Go and explore

Abruzzo: unknown Italy

November 2, 2015

Thinking through the route for October trip to Italy, I wanted to see natural attractions, unusual places, which are so numerous in the country of the most melodious language in the world. I chose Abruzzo. After reading all the websites about Abruzzo, I realized that this region is at least not popular among Russian tourists, but is very rich in beautiful places, enchanting with their pristine beauty. One third of the territory of Abruzzo accounts for national parks and reserves. So here you can breathe the cleanest air, enjoy unique nature, diversity of landscapes, the beauty of lakes, mountains, waterfalls, rich flora and fauna.

The nature of the region is unique, it has everything: clear turquoise sea and miles of golden sandy beaches, the highest peaks of the Apennines and the southernmost glacier in Europe, thermal and sulfur springs. The Italians call Abruzzo the anthology of European and Mediterranean landscape. This means that various types of natural habitats are concentrated on a relatively small area.

Surprising respect for the gifts of nature is a characteristic feature of the inhabitants of Abruzzo. About one third of its territory is given to national parks and nature reserves, making it the biggest natural park in Europe.

 The most popular park is the National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga (Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga). Founded in 1991, it is the largest natural park in Italy. Its territory covers about 160 thousand hectares. It includes three mountain ranges: Gran Sasso, Laga and Gemelli. Dense forests, majestic mountains, numerous carved valleys, picturesque lakes and rivers captivate with their beauty. There are over 2000 species of animals and plants in the Park, representing the biodiversity of this region. Strolling through the Park you can see amazing places, looking more like a fairy-tale scenery.

One feels like getting lost in these places, sitting and listening to the noises of the forest.

Autumn Abruzzo, with its honey mustard, homely palette, is mesmerizing…

National parks have wide open space and all the necessary infrastructure for active recreation. Hiking or mountain cycling on the endless trails and interesting sightseeing tours can be alternated with more difficult routes of mountain trekking. Even an ordinary promenade brings joy. Lovers of wildlife photography will enjoy unforgettable panoramic views and scenarios posed by nature itself.

The reserves offer unusual excursions such as watching wild animals and birds. Mountain rivers and lakes encourage kayaking and windsurfing, and rocky mountains beckon climbers and rock-climbers. In winter you can have great walks with cross-country skis or go skiing. Since I was there before the first frost, I enjoyed endless honey mountain scenery. The wind in these lands is very frivolous, sometimes one can feel even dizzy from the abundance of fresh mountain air.

I would also like to tell a bit about the hotel where we stopped to look at Abruzzo. On the hillside, in the small town of Teramo there is a very comfortable “bed&breakfast” hotel Gattacicova.

This house, which is owned by Fabrizio and Cintia, a friendly and hospitable Italian family. Fabrizio built the house on his own, and is very proud of it (you have no idea how beautiful their home is!), Cintia created comfort and warmth in the house. Talking to Fabrizio and Cintia captured me that I did not have time to take photos of their home, so I will post photos from their website (hope they will forgive me).

The aroma of something delicious and freshly cooked is always hovering around the house. Dogs and the cat are playing in the yard. Dogs are particularly sociable.

The window of my room looked onto patio with panoramic views of the city. Getting up in the morning and contemplating this view is priceless!

But let’s continue the story about Abruzzo.

A unique location of the Park is the Grotto of St. Angela (La grotta Sant’Angelo). This is one of the most interesting pre-historic Italian landmarks. The cave, situated near the fortress of Civitella del Tronto, for many centuries was and still remains a place of pilgrimage in honour of St. Michael the Archangel. Colourful landscapes around this place are breathtaking…

On the initiative of the National Park of Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, a museum was built inside the cave. Through panels and images it tells the story of Italian middle ages. There are usually guided tours in the cave, but I was lucky to be alone there. An indescribable feeling of peace and stilled time.

If you have the strength and athletic ability to walk a lot, climbing up and down the mountains, you will reach the wonderful nature reserve Gole Del Salinello.

During the whole route I had to manoeuvre with the descent and ascent. Strong gusts of wind literally tore the camera out of my hands, but I clinged to the tree next to me and managed to capture the beauty of this unique place.

Believe me, two hours of hiking are worth being in such a place. The waterfall, spray of which now and then fall on the lens of the camera, slippery mountains and moss-covered stones – all this creates an indescribable atmosphere. You seem to dissolve in the nature, become a single whole. This is magic!

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But the magic of Abruzzo would not be complete without Valle Piola.

Valle Piola is an abandoned village in the Province of Teramo. It is a town with millennial history. The inhabitants left the village in 1950s, and all that was left – 9 abandoned houses, a church and the ruins of former shepherd’s huts.  Authorities do not have money to refurbish 9 stone buildings and construct asphalt roads. So the only hope is for a wealthy lover of antiquity, who would invest money into the restoration of a monument of history. Valle Piola costs 550,000 Euro. While the are no contenders for the purchase of the town, there is a lack of tourists. This place is very special. I think it is must visit for seekers of mystical landscapes.

Clouds over the village are very low, and it seems like something mysterious is in the air.

Driving along a mountain road on the way to the hotel, on one of its “curls” we met a whole herd of semi-wild horses. Imposingly strolling down the road, they skillfully posed and even allowed me to stroke them 🙂

Shaggy and a little embarrassed by all the passers-by, horses quickly climbed the mountain and began to eat grass.

Walking along the shores of beautiful lake Lago di Campotosto, we came across a forest that looked like jungle. I took some photos there too.

The nature of Abruzzo is charming. For all my travel experience I have never seen such an amazing combination of pristine, a bit cold beauty, but with typical Italian hospitality. Everything here – smells, noises – is unique. Abruzzo is “unpopular” beauty, the beauty that will be revealed to you only if you want it with all your heart. Abruzzo is when you are standing on top of a mountain, wrapped in a scarf and warm jacket, and you only hear “Che bella giornata!” in your head.