Abruzzo is the land of dramatic mountain landscapes and nature. What better way to explore it more thoroughly than to take to the bikes. The Peligna Valley is a regular stage stopping / starting point for the Giro d’Italia, but you don’t have to be a professional hill cyclist to enjoy the amazing scenery. The valley, surrounded by mountains, has an abundance of easy, quiet roads and tracks that are perfect for kids to tackle. They take you alongside rivers, through vineyards and olive groves, past small traditional villages. In addition, the local Sulmona branch of the Italian cycling federation (FIAB) Bicincontriamoci have mapped out more than 100km of cycle paths around the Peligna Valley that through a nifty app can be downloaded directly to your phone. Enjoy your ‘pedalata’ in nature’s playground!
Today is a bit of a miserable day. We can’t complain, our valley has probably had about 5 days of rain in over 6 months. The snow is falling higher up on the mountains, so all our snowy activities will be beckoning in a day or so once the clouds clear away. But today is the perfect day to snuggle up with my boys by the log burner, open those Christmas chocolates and watch an epic Christmas film. As we are all a bit Harry Potter mad in this house today’s choice was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. A perfect afternoon!
With so many small tracks and paths to explore around the Peligna Valley get yourselves wrapped up, enjoy the fresh air, the snowy mountain scenery and put your best foot forward. There are so many trails you can walk for as many or as few kilometres as you want and you might even be able to take a picture on the (nearly) disused railway.
Then back home for a classic Italian Ciobar hot chocolate and some of those Christmas goodies we all love!
Having two active boys means our outdoorsy family are always looking for adventures and, in our book, you can’t get much more adventurous than climbing really high mountains. Early in August, as the intense Lucifero heatwave swept through central Italy, we headed high up into the Appenines to try and find some cool air and have an adventure along the way.
Corno Grande – the Appenines highest mountain stands at 2912m a.s.l. One big piece of rock with a west, east and central peak she dominates the Abruzzo skyline and can be seen for miles around. She’s just as impressive close up. This time we weren’t going to the summit though, we were keeping Corno Grande in our sights as we took in another peak in the Gran Sasso range Monte Portella at 2385m.
The trail we chose starts on Campo Imperatore, the largest Alpine meadow plateau of the Apennine ridge, known locally as little Tibet. It’s a great starting point for kids because it’s already at approx 2000m which means your walk doesn’t have to be too arduous but you get to take in some significant peaks. You can drive up to Campo Imperatore and there is plenty of parking space, alternatively if you want to add to the adventure there is a cable car from Assergi to Campo Imperatore (which we have also taken before).
An easy single track, the path skirts the mountainside and offers up incredible views over the mountains and valleys below that even impressed the 8 and 10 year old (that’s saying something!). You then reach a natural saddle and turn up to the right before hitting the steeper part of the climb. The beauty of this path is that although it is steep in parts, the steep parts are fairly short and easy enough for the kids to handle.
After the short, sharp climb you meander onwards and upwards until you reach Monte Portella – stopping at the cairn for a photo opportunity.
Then it’s an easy down, up, down on to the traditional mountain hut Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi at 2388m for a welcome pit stop and refreshments.
Once you’re fully revived you continue past the rifugio and head directly for Corno Grande, again the path is not too steep or difficult, but is narrow in places. You come to a junction at the saddle of Monte l’Aquila where the path is then sign posted back to the Hotel at Campo Imperatore, about another 30 minute walk down to the plateau.
A little bit of History
Before heading off take a look at the hotel on the Campo Imperatore plateau, it has witnessed a significant moment in Italy’s history. After the deposition and ensuing arrest of Benito Mussolini in July 1943, Mussolini was moved around Italy by his captors and by September 1943 he was being held prisoner in the hotel on Campo Imperatore. A bold rescue, ordered personally by Adolf Hitler, was made by German commandos and paratroopers in a daring glider mission on September 12th 1943. Italian troops were taken by surprise and overwhelmed by the German forces, Mussolini was rescued and flown out of Campo Imperatore into Rome, and then on to Vienna.
Our hints and tips
As with any hike in the mountains, take plenty of water and don’t be shy with the suncream, it may feel cooler up high but the sun is just as strong, if not stronger (those of you that ski will know what I mean!)
Check the weather forecast before you go, take layers and raincoats. Mountain weather has a tendency to change at the drop of a hat and there is nothing worse than cold, wet kids – it tends to take the fun out of things.
After an afternoon walk in the Gran Sasso we like to stop at Cherry Pizzeria in Paganica. It’s rustic and not much to look at from the outside, but it serves great pizza at incredibly good prices. It doesn’t matter if you head in still in your walking gear – it’s not the kind of place that you need to dress up for. It’s nice to be able to sit back and relax knowing that you’ve worked hard for that pizza you are about to consume!
