Gran Sasso, a true paradise
Aquila-Santo Stefano di Sessanio-Fontecchio-Sulmona
The green region of Abruzzo is characterized by a varied landscape: a beautiful sea with sandy beaches, a hinterland with rolling hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, which turn slowly into a mountainous landscape with wild nature and rich fauna. This tour crosses the Abruzzo National Parks and is designed for you to enjoy a true paradise with pristine nature of green forests, mountain streams, a surreal silence, incredible views, rich fauna and flora, small mountain villages, and good local cuisine.
The tour starts in the beautiful village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, at 1300m a.s.l. and this is certainly a big plus, because in summertime the weather is fresh! Santo Stefano di Sessanio is situated in a stunning position, in the National Park of Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga.
You will ride on quiet roads winding up through beautiful nature, passing through well-preserved medieval villages, and in the evening, you enjoy the warm hospitality and the natural tastes of Abruzzo, like the yummy maccheroni alla chitarra and gnocchi carrati . You will discover a wonderful part of Italy!
The daily program of the 7-day tour
From Aquila you have a transfer of 45 min. to Santo Stefano di Sessanio, the starting point of this cycling tour. Santo Stefano di Sessanio is positioned on an altitude of 1300m a.s.l. It is a charming medieval village surrounded by the beautiful nature of the National Park of Gran Sasso. Walking through its narrow alleys, you have the feeling of stepping back in time. In the evening, the local agent will hand over the daily maps with route notes and information on the tour. Get ready for a memorable welcome dinner made with organic local products.
Overnight stay with breakfast & dinner in Santo Stefano di Sessanio
The Gran Sasso mountain range has the highest peaks of the Apennines. Today you can admire them all, always from different angles… so do not forget your camera! The first kilometres will lead you to Calascio and are flat. Here we suggest you take a break and leave your bike to walk up to castle Rocca Calascio. It was used as a set for the movie “Lady Hawke“. Back in the saddle starts the first climb of today, which takes you first to Castel del Monte and then up to the mountain pass Passo di Monte Cape Serre. The climb is challenging, but it are especially the views that will leave you breathless. Cycling downhill you have a nice view of the lunar landscape of Campo Imperatore, which the locals call rightly “Little Tibet”. You cycle almost along the entire vast plateau flanked by the spectacular mountain of Gran Sasso. An easy climb will bring you back to Guado Portoni and then begins the long descent that takes you back to Santo Stefano of Sessanio. The road meanders down finally showing the village in all its ancient beauty.
Overnight stay with breakfast and dinner in Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
Distance: 50 km / 31 mi; Ascent/Descent: +820m/-820m
The long descent that inaugurates this new day, will cross several villages that are worth a visit. You arrive in the Valley Valle dell’Aterno entering the Regional Park Velino-Sirente. The road now follows the old path of transhumance. In late summer the flocks were accompanied about 300 km south to spend the winter in Apulia. Abbeys and castles still mark its path. During the only climb of today, you can admire the villages of Caporciano and Bominaco. Do not miss a visit of the Castle and the Abbey of Santa Maria Assunta (XII century). The tour ends in another jewel of medieval architecture: Fontecchio (670m a.s.l.). Here you will spend the next two days in a lovely B & B in the historic centre of the village.
Overnight stay with breakfast and dinner in Fontecchio
Distance: 40 km / 25 mi; Ascent/Descent: +600m/-1180m
After breakfast in the saddle again cycling up along the Aterno riverbanks. You cycle along quiet roads that wind their way up among cultivated fields with extensive views over the surrounding mountains. Without difficulty, you arrive at the foot of Aquila, but to reach the centre you have still to climb some. Aquila is the capital of Abruzzo. The terrible earthquake devastated it in 2009. A tour of the historic centre shows the slow but well-done reconstruction of the architectural treasures of this beautiful city. On the way, back a 3 km climb takes you to the Castle of Ocre. The view you enjoy from here will help to forget quickly the sufferings of the climb. After this will follow a well-deserved descent to Fossa and your return to Fontecchio following again the course the river Aterno.
Overnight stay with breakfast and dinner in Fontecchio.
Distance: 59 km / 36,3 mi; Ascent/Descent: +870m/-870m
Today, an easy and relaxing ride. You will follow the river Aterno towards the south. The green of the valley is a perfect backdrop for the medieval architecture of the small villages and hamlets you pass. Along these roads, the cars are rare and often the only sound accompanying you are birdsongs and the murmur of the river and mountain brooks. The only climb of today is through the S.Venanzio Gorge to arrive at Sulmona (400m a.s.l.). You will have time enough to visit this lovely town, with only 25.000 inhabitants. It is rich of monuments and museums. You will stay here for two days in the historical centre.
Overnight stay with breakfast and dinner in Sulmona.
Distance: 44 km / 27,3 mi; Ascent/Descent: +400m/-670m
This last stage takes place in the Abruzzo National Park, the first national park established in Italy. Maybe here you can admire the Abruzzi Chamois, the brown marsican bear, the symbol of the park, the wolf, dear, foxes and the golden eagle. Also the flora is interesting and rich with thousands species of plants, mushrooms and musk’s. Reach Anversa degli Abruzzi, a beautiful stone village at the entrance of the Sagittarius gorges. You continue along a road carved into the rocks and through natural tunnels with stunning views of the creek below and the village of Castrovalva, silent sentinel on top of a rocky ridge. In these places stayed the designer MC Escher, who captured the beauty of this place in some memorable pictures. Villalago marks the end of climbing and gorges. Now you pedal around Lake Scanno, in whose emerald green waters are reflecting the surrounding mountaintops. A short climb leads you up to the village of Scanno, loved by photographers and painters. Scanno is also famous for gold handicrafts and for its antique lace works. The return to Sulmona is almost all the way downhill. Dinner on this last evening isn’t included in the tour price so you are free to choose among the many good restaurants in town
Overnight stay with breakfast in Sulmona.
Distance: 63 km / 39 mi; Ascent/Descent: +975m/-975m
After breakfast ends your discovery tour through the National parks of Abruzzo
For who like more challenging rides in a rolling hilly terrain. You have to be trained with a good physical condition. This tour is not suitable for children under 15 years. Cycling is an important part of the day, but there will be still time left to explore the towns you pass through. There are significant differences in height. Cycling along quiet asphalted roads.
Average daily distances:
Daily Kilometers: min. 40 km / 25 mi – max. 63 km / 39 mi
Total 266 km / 161 mi km
Average daily ascent: 732m
Total ascent: 3360 m
26/04; 15/05; 13 /06; 26/09; 15/10; other days on request with a possible supplement depending on the season
2 or more people.
START / FINISH:
Aquila / Sulmona