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Discover the Italian region of Abruzzo with a Cicerone guidebook - Sample Route

Cover of Walking in Abruzzo
18 Feb 2014
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.1cm
1st Published
14 Jul 2011
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Walking in Abruzzo

by Stuart Haines
Book published by Cicerone Press

Essential guidebook for walking in the Abruzzo, a wild region of Italy incorporating the Abruzzo, Maiella, and Gran Sasso national parks and the Sirente-Velino regional park. 30 day-walks are described including an ascent of Como Grande, the highest point in Italy outside the Alps. The area is easily reached from the airport at Pescara.

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Abruzzo is wonderful walking country. It is one of the wildest and least populated regions of Italy, with 26 peaks over 2000m, and home to three national parks. There are fine routes throughout this largely protected area, between charming hilltop villages through forests and gorges and along high mountain ridges.

This beautiful natural environment is maintained to a remarkable extent in the region’s three national parks - Abruzzo, Maiella, and Gran Sasso, the Sirente-Velino regional park and many smaller reserves.

The 30-day walks in the guidebook are for people who want to experience the beauties, and perhaps challenges, of a quiet and remote part of Italy.

The routes, which all have a grade for difficulty, vary from gentle strolls to serious expeditions in the mountains. About a third are easy going – a half day generally. Most however are long walks and mountain treks for those who enjoy a full day out. They visit ten of the region’s 16 highest summits, including the three highest points of the Apennines.

The walking season begins in late spring and goes into early autumn – late April to early October.

  • 30 walks described in four areas across the region
  • illustrated with clear colour sketch maps
  • with detailed information about how to reach the more remote start points
  • Seasons
    most routes are accessible from May until October; summer can be hot but late snows may extend the season till November; spring can be perfect for the lower routes.
  • Centres
    Sulmona is central and well located for all parks; L’Aquila is in the north and Castel di Sangro the south
  • Difficulty
    walks are graded – 1 is a straightforward wander that may involve a climb, 2 is suitable for a fit walker with reasonable experience of the hills and 3 is for those comfortable with mountain conditions, exposure and route finding
  • Must See
    the highest and most remote part of the Apennine mountains of central Italy; rare wildlife; beautiful hilltop villages; tranquil forested valleys; rugged peaks; memorable eating and wonderful walking!


September 2012

Walk 17 The Val di Rose

On 7 September 2012, the Abruzzo National Park authority had still not re-opened the Val di Rose to unrestricted access, and rangers were turning people without a permit back.

The route has been closed in July and August for years to help protect the newborn calves in the large chamois family that live at the head of the valley. There has been no advertised change to this policy and it is assumed that this year, following an unusually hard winter, the breeding season began late. Therefore the rangers had kept the path closed longer than normal. There was, apparently, notice of the closure at the beginning of the path but in Italian only.

The author walked the route in the first half of September 2011 without any problems, so the continued closure into September this year is assumed to be a one-off. The Park website continues to notify the closure for July and August only. See

And, of course, the rangers will sometimes do things at short notice because they need to.

Walk 25 A Tour of the Valle del Gizio

At the point between Vallelarga and Pettorano sul Gizio where you reach the house on the corner and set off to follow the path across the field to the electricity pylon, you will find that the field has been fenced and an almond grove has been planted. You can’t walk across the field anymore. So, at the house, turn right and head up the rising tarmacked road heading into the Val Lavozza. After about 500m, turn left at a junction with another tarmacked lane and follow it, south east, to re-join the route description at the bridge over the canal. (This alternative is described in the book only now it isn’t an alternative.)

Secondly, and better news, is that the path along the river back from Pettorano to the road near the railway bridge has been recently upgraded to a cycle path. It’s as quiet as ever but is now a more pleasant stroll.

Walk 30 The Navelli Plain

The tratturo, the old drover’s track, across the Navelli Plain has been tarmacked for at least the stretch running north west from Caporciano. So, for unsealed lane now read tarmacked track.

It’s also reported that the lane leading down from Caporciano to the start of the traturro has become overgrown. This can happen over the years but is often seasonal. The comune sometimes clear vegetation and trim back trees in the autumn and winter. The alternative is to follow the road down to the start of the tratturo.

One other tip for Walk 30 is that when passing through Tussio, on the way to Bominaco, cross the piazza on the south east side of the church to the far (south west) end of the church. Follow the road ahead (Via Lauretana), south west past houses, until it soon bends leftwards and leads down to a junction with the road coming up from the Navelli plain. Turn right and walk on up towards the cemetery as per the book.

September 2011

Walk 1 Fara San Martino Gorge and Val Serviera

It is highly recommended to make an early start to this route.

