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Stage 9 - San Salvo - Roccaraso

Stage 9

From San Salvo to Roccaraso we follow the route of stage 9, which runs from the Abruzzo coast to the spectacular scenery of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park.

Stage 9 - San Salvo-Roccaraso

Leaving San Salvo, a small seaside village and the southern gateway to the region, we arrive in Vasto, a splendid town with an ancient history overlooking the Golden Gulf, along the Trabocchi Coast. In the historic centre of Vasto Vecchia, called "the Athens of the Abruzzi", there are the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, the thermal baths dating back to the 2nd-3rd century AD, Castello Caldoresco and the Palazzo d'Avalos with its magnificent gardens, as well as beautiful churches and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Santissima Incoronata.


Continuing along the coast, you can admire the splendid views of the Abruzzo shoreline featuring the typical trabocchi, ancient stilted platforms for fishing, compared by Gabriele D'Annunzio to "colossal spiders" and described in his tragedy "Triumph of Death" as "machines that seemed to have a life of their own". Some of them have been restored and transformed into restaurants, where you can try excellent dishes which preserve the local food and wine traditions.

Trabocchi Coast, Punta Aderci, Vasto

Also on the coast, the Promontory of Punta Penna is a large panoramic terrace whose view sweeps from Gargano to Ortona.
In Fossacesia Marina, the Giro leaves the coast to head inland towards the Apennines; we then make a stop in Guardiagrele, the village at the gates of the Majella. An ancient seat of Benedictine monks, made up of stone houses, this place enchants with its medieval atmosphere and the creations of fine gold craftsmanship: an art with centuries of tradition started by Nicola da Guardiagrele, sculptor and goldsmith, one of Italy's greatest 15th-century Renaissance artists.

Guardiagrele, historic centre

From here, the Giro becomes more demanding and the athletes prepare for an Apennine marathon towards Passo Lanciano, among beech woods at an altitude of over 1000 m. After clearing the pass, we stop in San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore to visit the Museum of Fossils and Ambers, with interesting dinosaur and fossil finds from the Majella.

San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore

The tour continues towards Caramanico Terme. It is worth making a detour to the Hermitage  of San Bartolomeo in Legio, carved in stone in a striking position amidst the surrounding landscape. The path that leads to the hermitage enters an area of great charm between ancient pastures and panoramas ranging from the Majella to Morrone, from Sirente to Gran Sasso. The building was constructed after the middle of the 13th century by the hermit Pietro da Morrone, who became Pope with the name Celestine V, and is still a place of worship and a pilgrimage destination today.


EHermitage of San Bartolomeo in Legio

In this area, don't miss a visit to the Celestinian Hermitage of San Giovanni all'Orfento, one of the most isolated and evocative of the Majella. Dug directly into the rock, it consists of some cells and a small church. Pietro da Morrone stayed there from 1284 to 1293, the year before he ascended the papal throne. You climb up to the hermitage via steps and a walkway dug into the rocky wall, which at some points is only 20 cm wide. For this reason, it is one of the most difficult to reach and at the same time one of the most fascinating.

Celestinian Hermitage of San Giovanni all'Orfento

It is also well worth stopping at the pretty village of Caramanico Terme, surrounded by the green Orfento Valley, and its spa based on sulphurous and low-mineral waters.

Caramanico Terme

Let's return to the route of the Giro, which is reaching Passo San Leonardo at an altitude of 1282 m. Descending with a short detour, we visit Pacentro, a village nestled in the woods on the slopes of the Morrone mountains. Rich in art and history, between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the village is best visited at sunset when the golden colours of the sky create a suspended and evocative atmosphere.


We resume the race and near Pescocostanzo we reach Bosco di Sant'Antonio in Majella Park. Once considered sacred and dedicated to Jupiter, Bosco di Sant'Antonio is one of the most beautiful beech woods in Abruzzo. It is populated by centuries-old beech trees with bizarre shapes, some reaching 6 m in diameter, but the area also features field maple, wild pear, cherry, black hornbeam and yew. The rare epipactis purpurata orchid blooms in the forest, which is inhabited by rare birdlife and small mammals. A starting point in summer for days out and horseback riding, in winter it is ideal for cross-country skiing and excursions.


