Cycling around nature and historic hamlets in Abruzzo
An explosion of nature embellished by ancient hamlets and holy architecture: 5 itineraries in Abruzzo for cycling in the countryside through history
1. From L'Aquila to Campo Felice
L'Aquila is the start and finish point for this challenging 70 km itinerary. The wonders you can visit in the currently accessible areas of the historic centre include Piazza Duomo with the Cathedral of Saints Maximus and George and the Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, also known as the Church of the Holy Souls, the Spanish Castle, the Luminous Fountain and the Fountain of 99 Water Spouts. After passing through Lucoli and its Benedictine Abbey dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, you continue along the nature trail by climbing across the Campo Felice plains as far as Monte Sirente-Velino and Monti della Duchessa. On the return route, the XV-century frescoes of the Church of San Panfilo in Villagrande are well worth a visit.
2. Views from Teramo: from Gran Sasso to the Adriatic
The route sets off from the seaside resort of Roseto degli Abruzzi and the Mediaeval village of Montepagano. It then moves into the hills in the hinterland of Teramo, on the slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain range, which is also home to the Borsacchio Regional Nature Reserve where the Kentish plover nests. Along the route, you can visit Noverasco with the Church of San Clemente al Vomano and the ancient hamlet, as well as Castellalto with the largely unchanged Mediaeval walled village of Castelbasso. After a visit to the Church of the Madonna dell'Alno in the very ancient town of Canzano, you simply must taste turkey alla canzanese, a traditional local dish. The medium-difficulty itinerary is almost 70 km long.
3. National Parks and Highlands
A demanding cycle ride of more than 150 km starting from Sulmona, the homeland of Ovid and typical wedding confetti, before plunging into lush nature. The route takes in the National Park of Abruzzo, Latium and Molise with five ancient beech woods (UNESCO World Heritage sites), the Highlands with the towns of Castel di Sangro, Roccaraso, Rivisondoli and Pescocostanzo, and the Majella National Park, the gateway to the XIX-century Sulmona-Isernia railway known as the Trans-Siberian line of Italy given the beauty of its tourist itinerary on historic trains. Along the way, noteworthy villages include Castrovalva suspended between sky and earth, Scanno with its heart-shaped lake (when viewed from a specific point), Barrea and its golden lake and the San Domenico Lake Nature Reserve.
4. From the sea to the hills through pine forests
Cycling along the coast between the pine forests flanking the Pineto seafront and the Cerrano Protected Marine Area on a track reaching Silvi Marina, part of the Adriatic Green Corridor. Don't miss the soups and fried fish specialities made with catches of the day from the Adriatic. Moving into the hills, you can visit the Mediaeval village of Mutignano, the original Pineto, surrounded by ravines, and Atri - a city of art and open-air museum combining nature and architectural works such as the Renaissance Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Typical dishes hereabouts include flavours such as pecorino (sheep cheese), liquorice and Pan Ducale. The entire route is about 40 km long and is of medium difficulty.
5. Caramanico Terme in the heart of the Majella National Park
An itinerary in the Majella National Park that starts and finishes in Caramanico Terme, an ancient spa centre belonging to the Association of the Finest Villages in Italy, immersed in the lush green Valle dell'Orfento Nature Reserve, where the evocative Celestinian Hermitage of San Giovanni all'Orfento is set in the rock-face. Continuing along the Valle dell'Orta Nature Reserve leads to the perfectly preserved Salle Castle, the Neolithic sanctuary of Bolognano and the hamlet of San Valentino in Abruzzo Citioriore, another of the finest villages in Italy characterised by spectacular steps and its ancient core on top of the hill with the Farnese Castle and the Cathedral.