Walk 16 Villetta Barrea and Civitella Alfedena (pp106–107)

From Civitella Alfedena, to find the beginning of path I3 down through the woods to the lake, you need to walk left along the road from the wolf museum for about 50 metres. Then the start of the path appears on the right – just past the last building.

You can still visit the wolf compound but just go back to the museum and road after having looked into it. (In September 2011 there was a juvenile wolf being kept apart from the others in a smaller pen at the far end of the compound – a lot easier to spot!)

July 2011

Walk 13 Pietracamela and Prati di Tivo

There has been a significant landslide at Pietracamela. Reader Marla Williams reports the following:

“The Pietracamela walk is currently blocked! In May, the overhanging rock just above the village fell away in an enormous landslide. The rock is the size of a block of flats! Apparently at the time they thought they were having another earthquake!

We did find a way up by walking along the road to Prati di Tivo for about 200m and taking a path up to the right (which I believe was nearly opposite the Carabinieri) and following it up the hill. We crossed the water conduit and continued uphill to a small chapel. Past the chapel, the path went slightly right and joined the main route again by the river.

On the way back down, our way into the town was blocked by the landslide. After a failed attempt to climb above it, we were lucky enough to come across a local guy who explained what had happened. The water supply was cut off by the landslide, so they have set up a temporary pipe across the ‘crater’. Our new friend guided us across the landslide, following the route of the pipe and into the square at the top of the village. Back through the garden by Piazza degli Ero, the paths have been blocked off by the commune as the top of the village is effectively a danger area. The park trails 100, 102 and 148 are all affected where they lead into the village.”

In addition, James Stobart says:

"In May 2011 the paths were closed. We also found a local (climber) who showed us a route to the top of the town (through the no entry barriers) where we could pick up the path to Prato. We don’t normally disobey warning notices, but he assured us that it was safe and that no one would be angry with us! This proved to be the case."


Stuart also posts updates on his website at


Geological history
Human history
Food and drink
Walking in Abruzzo
When to go
Getting there
Getting around
Places to base yourself
Daily essentials
Using this guide
Advice for the trail
The Maiella National Park
1 Fara San Martino Gorge and Val Serviera
2 The Hermitage of San Bartolomeo di Legio
3 Monte Morrone from Passo San Leonardo
4 The Orfento Valley
5 Caramanico and the Orfento Gorge
6 Monte Amaro from Lama Bianca
7 Monte Amaro from La Maielletta
8 Monte Porrara Ridge
The Gran Sasso National Park
9 Monte Prena and Monte Camicia
10 Santo Stefano and Rocca Calascio
11 The West Peak of Corno Grande
12 Monte Bolza Ridge
13 Pietracamela and Prati di Tivo
14 Monte Corvo and the Val Chiarino
15 Monte di Mezzo Circuit from Campotosto
The Abruzzo National Park
16 Villetta Barrea and Civitella Alfedena
17 The Val di Rose
18 Anversa degli Abruzzi and Castrovalva
19 La Terrata
20 The Scanno Town and Lake Loop
21 Monte Marsicano
22 Pescasseroli and Opi Circuit
23 Monte Mattone from Pettorano sul Gizio
24 Monte Genzana
25 A Tour of the Valle del Gizio
26 Monte Sirente
27 The Celano Gorge via Fonte degli Innamorati
28 Monte Velino
29 Fontecchio and Pagliare di Tione
30 The Navelli Plain
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Further access information
Appendix C Italian–English glossary
Appendix D Useful contacts and further information

Sample Route

Fara San Martino Gorge and Val Serviera
StartVillage of Fara San Martino
Total Ascent1200m
Total Descent1200m
Difficulty2 (route snowbound from about November to Easter)
Walking time8hrs (6hrs if you retrace your steps from the high point at 1650m)
MapsMaiella National Park – Tourist Map (1:50,000)
AccessFara San Martino is tucked under the steep east flank of the Maiella, at the outlet of the gorge. Reach it from the south via the SS84 along the foot of the massif through the villages of Palena and Lama dei Peligni. 2km beyond Lama, at Corpi Santi, turn left onto the SS263 and follow signs for Fara, 4km further on. From the north, either take the SS263 from Guardiagrele via Palombaro or turn right off the SS81 at Piano Aventino, just north of Casoli, and follow signs for Fara, which is 7km away.
ParkingArriving from the south, the road descending to the village swings sharply right at a bar on the left. Turn left at this bend and follow an unsealed road, signposted ‘gole’, for about 400m to a parking area before the entrance to the gorge.

A long day out exploring two spectacular and wild gorges on the eastern flank of the Maiella massif. These special places will leave a big impression on the memory as well as the legs! The village of Fara San Martino, where the route starts and finishes, is a famous centre of pasta production. The full route is demanding but highly rewarding, offering wonderful and contrasting views in the remote beauty of the national park and a good chance to see chamois and golden eagles.

