Abruzzo: bike touring and hiking. Report.

In this post, a short report and a few pictures on the Bottom Up Climb Abruzzo. To know more about the climb and this wonderful region, follow this link.

Our Bottom Up Abruzzo is actually part of a larger tour we made, leaving from Fonte Cerreto for one week of bike touring which would lead us back to Fonte Cerreto for the final hike to the top of the Gran Sasso Massif.

Click here to jump to the photo gallery.

Day 1: Pescara – Montorio al Vomano, 74 km, 1000 vertical meters ascent

Abruzzo Bottom Up: Pescara-Montorio at EveryTrail

On Thursday, August 1, we are in Termoli and our day begins with a good hour of travel by train to reach Pescara.

Sunrise from the train window

We unload our bikes and head to the beautiful Lungomare, a large sidewalk along the sandy beaches, full of runners and bikers. A little detour across the beach to touch the sea and we can officially start our bike tour. After a few km on the relatively busy coastal road across Pescara and Montesilvano, we finally head west along very quiet hill roads which lead to Atri, a wonderful small historic town which is surrounded by the natural reserve I Calanchi di Atri. The “Calanchi” are typical geological formations which arise in dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. They are similar to the “Badlands” which can be found in the US.

The only problem we have in Atri is dealing with the traffic: imagine an ancient Italian town with narrow and steep roads, where apparently everyone is directed to the main square, by car. No country for quiet bikers. Massimo jokes about suggesting a new model of a city car to be produced by FIAT, the FIAT Atri, small, electric, sliding doors. I bet someone will steal his idea sooner or later.

Calanchi

We leave Atri and head to Cellino to continue along the Vomano Valley and after a few almost flat km, we reach Montorio al Vomano, for a good rest in a cosy hotel and a lovely dinner.

Day 2: Montorio al Vomano – Fonte Cerreto, 57 km, 1300 vertical meters ascent

Abruzzo Bottom Up: Montorio-Fonte Cerreto at EveryTrail

We leave early to avoid the heat of the Italian summer. At 6:05 we are already on our bikes. The climb to the Passo delle Capannelle is long but never steep, 35 km for 1050 vertical meters. We meet just a small village and a few forks which lead to ancient towns on the side of the valley. We carefully avoid them. The tour proceeds quiet, with the almost total absence of traffic we’ve got used to in the last week. Abruzzo is the perfect region for bike touring: very little traffic and never too hard climbs. Sometimes you just have to share the road with cows or sheep.

Piana delle Pietre Bianche

After we reach the Passo delle Capannelle we are surprised by the fact that the road to Assergi and Fonte Cerreto is not downhill but uphill… an extra 130 vertical meters to climb which we didn’t expect. After we finally reach the very top of our bike tour, we can have a couple of sandwiches and finally enjoy the amazingly beautiful descent on a road which has just the right slope not to require you to pull the brake lever and to let you enjoy the scenery while gently cruising downhill. The perfect reward after a week long effort.

Day 3: Fonte Cerreto – Corno Grande – Campo Imperatore, 15 km, 1900 vertical meters ascent, 900 vertical meters descent

Abruzzo Bottom Up: Fonte Cerreto – Corno Grande at EveryTrail

Last week I spent 6 days in this same hotel and I climbed the 1000 vertical meters which lead to Campo Imperatore twice, in just a little more than 1 hour. Today I have a further 900 vertical meters and more than 10 km to go, so I take it a little easier and in about 1 hour and 30 minutes I am at the top of the path where I meet Massimo who decided to take the cable car (thus giving up his Bottom Up Climb). Campo Imperatore is a mountain grassland or alpine meadow formed by a high basin shaped plateau. It’s a breathtaking view and it’s even more fascinating if you think that in the High Middle Ages it was covered by an impenetrable forest and 400 hundred years ago it was populated by approximately 50 million sheep! No wonder why the most typical dish in Abruzzo is arrosticini: small pieces of sheep meat on a short skewer cooked on a barbecue.

The climb begins with a long traverse, a short downhill and a second traverse which becomes steeper only towards the end. There are several people on the trail, hikers, from 4 to 80 years old, and climbers, directed to one of the many beautiful multi-pitch routes which lead to the top of the Corno Grande or Corno Piccolo.

After the second traverse the trail becomes covered in gravel and for the final part it gets steep and rocky. Sometimes it requires a little scrambling. We take also a short involuntary detour around a secondary peak and a wide ridge, which has the advantage of presenting us a perfect view of the Calderone glacier, the southmost glacier in Europe. It’s surprising how you can have the glacier and the not too far sea on the same view, even though, honestly, the Calderone doesn’t have that much the appearance of a glacier any longer, global warming is in action also here.

In about two hours from the top of the cable car we are on the summit, where climbers, solitary hikers and families enjoy the view and the satisfaction while having some well deserved snacks. Among them an eight years old girl with her parents. Quite an achievement for her!

Looking down from the summit

On the way back I am pleasantly surprised by how easy those 1900 m have been, after 5 days, 400 km and 5500 vertical meters of ascent on a heavy touring bike. Probably, the training for the first Bottom Up Climb of this summer is still paying off.

Our trip ends with the unavoidable arrosticini at the restaurant in Campo Imperatore, right in front of the Gran Sasso highest peak we have finished descending.

Go to the picture gallery and live the magic atmosphere of Abruzzo.

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