The river starts as the Tasso in the National Park (Torquato Tasso the 16thC poet was often a visitor to the feudal castles of the district). Below Scanno it breaks out into Lake Scanno, emerald-green and silent with feathery trees and towering cliffs around it, a famous place for trout and nightingales and the biggest natural lake in the province. Under Villalago the river hurls itself at a series of cascades and becomes the Sagittario. Compressed into 10 km of fantastic gole (‘throats’) of limestone, foaming with a wild turbulence, it opens out beyond Anversa and goes sedately to a squalid destiny in the industrialized Pescara river.
The road marked on the map goes through the gorges, entwined with the torrent, tunnelling through the rock, demanding caution and alertness in motorists. Spanning the road, overhanging the Scanno lake, is the sanctuary of Santa Maria del Lago, ‘Our Lady of the Lake’, a chapel to which local women have brought many votive offerings. All the district comes to her festa in July. Villalago, poised on a rock which shoots up from the Sagittario abyss to nearly 1,000 m, is a holy place. It shares San Domenico with Cocullo (when you see a saint in a niche with the wolf-and-serpent emblem, that is San Domenico) and the pathway to his rustic chapel, bare and frugal, is lined with Stations of the Cross. Like many others in these mountains, the chapel is hollowed out of rock. Comically naive pictures of the miracles San Domenico performed are painted on the loggia.