As our world adventure edges closer and closer (only one year to go now!) I have been trawling the internet for more detailed information about each of the countries that we’ll be visiting. Sometimes you come across a site that just inspires you and Susan over at theinsatiabletraveler.com did just that with her silhouette photography piece. So evocative, no more words needed, I’ll let the photos do all the talking…
I love a beautiful silhouette. It rarely matters of what. Every silhouette is shrouded in drama and mystery, and more than a drop or two of romance. I love silhouettes for what I don’t see as much as for what I do. Sure you can see more when the subject is in the light, but I […]
While waiting for our big adventure next year, we are spending this summer still exploring the incredible places that our stunning region of Abruzzo has to offer. Unlike some other more obvious areas of Italy, Abruzzo doesn’t hand you a tourist itinerary on a plate. There is so much to see and do, but you still have to discover the majority of it by yourself…it can, at times, be rather frustrating, but I have to say it does add to the sense of adventure. After 5 years of living here we are still on our mission of discovery and there doesn’t seem to be an end to the places to go.
Bolognano Waterfalls is one of the magical places we love to visit since we discovered it a couple of years ago. Who needs to pay for a man made water park when Mother Nature can provide her own? Located along the Orta river close to the small town of Bolognano, a marked walking path drops down through the gorge to the river’s edge from where you follow the river, cross over a couple of times and finally climb up the rock to the spectacular site of the natural rock pool. Deep enough to jump, dive and swim, it is an adventurous family’s paradise.
For those with a really adventurous spirit (and lots of water confidence) you can head even further up the river for more swimming, scrabbling over rocks and what my boys call nature’s very own ‘lazy river’.
Our hints and tips
The walk down to the gorge takes about 20 minutes and although not difficult, it is steep in places – you need to have a head for heights at certain points. The path is well maintained and clear to follow to the river’s edge.
Take some insect repellent – this is nature’s playground after all – but only use it if really necessary as the chemicals can get washed into the river and damage the local ecology.
Take a small rucksack (backpack for my American friends out there!) with water, snacks and a change of shoes – you will get wet! Rock shoes are ideal if you have them. The rucksack means you’ll have your hands free to steady yourself on the rocks where necessary.
Get there early! The rock pool is in the shade until about 11 am in the height of summer. As soon as the sun comes round the locals know it is the most stunning place for sunbathing and cooling off, so the rocks can get a little crowded. We tend to head further up river when the hustle and bustle gets too much.
Go on a weekday. For the same reason of missing the crowds – ok we’re not talking the colosseum or vatican, but it is a popular spot among the Abruzzesi so take advantage of them being at work and head over on a weekday.
Do you have any incredible Abruzzo must sees that you want to share? If so, leave a comment.
Day 2: 367 km – 4h10
Switzerland is a magical place to visit just before Christmas. The fairy lights, snowcapped mountains and chocolate box villages really set those Christmas nerve endings tingling! But Switzerland is not for the budget traveller, so we are lucky to have friends there to stay with and keep our costs down. Five years since we last stopped by in mid summer, we made it back to see our great friends Carola and Tim in their new home in Courgevaux (or not so new to them now!). A whistlestop visit – we only had 24 hours, but we managed a trip out to blow off some steam after a day and a half in the car.
What we loved
Two boys, three including the gorgeous Max, means climbing and exploring is always a good call and in Murten this is more fun than in most places. The great medieval ramparts surround the whole town and mean climbing, running and adventures of knights and kings are a plenty! The views from the ramparts across the town or out across the lake are most definitely worthwhile, even on a misty day the eerie sense of calm across the lake adds to the medieval feel.
You can watch the inner workings of the town clock, fascinating for inquisitive engineering minds.
We also discovered a cello maker down one of the side streets and watched him in his workshop.
After which we headed to the town museum. We didn’t quite make it inside, but we did manage a battle with the canon.
Once you’ve climbed the ramparts, walked the town, found out about the clock and watched instruments being made, climbed the canon and looked out over the lake, you can head to the MarktHalle, the beautifully restored old market hall where you can have a coffee or something to eat, and that now sells seasonal produce, local speciality cheeses and wines and even has its own swiss chocolate chocolatier.
Or do as we did, go home and indulge in traditional swiss cheese fondue, washed down with wine, coffee and topped off with the regional Gateau du Vully.
What we didn’t get to do
Murten lake has plenty of cycling, rollerblading and walking paths, as well as offering lots of water sport activities. We didn’t get chance to try them for ourselves this time, but it does mean we have an excuse to go back again!!
Day 2 budget
Swiss Vignette: €40
Total : €92.20
As we stayed with Carola and Tim our accommodation and meals were generously donated by them (we must have already looked poor and hungry!) all I can say is thank you C&T for your generous hospitality.