
b) 1.5 hrs. return
c) this trail is not marked.


It was a very hot day even at this high altitude nonetheless, but foolishly, started the hike at 12:30. We parked the car on the side of the road to Poggio Cancelli after crossing the lake from the south. This is an easy hike, but because the trail is without proper markings it might take longer than noted; it is hard to keep the top always in full view and so one tends to deviate from a more direct line.

At midway point in the climb we saw far on our left a very large flock of sheep on the other side of a gully and proceeding to the opposite direction. Suddenly we notice that 5 white Maremmano-Abruzzese sheep dogs (these are flock guardian type; they are beautiful, huge and very protective) galloping towards us; they stopped at about 100 yards from us forming a semi-circle; we just kept walking while gathering a few stones (big deal). The dogs disappeared as quickly as they came perhaps satisfied that we were no threat to their flock.
As we continue to climb, the towering peaks of the Gran Sasso (2914 m. asl) , approximately 20 Km. away as the crow flies, were coming into view. It is indeed quite a view.

2) Of the many hikes suggested in the book the following one also sounds very rewarding (the author says it is the best from Campotosto; excellent view of the Campotosto lake and the Gran Sasso from Mt. San Franco to the Corno Grande): hike to Mt. di MEZZO (2136 m. asl)

a) 980 m. gain in elevation
b) 3 hrs. to the top
c) 2 hrs for the return
d) this trail is not marked.


From Campotosto (1420 m. asl) follow a dirt road that starts from the centre of the town and climb towards a ridge above it til you reach a house. Now follow the mule track along the ridge wich eventually veers to the right until reaching the bottom of the Fosso di Costa Sola and where the track becomes steeper. Now keep to the right (the mule track continues to the left towards Preta) and climb among a few beech trees; climb over an abutment and then cross the deep valley half way up the slope to reach the Sella (pass) di Costa Sola (2.25 hrs. to here).
From here keep to the right and follow the ridge. After the steep slope that goes to the top of Costa Sola (2044 m. asl) the trail continues almost flat, with exceptional vistas, all the way to the top of Mt. di Mezzo(.75 hrs.)


(721 m. asl)

We stayed at: a private house Bar Ristorante "VILLA DEGLI ARCHI" in Poggio di Roio (990 m. asl)

After a couple of days in Campotosto we drove to L'Aquila, 42 Km. away .
First we went to the tourist office to enquire about what accommodation would be available outside the town. The one at the Convent of ST. Maria della Croce (St. Mary of the Cross) in Poggio di Roio sounded interesting and so we went. Unfortunately there was a convention and there was no room available immediately. The nun in charge of accommodation suggested a private house just down the road whose owner also ran a trattoria.

We went to investigate: the owner's daughter was very pleasant, the house was fairly new and the ground floor apartment was clean and spacious. We took it. From the backyard we were overlooking almost the whole town of L'Aquila with the Gran Sasso as a backdrop!
Riccardo, the four years old son of the innkeeper's daughter, turned out to be quite a character and quite a talker!

"The Eagle" is the capital city of the Abruzzo region and was built on a high plateau surrounded by mountains. Frederick II founded the town in 1240 as a barrier against the encroaching papal territories. The city is known for the curious fact of having many things numbering ninety-nine: 99 churches, 99 piazzas, 99 fountains.


* The Basilica of St. Mary of Collemaggio an important example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture was begun in 1287. It is renowned for its magnificent fašade in local pink and white marble placed in a geometric pattern.
Three rose-windows and three portal embellish the whole. Pope Celestinus V (Pietro da Morrone) was incoronated here in 1294.

The interior of the church was restored to its original splendour in 1972 with niches containing valuable XV and XVI c. frescoes.

* The Basilica of St. Bernardino is a Renaissance church erected in St. Bernardine of Siena's honour (he died here in 1444) by his Aquilan disciples, St. John of Capestrano and St. James della Marca.
The elegant fašade was finished between 1525 and 1542 by the architect Cola d'Amatrice. The interior was redecorated in Baroque style after the devastating earthquake of 1703. The body of the Saint is placed in the mausoleum built by Silvester of Aquila, pupil of Donatello.

Not to be missed is a valuable altar-piece by Andrea della Robbia.

* The Castle was begun in 1530 and designed by Pirro Luigi ScivÓ. This enormous pentagon fortress, buttressed with diamond-shaped outposts, is surrounded by a deep and dry moat, and it contains the National Museum of Abruzzo. In one of the bastion there is a rare example of a one million years old "Elephas meridionalis" found near the city in 1954.
From the area of the castle one has a rather spectacular view of the Gran Sasso towering almost above the city.

