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Story | Summer in Abruzzo

Why wander into the distance...

by Christian Skala 10/18/2016
This year we wanted to do things differently: not travel around the world, not compete with our friends for the most exotic vacation destination, but "swim against the tide" and stay in Europe. Because we firmly believed that there are also secluded and worthwhile vacation destinations nearby.

It all started with a visit to the crowded bookshop in Arco. By chance, the bouldering guidebook "Magia di Calcare - Boulder sul Gran Sasso" fell into our hands and drew our attention to Abruzzo. Back home, after extensive research, we finally decided that Abruzzo was pretty close to what we had in mind for this year's vacation destination. It sounded like a successful mix of solitary wellness trekking (because this time we wanted to travel without a tent) and bouldering. Our trekking route was quickly planned and at the end of August we set off in our car, packed with crash pads, towards Amatrice, the starting point of our tour. From there, we wanted to start a seven-day trek and then add a week of bouldering in the Gran Sasso massif.

Three days before the start, we received news of the tragic earthquake in Amatrice. This devastated several towns in central Italy and claimed around 300 lives. This raised the question of whether we could start at all and, for moral reasons, where our trip could begin. After several phone calls and emails, it turned out that the area south of Lago di Campotosto was not affected, so we started our tour from Assergi after all.

We spent our first time in the Gran Sasso massif and climbed Corno Grande (2912 m), the highest mountain in the massif with the southernmost glacier in Europe, as well as a few other worthwhile peaks. The Gran Sasso is probably the most visited part of Abruzzo. Nevertheless, away from the Corno Grande, the cable car and the pass road, you are immediately on your own here and can enjoy the wonderful view of the Mongolian-style high plateau. Huts are rare in the Gran Sasso. However, if you want to spend the night there, you can stay in a bunker from the Mussolini era, which has lost none of its charm since that time, but all the more of its finery and sophistication.

The fact that there are relatively few tourists overall in Abruzzo is certainly also due to the exemplary sustainable attitude of the local population: They managed to assert themselves against the will of some investors and preserve the majority of Abruzzo as a national park instead of releasing it primarily for skiing, urban sprawl and building speculation. There are only a few isolated ski lifts and some of them have even gone out of business. It's hard to believe: some lifts and a hotel bunker even had to close because the access road was rarely passable as there was often too much snow - and that in the middle of central Italy! You can still see the ruins on the way across the lonely Campo Imperatore and they now serve as a shelter for some of the numerous flocks of sheep that you come across in Abruzzo. Speaking of flocks of sheep: Probably one of the biggest challenges, apart from the difficulty of finding the path, is getting around the watchful herding dogs, who take their job more than seriously.

From the Gran Sasso massif, we continued into the Maiella massif. We always stopped off in small and isolated mountain villages along the way. Not only are the best pecorino in Italy and the fresh pasta delicious, but also watching the elderly villagers who meet every day in the village square. The villages captivate with their charm. The buildings, many of which date back to the Middle Ages, create a very special atmosphere and make you want to stay a few more days.

The Maiella massif is where it gets really lonely. You really do have to constantly fight your way through bushes and thorns (experience has shown that long trousers are an advantage), as the paths marked on the maps are virtually non-existent and can no longer be found due to the lack of hikers. However, you can find many a shy contemporary: In the evenings we heard wolves and deer howling and roaring and on one day's stage we even crossed the path of a shy Abruzzo brown bear. So it really does exist!

The mountains in the Maiella massif are amazingly alpine and are almost 2,800 m high. It was therefore worthwhile for us to start some wonderful tours there too. Our trekking destination was Sulmona. From there we took the bus back to Assergi to the start. Note: Contrary to expectations of Italian punctuality, buses in Abruzzo ALL leave either on time or rather too early! Note 2: Bus stops in Abruzzo don't always have a bus stop sign, because the average local knows where the bus is coming from and there are hardly any tourists anyway - so why have a sign? Note 3: English? Noooooo!

Unfortunately, we had to change our plans again because the weather ruined our bouldering goals. It rained continuously for several days. But that gives us the motivation to return again (maybe even in winter for touring), because why wander far away...
...good things are so close!

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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