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On the roadABRUZZO


On the road

Article published in Motociclismo magazine in 2003.

Itinerary that winds along the roads of the Abruzzo National Park with the starting and finishing point in the historic Sulmona, homeland of the poet Ovid. Fantastic roads, in a natural environment which is now controlled and administered by strict environmental protection laws, for a truly unforgettable day trip.

Read the story published in the magazine.

"Sulmo mihi patria est" declared Ovid, a sentence obviously and duly registered in the initials SMPE, which stands out on the current coat of arms of the city of Sulmona.

And some Ovidian reminiscence, certainly one of the most important Sulmonese figures, remains in the Fonte dell'Amore and in the so-called Villa d'Ovidio, even if the most consistent traces of its important past date back to later times, clearly visible by taking a walk in what it is certainly one of the most lively, pleasant and interesting towns in the region, which stretches on the horizon to the most beautiful (probably) and highest (certainly) mountain peaks of the central Apennines: Gran Sasso, Sirente, Genzana, Maiella and Morrone.

But we will not talk about mountains, but about roads, fantastic roads that wedge into deep gorges, cross mountains, skirt lakes, go up to admire breathtaking views, which all or almost all belong to that Abruzzi National Park, now a source of pride for we from Abruzzo and a attraction for national and non-national tourists.

Are we leaving? The first detour is just 6 kilometers from the start: Introdacqua, interesting for some sixteenth-century structures, but also for the multicolored floral decorations on the facades of its houses. Leaving the town and returning to the ss479, as you descend towards the Sagittario valley, closed between the Prezza and Genzana mountains, you will immediately notice that the level of the road and the asphalt are truly worthy of a mention.

The arrival in Anversa degli Abruzzi takes place ignoring the deviation on the right for Cocullo, from which we will pass on the way back, and slipping into the narrow passage between the houses that introduces the motorized visitor into Piazza Roma, overlooked by the Renaissance front, dated 1585, of the church of the Madonna delle Grazie, which deserves a short visit, before indulging in the joys of driving.

The Sagittario gorge is there, just beyond the town, and the road, literally carved into the rock, wedges itself over the valley floor.

To fully realize the spectacular nature of the place, it is advisable to take the short detour, on the left, to Castrovalva, perched on a landslide appendage of Mount Genzana.

Once in the village, continue until the houses suffocate the narrow streets, park and continue on foot up to a kind of panoramic balcony overlooking the first part of the gorges and the asphalt serpentine.

You go back down, and you could not do otherwise, to continue along the itinerary. The gorge, which crosses the Sagittarius 4 more times, narrows again. The asphalt is close to perfection, but the road is quite narrow even if not very busy.

You will probably not pay much attention to the dam on the right, but you will have to stop when the artificial lake of Villalago appears where, near the Hermitage of San Domenico, there are the sources of the river.

Especially in the hot summer months the place, reachable by means of a narrow bridge closed to traffic, represents a valid opportunity for a stop.

But if this basin is the work of man, this is not the case for Lake Scanno, formed by a grandiose landslide of Monte Genziana, which, after the Fucino drainage, is the largest natural lake in the region.

A road runs along its entire circumference but, staying on the main one, the passage under the arch that supports the church of the Annunziata, also known as Madonna del Lago, is very suggestive.

From here, where it is also possible to rent pedal boats for lake excursions, the road continues climbing towards the town of Scanno which has a history dating back, it seems, to the Roman period.

Its oldest part, well kept and very picturesque, will allow you to meet, especially on holidays, women who have worn the very unique and deservedly famous traditional costume, austere, elegant, rich and colorful.

Leaving the town, you enter the valley of the river Tasso and the road begins to climb, always maintaining a fantastic asphalt, with numerous hairpin bends, to officially enter the territory of the national park at the Godi pass.

From here, along the eastern borders of the park, we will descend with the view that opens onto the Sangro valley and the artificial lake of Barrea, until we arrive at Villetta Barrea.

We are now traveling on a hollow that is interrupted only momentarily by the rocky spur on which Opi stands, the ancient Ope, a Marsic city dedicated to the Goddess of Abundance, the bride of Saturn.

The infiorata is famous, a religious event that is celebrated every year during the Ascension. Continuing, we arrive in Pescasseroli which is, due to its position and importance, the center, the heart, the vital fulcrum of the park. Its name means greenhouse boulder or mountain boulder and it is also home to Benedetto Croce, a famous writer and philosopher of the beginning of the century.

The town is now a very active tourist center centered on Piazza Benedetto Croce. Worthy of note are Palazzo Sipari, and the parish church of S. Pietro e Paolo.

Leaving the town, always on the SS83, on the left, above a fountain, there is a stone inscription that commemorates the inauguration of the park back in September 9, 1922.

The state road now runs, strangely straight, but don't worry, after just 5 kilometers turn right to Bisegna going up through woods and splendid curves. You leave the park through very characteristic villages: Bisegna, San Sebastiano and Ortona dei Marsi, with the ruins of its castle and the parish church of San Giovanni Battista.

We are almost at the end, already, almost. The indications Sulmona begin to appear again accompanied by “Cocullo”. Let's follow them.

The road in 15 kilometers, from the crossroads immediately after Ortona dei Marsi, will first ascend towards Monte della Selva and then swoop down with a spectacular view of Cocullo where the feast of the serpari, in honor of the patron saint, who according to tradition derives from the cult of the goddess marsa Angizia.

On this occasion, a statue of San Domenico is carried in procession to which live snakes are intertwined. The rite has been repeated for centuries and is defined as the most pagan of Christian rites.

From Cocullo the descent always continues with an excellent road, and in just 5 kilometers, we will be back in Anversa degli Abruzzi.

If you want, you can go back to admire the Foce, the entrance to the Sagittario gorges, otherwise by bending to the left, in about 15 kilometers, you will return to the starting point again, which this time also coincides with the arrival point.

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