* The Fontana delle 99 Cannelle which was begun in 1272 commemorating, so the legend goes, the 99 villages that united to become L'Aquila. It was built at the request of the Tuscan Governor, Lucchesino Aleta, by Tancredi da Pentima. Its originality is found not only in the trapezoid shape and on the stone masques, each one different from the other, but also in the fact that the source of the water supplying the fountain is unknown.
The gracious wall which surrounds it, built in rose and white stone was quarried at Genzano di Sassa, like that of S. Maria di Collemaggio, was probably added at the beginning of the XV c.
* Fountain with 99 spouts - detail.



(950 m. asl)

Of the many places and villages in this area that are worth a visit we chose Bominaco, Campo Imperatore and Rocca Calascio.


* A very interesting visit, just 30 Km. southeast of L'Aquila, is the village of Bominaco (950 m. asl) famous for the churches of St. Pellegrino and St. Mary situated just past the village within a peaceful surrounding; if you wish to visit the interior enquire how to get the keys from one of the locals, but often someone shows up in no time with the keys .
Existence of the church of St. Pellegrino is found in the early X c. and was built on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Venus. The interior displays one of the most important depiction of frescoes in Abruzzo dating to the second half of the XIII c. in addition to the marvellous plutei of the iconostasis.

The nearby church of St. Mary was built at the beginning of the XI c. in conjunction with a monastery. This Romanesque style church has three nave and three elegant apsis decorated in the characteristically Lombard style. This church is one of the most significant example of Romanesque architecture in Abruzzo. In the interior not to be missed are the Abbot's Throne, the marble Paschal candelabrum, and the marble pulpit decorated by reliefs.

* An excursion to Campo Imperatore (2130 m. asl) is well worth the drive in order to admire the wild scenery of the Gran Sasso (National Park of Gran Sasso Laga Mountains) range interspersed with vistas of sheep and horses grazing in the wide alpine meadows.


(1210 m. asl)

After the visit to Campo Imperatore we drove to Calascio via St. Stefano di Sessanio(1230 m. asl). From Calascio we had planned a hike to the fortress perched high above the village.


Thefortress of Calascio, one of the most appealing of all Abruzzo, stands as a sentinel on the extreme eastern section of the immense Campo Imperatore high plateau and at the beginning of the old tratturi (paths) used for the transumanza (by law, these paths were set aside for the migration of large flock of sheep). The fortress was built by the Emperor Frederick II to protect the access roads to the basin where the city of of L'Aquila stands and the great plateau of Campo Imperatore (25 Km. in length and 8 Km. wide).

* The following description of the trail and the above notes are taken from the book: "A PIEDI IN ABRUZZO" (WALKING IN ABRUZZO) (see bottom of page).

a) gain in elevation: 260 m.
b) approximately 2 hours return.
c) the trail is not marked.


From Calascio follow for just a bit the road that goes up to the fortress then take the old mule track on the right. After a few switchbacks it comes again to the road in the vicinity of a watering-trough and a cross.

Follow the road again till a characteristic water-reservoir construction and then deviating to the right follow the trail visibly marked by the excavation for the water pipes. The trail intersects the road for a third time and now take to the left and enter the abandoned old hamlet.

At the time of our visit sections of the hamlet and the fortress were under renovation.

From the top there is a great view of the surrounding area; from here one can also go down to the nearby beautiful Renaissance style oratory of "Madonna della PietÓ" the inside of which is not accessible.
Remarkable is the sight of the ridges of the Camicia and the Prena mountains visible behind the oratory.

For the return trip we took the road instead of following the trail again.


(1167 m. asl)


After l'Aquila we proceeded to visit some relatives in the vicinity of Chieti.
After a short visit with the relatives and the impossibility to go on a couple of hikes in the area due to rain and bad weather we planned to spend a few days at the beach. We decided to go to Palinuro, situated 170 Km. South of Naples.

From Chieti it was a two days drive to reach Palinuro where, as narrated by Virgil in the "Aeneid" - Book V -, Aeneas' pilot perished after falling asleep at the rudder and falling off the boat. While the small town is located right on the coast, there was hardly any relief from the heat that at the time was crushing the whole of Southern Italy (the heat wave was caused by an extensive weather system from Africa). So we stayed (Hotel S. Pietro) only for two days after which we decided to take refuge up in the mountains. And so we aimed once again for Abruzzo and its National Park and more precisely for Pascasseroli which is the administration center of the park.
At the higher elevation it was somewhat better, at least during the nights.


Of the many hikes in the area we chose to do the following from the book: "A PIEDI IN ABRUZZO" (WALKING IN ABRUZZO) (see bottom of page)

1) Hike to Mt. TRANQUILLO (1841 m. asl)

a) 690 m. gain in elevation
b) 2.5 hrs to the top
c) 2 hrs return
d) this trail is partially marked in red


This is a classic hike, long but not too difficult; it follows almost exclusively a dirt road. The view from the top of Mt. Tranquillo is quite extensive.

