Rough and lonely
Though not quite the height of the Gran Sasso they are rougher, lonelier and streaked with crevices, each with its toy chapel, statue or crucifix. They flaunt their snows blatantly in the face of a summer sun. Paths cross their rounded summits and edelweiss decorates the snowy fringes. ‘Never pick edelweiss,’ they say, ‘it grows in dangerous places.’ On the Maiella you can hardly avoid trampling it. In intervening hollows the clearings are edged with pines and deep in fir-cones and on the high pastures poppies, delphiniums and all the flora of a cultivated garden grow in profusion.
Follow a stream from Caramanico, Roccamorice or Pennapiedimonte to its Maiella source and you will pick up another, trickling down the far side. If you have no time for a trans-Maiella hike, drive the looping highway from Pretoro to the Lanciano pass (10 km) or from Palena station to the San Leonard pass (25 km). At the former there is a chalet-style hotel, a restaurant and ski tows. Cottages around here are built of limestone rock – it does not hold water, therefore will not freeze and split. A road from the Lanciano Pass climbs a few kilometres south to about 2,000 m. There, it is claimed, with a telescope you can see both Naples and Ancona, cities 400 km apart. More staggering is the view of Pennapiedimonte’s roof-tops, defying gravity on a Maielletta outcrop, like a village temporarily halted in the course of a miraculous translation. The road marked on the map passes under this village (Route 263); you could photograph it through the sunroof of a car. If you cross the Maiella on foot, take local advice about the weather. Mist on a summer day not only disorientates, it rapidly reduces the temperature by 30 degrees.