If you prefer something shorter, returning through the Santo Spirito valley from the path junction, viewpoint or the high point (1650m) makes a very fine day in its own right.

Walk ahead between cliffs into the tight entrance to the gorge. Squeeze through – you’ll easily be able, in places, to touch both sides at once.

The eastern flank of the Maiella massif rises impressively above rolling hills just 25km from the Adriatic Sea. From the 2700m high, lunar-like plateau of Monte Amaro, deep gorges have been incised into the mountain side, cutting down through the layers of limestone to form narrow, twisting, isolated worlds overlooked by dominating cliffs.

The entrance to Fara San Martino gorge

The passage opens into a secret world, enclosed on three sides – the Santo Spirito valley. The excavations in the wider gorge beyond are of an old Benedictine monastery that gave rise to the founding of Fara. The path leads up and into the wider gorge. Walk through the impressive valley, climbing steadily and sometimes steeply between the towering walls, for about 4km. Pass two picnic spots with fountains (often dry) and notice the changing flora as height is gained. Towards the end the forest thickens and a path junction with a picnic table is reached. The left fork (do not follow this) carries on along the valley bottom (from here on the valley is called the Valle di Macchia Lunga), eventually to lead into the high mountain corrie of Valle Cannella and the Rifugio Manzini.

Instead, take the path on the right for Val Serviera, which leaves the valley. It twists steeply up through deep fallen leaves of the beech forest. At half-height the path trends right, leaving the trees and continuing to a tremendous viewpoint. Enjoy the level going and fine views down to where you recently passed. After 1km the climb recommences, with the path zig-zagging steeply up to the left. A small deviation leads to a fountain 30m away. Trudge on to reach Point 1650m on the crest between the valleys – the highest point of the day.

Turn left along the open ridge for 200m or so before the path slants obviously rightwards down the other side and back into trees. Don’t be tempted to go right too soon. Descend gently into the Val Serviera, leaving the forest again and passing onto a grassy promontory – a favoured haunt of a group of chamois (camoscia). Carefully locate the way off the far side and go down a short rocky gully to the river. Hop across on boulders and climb briefly up to a shepherds’ hovel called Callarelli, ‘restored’ somewhat by the national park.

From Callarelli, follow the level path east (right) which contours high across the grassy slopes and ledges of the left side of the valley. The views into the gorge are breathtaking. The valley deepens and narrows as the canyon develops. The authorities permit only experienced climbers to explore the canyon – its vertical cascades can be descended only with double abseil ropes. To avoid being drawn in, the path turns left to climb briefly and steeply over a wooded shoulder into the adjacent sub-valley.

From the shoulder, descend through trees to emerge at the top of a large stony gully. Snow can linger here throughout the spring, but a little should present no difficulty. Descend the gully to the grassy pasture. The path levels and leads south-east towards the cross on Colle Bandiera, overlooking the entrance to the Val Serviera. Shepherds’ caves are prominent across the hillside. Ignoring paths to the left, walk up to the cross. The panorama is huge, with views back into the massif and across to Lago San Angelo, with hilltop villages scattered across the undulating countryside to the sea. Fara and the pasta factory lie over 700m below.

Descend from the cross to join the path on the edge of the gorge. Follow it leftwards (don’t be tempted down right – a track that leads only to more shepherds’ caves). Pass a fountain and, swinging further left, begin the steady, long descent to the foot of the mountain. The path leads north-east – taking you disappointingly away from the village. Finally, with relief, the way levels as it enters woods and passes a picnic spot. A little beyond, turn right off the path to walk around the first large building and, at the end of its drive, find yourself on a tarmacked lane.

Turn right towards Fara, about 3km away, and walk back along lanes (some, but not all, are tarmacked), following occasional signposts marked ‘G3’. In general keep near to the foot of the mountain and pass between it and the De Cecco pasta factory, always heading towards Fara.

In days gone by rivers flowing through the gorges or springing from them powered small industries in the settlements along the foot of the escarpment. In Fara San Martino the waters of the Verde river, that springs between the village and the mountain, gave rise to pasta production. Several firms were established, and today the output of the enormous De Cecco factory can be found in delicatessens around the world.

At one point walk alongside the river that flows from Val Serviera. The final stretch arrives at the bottom of Fara San Martino.

Turn right onto the main road, pass an old factory and fork right into a small park lying in the rising valley between the village and mountain. In the park are archaeological remains of early waterworks, mills and generators. The source of the River Verde, springing from the foot of the mountain, makes an interesting pause. The last stretch up to the car park is on tiresome unsealed roads, but soon over. Take a left turn to regain the track driven down at the start of the day for the easiest approach.

Val Serviera at Easter

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