Bosco di Sant'Antonio

6 km from the forest is the Hermitage of San Michele Arcangelo, at the foot of a cliff on the slopes of Monte Pizzalto. Initially an Italic-Roman place of worship dedicated to Hercules, with the spread of Christianity it was consecrated to St Michael the Archangel. It is the only settlement of this type on the Major Highlands, between the Majella massif, the Monti Marsicani and the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. The rock church is located in front of Colle Riina, where Lombard tombs have been found.

Hermitage of San Michele Arcangelo

Continuing on the cyclists' trails, we stop in Rivisondoli on the Prato Plateau. This small fortified village, surrounded by unspoilt nature, is the ideal base for a summer holiday in the mountains and one of the top ski centres in Abruzzo.


The stage ends with a sprint to Roccaraso, a major tourism and ski centre. Situated 1250 m above sea level, it has been well-known since the early 1900s when it hosted the ruling family and eminent figures of the time. Roccaraso offers a sizable ski area (Aremogna-Pizzalto-Montepratello Rivisondoli) with 30 modern cableways and 110 km of slopes, perfectly snow-covered and assisted by the largest and latest artificial snow system. Cross-country trails, snowboarding, the possibility of ski-touring and the ice stadium complete an unparalleled offer in a first-class natural setting.


Not to be missed

The Ancient Beech Woods of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park in the municipalities of Villavallelonga, Lecce nei Marsi, Pescasseroli and Opi form part of the wide-ranging UNESCO site "Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe" thanks to their exceptional natural value and the incredible biodiversity that distinguishes them.


The Punta Aderci Nature Reserve, north of Vasto, is one of the most stunning and spectacular stretches of the Abruzzo coast, where wide and sandy beaches alternate with cliffs and small bays. It is a miniature paradise and a nesting place for numerous species, where on clear days you can admire the Majella, the Gran Sasso and the Monti Sibillini.


Punta Aderci

By bike

Abruzzo by bicycle

The thousand faces of Abruzzo can be seen in all their glory on two wheels. A unique array of diverse environments, exciting landscapes to experience on routes of various difficulties and lengths, suitable both for those who love pedalling among hills and plains and for cyclists seeking more demanding challenges.

Almost all the suggested itineraries start from towns or villages where you can find tourist information. The various stages of each itinerary can be reached within one day, or alternatively over several days if you wish to stay in the typical historic centres.
If you want to retrace the route of stage 9, at least in part, Bike to coast is the one for you. The 131 km cycle path runs along the green routes of the Adriatic, from Martinsicuro to San Salvo. Beaches, protected nature, clear waters, small villages, castles, abbeys, food, wine and hospitality give this itinerary extra appeal.


Mappa ciclabile Martin Sicuro - San Salvo

All the itineraries suggested by Abruzzo Turismo are available on this page, with maps of the routes classified by difficulty level, height difference, average and maximum gradient, GPX routes and plenty of other information.
Tutti gli itinerari proposti da Abruzzo Turismo sono disponibili su questa pagina, con mappe dei percorsi classificati secondo il livello di difficoltà, il dislivello, la pendenza media e meassima, percorsi GPX e tante altre informazioni.


The Way of St Thomas

The Way of St Thomas is a 372 km journey of faith starting from Rome and reaching the Cathedral of San Tommaso Apostolo in Ortona, which can be covered in about 7 days. The Way of St Thomas is an integral part of the network of European Ways of Faith. The route is a unique opportunity to get in touch with nature, encouraging moments of meditation and reflection.

The itinerary can be covered on foot, by bike on the roads and dirt tracks, and on horseback, starting from Rome to reach the Cathedral of San Tommaso in Ortona.
The Abruzzo stretch crosses the heart of the region, passing via the Sirente Velino Regional Park, the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, the Majella National Park and the Trabocchi Coast. The pilgrimage, which starts from St Peter's Basilica in Rome, takes in the Franciscan Convent of Tagliacozzo, Alba Fucens, the Pagliare di Tione and Fontecchio, the Oratory of San Pellegrino  in Bominaco, the Basilica of San Clemente a Casauria and that of Volto Santo in Manoppello, the Castello Ducale di Crecchio, up to the Cathedral of San Tommaso in Ortona.

Mappa del Cammino di San Tommaso

For those seeking inspiration, here is a list of cycling itineraries suggested by Abruzzo Turismo to let you travel freely and sustainably in contact with nature, art and unforgettable landscapes. Discover the itineraries.