About Gorges of Abruzzo
This section explores the best places to visit in a wild area mainly using the motorways, looking at peaks, gullies and untameable massifs from a distance. In the west is the Abruzzo National Park, in the east you climb the shoulders of the Maiella, a great knot in the Apennine chain which touches 2,795 m. Roads often wind through beautifully engineered hairpin bends, and for the most part highly panoramic.
Italians rarely came into this region, convenient as it was to Rome, Naples and the Adriatic coast. They saw it as part of the poverty-stricken, troublesome South which gave politicians and economists headaches. Now, cable cars skim up the mountain slopes and there are places − Rivisondoli, Roccaraso, Pescasseroli − which, with their pink-and-green roofs, timber chalets and weekend crowds, resemble mainstream Alpine resorts. Motorways and skiing have introduced colour into the old rusty villages and their towering rocks.
Not content with ringing the region with motorways and improving existing roads, the authorities have pushed superstrade up the torrent valleys. Abruzzo is no longer reserved for the eagle, the mountain hare and the hardy walker. But there are still places where you can still park the car on a mountain pass, wander off along a line of snow posts and soak up wonderful air and sublime solitude.
If possible, take a ride on an Abruzzo railway. The network is not complicated but the principal line (Ortona-Guardiagrele-Castel di Sangro-Sulmona-Pescara) and its offshoots have scores of little stations for scores of villages and hamlets. As usual in mountainous Italy, village and station may be far apart. Scanno, for instance, is 23 km from its station. These trains hang on by their eyebrows. They scale crags and burrow through spurs and take forever. Country folk walk briskly through tunnels, confident the train will not overtake them. Even a short trip between two wayside halts, from which you can walk back over the hill in little more time than it took the train, shows railway engineering at its most audacious. An especially dramatic section is between Sulmona and Castel di Sangro (90 minutes). Its summit at around 900 m is among the highest of ordinary railroads in Europe.