Less than an hour after turning its back on Rome, the one that follows the highway that follows, largely, the route of the old Roman road called Tirburtina, is completely out of place.
The plains and curves of Lazio are replaced by sometimes steep, almost always austere slopes, to which countless stone villages, each more perched and more picturesque than the next, cling to each other. Often, they deserve the title of "most beautiful village in Italy", many of whom have not hesitated to adorn themselves.
Topped with steeples and sometimes castles, sometimes in ruins, other times magnificently restored as in Celano, that of Piccolomini, they hide architectural and pictorial treasures and open on dazzling panoramas.
On the one hand, the Velino massif, on the other side, the Majella massif, in the background, that of Gran Sasso – which passes a tunnel 10 km long. At their feet, the considerable wooded areas of a region of Italy more mountainous, more austere than many others, in any case too little known, called "Abruzzo" in French and simply "Abbruzzo", in Italian.
Bordered by the Adriatic Sea, wedged between the Marches to the north, beyond Civitella del Tronto, Molise to the south and Lazio to the west, "Abbruzzo" is home to the highest peaks of the Apennine Mountains, including the Corno Grande (2,915 meters) and Monte Amaro (2,795 meters). If in winter, the snowy slopes and ski resorts of the Gran Sasso massif are stormed at the beginning of summer, vacationers, whether Roman, Neapolitan or foreign, are still rare. This mountainous land, which claims to be the "greenest region in Europe", deserves to be better known. Autumn and spring are the best seasons to discover Abruzzo. In this mountainous region, it is better to have a sure foot and to put on shoes to face without difficulty the sometimes steep hiking trails but also the steep streets of the villages.
Indeed, at the foot of these mountains, here lush and wooded, elsewhere naked and suitable, as in the Grand Sasso, the summer pasture of the herds, extend three vast national parks a little wild (that of the Gran Sasso, that of the Velino- Sirente, that of Majella, finally that of Abruzzo) and about twenty nature reserves.
The oldest of these parks, that of Abruzzo, which was also one of the first European national parks, was born in 1922 from a private initiative, that of Prince Sipari. In Pescasseroli, the palace of this wealthy owner (he owned 15,000 head of cattle), can be visited. The house is a little outdated, but the man who had avant-garde ideas had understood many others that the protection of nature would become the green gold of this region: in fact, nearly 70% of fauna and flora of the European continent are represented in Abruzzo. With, among others, eagles, chamois, ibex, lynx, about sixty bears and a growing number of wolves who, little by little, have begun to colonize the other regions of Italy. They would also be wolves Abruzzo who, crossing the Alps, would have returned to populate the French territory where they had completely disappeared in the twentieth century.
This unspoilt and wild nature is not the only attraction in Abruzzo. Mountain lakes such as Scanno, which lies just before the picturesque but very narrow Sagittarius gorges with deep emerald waters, allow you to go pedal boating, canoeing or windsurfing.
The more austere landscape lovers will prefer the Calanchi Nature Reserve of Atri. Attention, the Italian word calanchi is misleading. The impressive eroded reliefs they designate are in fact robines, that is to say sloping slopes formed of marl of austere appearance from which arise two "damsels capped" (natural columns of harder rocks), explains, very pedagogue, the naturalist Cesare Crochetti, quick to go, during short walks, the geological processes at work since … 25 million years.
On the other hand, as soon as one goes towards the Adriatic, the landscape becomes again soft, Mediterranean, populated with olive trees, cypresses, vines. The 133 kilometers of coast of Abruzzo are also hemmed by beaches of fine sand. However, unless you are a fan of sea bathing, it is better to be confined to the tranquility and surprises that surround the interior of Abruzzo. We will better understand the richness and diversity of this little-known region. (to be continued)
* The Arts and Life tour operator, a specialist in cultural travel, offers an 8-day discovery tour (7 nights on site) in Abruzzo. The program, very dense, includes the discovery of the Roman site of Alba Fucens, the main cities (Sulmona, L'Aquila, Teramo), a crowd of medieval villages, and (short) steps in the national parks. Starting from € 1,640. To inquire and book: 01.40.43.20.21. and www.artsetvie.com
* A guide: Southern Italy, Michelin Green Guides. 540 p., € 15.90.
. (tagsToTranslate) my passport for the world