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The Enchanted ValleyABRUZZO


The Enchanted Valley

Article published in 2Ruote magazine in 2005.

Can the joy of driving on perfectly maintained and asphalted roads be combined with the fantastic beauty of breathtaking views? The answer here in Abruzzo can only be affirmative, in particular if the goal is the plain of Campo Imperatore: certainly the most spectacular views of the whole of central Italy with the added bonus of driving in most cases in a absolute, satisfying, sure solitude.

Read the story published in the magazine.

L'Aquila is certainly one of the richest historic cities in Abruzzo, the city of 99 churches, of the 99 fountains, also famous nationally, but today, in this itinerary, we will reduce it to an insignificant, simple point on the geographical map, a starting point to access services and information, before embarking on a motorbike and motorcycle experience that will leave its mark in the memories of riders and passengers. Yes, the goal of the day is the plain of Campo Imperatore, Campo Imperiale, as it was called at the time of Frederick II, this small sliver of Tibet crashed at almost 2000m above sea level in the Abruzzo mountains and which for centuries has left amazed travelers. , tourists, just curious and, of course, even us motorcyclists.
We leave the regional capital following the signs for Rieti-Teramo and at the Agip petrol station we take the ss80 to the right towards Teramo. The outskirts are not exciting but after passing a couple of barracks, a hospital, the hamlet of S. Vittorino, after 8km we keep the right on the main one and the fun begins. We go up towards the Capannelle pass immersed in a fir forest where we only train our driving skills. The asphalt immediately makes us understand that the day will be one to note in various notebooks and diaries: the asphalt is simply perfect, the roadway and curves allow for safe driving, traffic is scarce.
At 1521m of the pass, the junction for Assergi takes us to the right again. The desolate spaces begin, heralding one of the highest views of the entire Apennines. The road climbs with wide hairpin bends for a few kilometers and then begins a slow but regular descent towards Fonte Cerreto from which we will pass to immediately ascend. If you are already in a competitive trance I see it very hard for the passengers !! And the road will continue to climb up to 1930m. The view begins to open but believe me, it is still too early to be amazed.
Cows and horses in the wild, scattered over endless pastures. No, we are definitely not in Tibet, but geography tries to deceive us.
This ancient lake bed extends for a maximum length of 27 km., With a width of 7-8 km, and I judge it as one of the most fascinating, suggestive and spectacular places that I have ever seen.
Some time ago I wrote. “Once the floor opens to our gaze, the view will run free, with the Gran Sasso block dominating. Very beautifull!! Rarely, except on days of bad weather, did I not stop, ridiculed by the majesty of these scenarios. Unique." And the sensations are always the same even if this year I was lucky enough to pass through it 3 times already.
The road winds into a narrow passage and you arrive at the crossroads that leads to the astronomical observatory. The detour is a must.
10km to get to 2130m: on one side the Aterno valley, on the other the plain of Campo Imperatore, next to the silver domes of the observatory, at the top the Duca degli Abruzzi refuge which, despite its 2368m, is one of the the most popular refuges in the region. From here all the excursions to the giant of the Apennines start. And now? You can only go down and, once back at the crossroads, take a black road immersed in an unreal green filled with the yellow of the flowers which increase the color contrast at this time of the year. Another 13 kilometers, of those that leave their mark, and you can see 2 huts-restaurants near the junction of Fonte Vetica.
Personally, I have always stopped in that post at the crossroads, also because the kindness of Rodolfo and his family have never left me alternatives. Of course they are not open all year round.
The peculiarity of the place lies in the fact that once you have bought the meat, you will be the one to cook it on the fornacelle. In summer the restaurant remains open until around 8.00 pm, but don't worry, patrons are never chased away.
There is another, very fascinating option, that of bringing a tent in tow and staying overnight on the spot.
Advice in case of bivouac: obviously ask for permission to camp in advance, it would be forbidden but remaining close to the two structures, you will have no problems with the forest; when the managers are about to return to Castel Del Monte, where they reside, remember to leave a couple of kilns on: there are the narrow ones for kebabs (typical skewers of sheep meat, an Abruzzo specialty), and the wide ones that are very more convenient for lamb, and possibly for sausages.
And while you wait for all this good things to be cooked? Typical cold cuts with different types of pecorino. Remember to also taste the pecorino marcetto: the name and above all the smell are not the most inviting, but make a little effort, and let me know.
If you decide to stay there is no contraindication for the wines, if not, consider that whatever your destination, the roads are not the best after a carousel.
I forgot: let's remember that we are guests, so in the morning cleaning and remember to turn off the coals of the furnaces before going to bed.
We continue to Castel del Monte leaving the valley. After the hairpin bend, before crossing the pass, stop to take a last look at the valley, one of my favorite spots. If you have decided to spend the night on the plain, early in the morning the lights are fantastic, in the background the Monte Shirt with its 2564m.
The landscape changes rapidly, but we still struggle to understand where we are: stones, pebbles, rocks everywhere and the road always in perfect condition that tries to avoid them in the most fun and panoramic way possible. The appearance of the small town coincides with the appearance of vegetation and a view that sweeps as far as the eye can see on the Voltigno valley first and that of Navelli later. Yes, we have abandoned the majestic landscapes, dominated by shepherds and flocks, but the urbanization of the medieval villages we encounter is very little compared to the building havoc we are often used to. We will thus cross Calascio with its splendid, fantastic, unreal fortress, the highest in Italy (among the highest in Europe), which dominates from the top of its white rocks a landscape of valleys, mountains and small perched villages and Santo Stefano di Sessanio a real medieval jewel. Roads? Always of an extra-superior level. From Santo Stefano starts a road that takes you back to Campo Imperatore, beautiful and recently paved (it was certainly the worst in the area, now it is perfect even if the roadway continues to be narrow). If you want to sleep at Rodolfo's this is a splendid alternative. If, on the other hand, you decide to continue the itinerary, the road conditions remain at the fantastic, absolute degrees of excellence up to Barisciano, from where, once we take the ss17, we will quickly return to the regional capital.

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