We drove to the start of the trail - Bocca del Pretoso - to the southwest jusOpi (this will add about 2 extra hrs. to hike to Mt. Tranquillo schedule).
On our return towards Pescasseroli on the same road, almost halfway, we follow a dirt road (1445 m. asl at the junction) on our left that takes us in about 1.5 hrs., and after a few switchbacks, to the Sanctuary of Mt. Tranquillo (1597 m. asl). The building is of recent construction, but the worship at this site is an ancient one.
After the sanctuary we follow a trail along a grassy glen, past a shepherd's hut, to reach the pass of Mt. Tranquillo (1637 m. asl).
To the left, up wide slopes, we reach the top in about 45 minutes.

From here one has a clear view of the peaks in the park.

Follow the same trail for the return trip.


a) 340 m. gain in elevation
b) 1.25 hr for the climb
c) 45 minutes return
d) this trail has red marking


This trail, a wide well kept mule track, is rather steep and almost entirely in a pleasant and dense beech forest.
From Villetta Barrea or Opi (we filled our water bottles at the fountain near the road just below Opi), take highway SS. 83 to the intersection for the Camosciara and follow the signs for the parking lot.
From the parking lot, at a short distance, you can visit the Cascata delle Tre Cannelle (fall of the three spouts).
Back at the parking lot (1100 m. asl) we now follow the mule track that rises steeply with many switchbacks.
At the end of the switchbacks the trail is cleared of the forest and it allows an open crossing at mid slope of the mountain and a nice view of the Cascata delle Ninfe (fall of the nymphs) below.
At this point the trail follows the dry river bed, then turns to the right and climbs to the nearby Rifugio Belvedere della Liscia (1440 m. asl).

Follow the same trail for the return trip.

3) Hike to the LA TERRATTA (2208 m. asl)

a) 960 m. gain in elevation
b) 3.25 hrs for the climb
c) 2.5 hrs return
d) this trail is partially marked in red


This is a classic itinerary with some variety. It climbs from the dense beech forest of the Canala, to the broad ridge of the Montagna Grande which is the watershed between the valley of the Sangro and of the Sagittario.
Relatively long, nonetheless the trail gains altitude with an even inclination: the only steep section is the section after the Valico di Terraegna.

Halfway through our hike we had to turn back due to the development of a thunderstorm. We made it back to the car just in time before it unleashed its fury.

From Pescasseroli we follow, northward, the road that crosses and parallels the Sangro river till a parking lot which, unfortunately , is not too far from a municipal dump.
We follow the dirt road that climbs along the valley and quickly leave behind the dump area. We pass by a trail on our right that goes up to the Colli Alti and cross, halfway up the slope, a wide slanted glade at the end of which (1485 m. asl) there is a trail that goes up the Val di Corte on the right.
We continue on the main dirt road which reenters the forest and will takes us to the Rifugio di Prato Rosso (1536 m. asl; 1.25 hr). To the right of the hut we follow the trail that climbs a lovely little valley (Vallone di Terraegna) up to the Valico (Pass) di Terraegna (1731 m. asl; .50 hr) at the beginning of the high plateau of the same name.
From the pass the trail is well marked and enters the dense forest, crosses in a northern direction all the way to the Valico del Carapale (2061 m. asl; 1 hr). From here there is a fine vista over the valley below, and the prominent rocky outcrop called the "ciminiere" (smokestacks).
The trail continues in a northern direction along the ridge, over a couple of minor humps, to finally arrive at the peak called Terratta (2208 m. asl; .50 hr) which is the highest point of the ridge.

For the return trip it takes .50 hr to the pass of Carapale, from here 1 hr to Prato Rosso, and 1 more hr back to the parking lot.



The above data was gleaned from the following sources:

(1) Italy: a Phaidon Cultural Guide; Prentice-Hall, Inc. NJ - 1985
(2) Muirheads's Southern Italy; Blue Guides, Italian Touring Club, Macmillan, London - 1925
(3) Beadeker's Central Italy; Karl Beadeker Pub., Leipzig - 1909
(4) Northen Lazio An Unknown Italy; Wayland Kennet & Elizabeth Young, Butler and Tanner Ltd., London - 1990
(5) A Piedi in Abruzzo, di Stefano Ardito (vol. 1 and 2); Edizioni Iter - 1987
(6) Let's Go - The Budget Guide to Italy; 1989, Harvard Students Agencies Inc., St. Martin's Press N. Y.
(7) Various tourist brochures.


Copyright © 2000 G. Z.