The Guide to Mountain-Biking

The Guide to Mountain-Biking

Abruzzo is a compendium of Mediterranean landscape. Linking north and south, the Balkans and Rome, it is a region where the dialectic between the various silhouettes of its mountains on the one hand and the sea on the other is constant. In winter the sea reciprocates, sending the cold, wet currents of air that arrive from the east and transorm into heavy, long-lasting snowfalls on the slopes of the Gran Sasso, the Majella Massiv and the Silente Velino mountain range. Hold within this geographical embrace are fertil hills with enrichig vineyards and olive groves, plateaux, mediaeval hamlets, lakes, and above all a people and his history, its manner of adapting to nature, of subjugating nature and in the end of preserving nature. Abruzzo is proud of its parks, of its flora anf fauna and of the protected areas that extend over a third of the region’s territory. As Europe’a greenest area it recognises in this correct relationship it has established with nature a fundamental opportunity for development.

From Cesacastina to Altovia

Route: Cesacastina (1150 mt – 0 Km), turn right (1350 mt – 2,2 Km), river with waterfall (1600 mt – 5 Km), waterfall (1700 mt – 6,6 Km), refuge-hut and beginning wanderroute (1650 mt – 8 Km), Altovia (1200 mt – 15,5 Km), turn to Valle Vaccaro (1120 mt – 19,5 Km), str. Cervaro a Cesacastina (1000 mt – 21 Km), Casastina (1150 mt – 26 Km).

Type of route: an average route along an unpaved road as far as the fork to Valle Vaccara, then paved road back to the starting point

Time of year: any time of year in absence of snow

Altitude: from 1150 mt to 1700 mt

Distance: 26 Km

Climb: 550 mt

Time needed: 3 hours

The bike route begins with a moderate climb along a dirt road which starts at the edge of the village and leads up to the sorrounding mountains. The cyclist enters a pristine envirormant rich in water and plant life. All around are dense woods and great meadows where flocks graze. A myriad of little streams, rills and small cascades are encountered along the way and are accompanied by the constant sound of cuckoo birds and the continuous wheeling overhead of hawks. Hikers, nordic skiers, alpinists and mountain bikers are drown here by the wildness and unspoilt nature of the area discoverale along the Laga Mountains’ many bridle paths and unpaved roads. These are – and it is to be hoped to remain – closed to all forms of motorised traffic. But back to the mountain biking and the route jusr begun. At 2,2 Km from the start, where is a splendid green meadow, the road devides. The fork to the left goes down to a bridge over a stream, then climbs and pludges into deep woods. The cyclist, however, takes the fork to the right, encountering an uphill stretch which can be managed pedalling all the way and that carries steadily higher, reachig 1500 mt at the 4 Km point and 1600 Mt at the 5 Km mark. A stream and a small waterfall are seen at this point. Immediately beyond, at Prati della Macchia, the biker comes upon a derelict hut made of cement blocks. Another torrent and another spectacularcascade. A part over level ground comes next and is followed by a gentle downhill stretch as far as a fork in the road near a refuge hut in cement blocks and a yellow sign that gives the times needed for excursions on the trails to Mount Gorzano, Pizzo di Moscio and Pizzo di Sevo, to the source of the Tordino, to Fiumata Refuge Hut and to he Refuge Hut on Mount Peloni. The biker might well consider the opinon of cycling up to the fork in the road from one of the isolated hamlets on the slopes of the Laga Mountains, using the refuge hut as a base and then continuing on foot up one of the trails. Besides the seductiveness of the natural beauty there is the strong appeal of the old abandoned hamlets: these are now beeing rebuilt. The cyclist encounters them on the way down along the unpaved road to the right. After a scenic downhill ride that continues for 8 Km amid fields and woods, in the distance suddendly appears what seems a miniature cheche set up agaiinst a mountain but what is really a litle group of very old houses in a stone, evidently local, of a reddish colour. This is Altovia, easily reched by going by going left at a fork  along the route onto another easy-to-rde, unpaved road that slopes slightly downward. After a short way, to the right appears Villa vaccara, another deserted hamlet now undergoing rebuilding.

From Bussi sul Tirino to Forca di Penne

Route: Bussi sul Tirino (300 mt – 0 Km), cemetery (400 mt – 1,5 Km), turn left (490 mt – 2,7 Km), mountain hut (850 mt – 8 Km), Pampanucci houses (650 mt – 10,5 Km), Pescosansonesco (550 mt – 13 Km), Pizzo della Croce (750 mt – 15 Km), turn right (750 mt – 15,6 Km), Hill Rotondo (910 mt – Km 18), Capo d’Acqua (995 mt – 19,5 Km), Forca di Penne (900 mt – 22 Km), C.da Delfino, left (860 mt – 25 Km), Capo d’ Acqua (340 mt – 30 Km) – fork national road (350 mt – 32 km), unpaved road near the river Tirino (350 mt – 33 Km), Church San Pietro ad Oratorium (340 mt – 34,7 Km), Bussi sul Tirino (300 mt – 42 Km).

Type of route: a testing ride over unpaved roads except for a few stretches of asphalt

Time of year: all year round

Altitude: from 300 mt to 995 mt

Distance: 42 Km

Climb: 695 mt

Time needed: 4 hours

Passing a cemetery that lies 1,5 Km from the starting point in Bussi sul Tirino, the mountain bikes continues uphill along the dirt road as far as a fork, goes on straight until reaching a small house built on cement blocks and a drinking trough, then goes up a climbing stretch of the route that has views over the valley of the tirino River, then on a downhill section that follows and that passes directly at the base of the rocky slope of Montagna di Roccatagliata. The road then climbs somewhat before coming i a bridle path about a hundred meters along, this mule track goes down to the valley underneath. There is a bend to the right at this point. The cyclist follows the bend in the road, which is uphill for a few meters, then goes downhill, passing another fork in the road, with then a straight donwhill stretch. This leads to a small house. A section of pavedroad starts here and brings the mountain biker to the road for Pescosansonesco a few hundred meters further along. A respite at this point befor tackling the most demanding stage in the ride, which starts out from the village’s old section and follows the signs for Fonte Fredda. A short initial stretch climbs steeply on a roadbed initially of asphalt that then turn rocky. The ride is downhill right from where this part of the route ends as far as a wider dirt road which the cyclist turns into, going to the right. The ride becomes somewhat testing again during a series of climbing sections spaced out by level terrain in between each. This stretch leads to Colle Rotondo Creep. From here the ride is down, then up as far as Capo d’Acqua. At the fork in the road near a spring the mountain biker begins a strtch of about 1 Km of downhill cycling to the point where a small road – near a house and the road sign “10 T.” – appears on the left. The route follows this road for another 500 mt to a hairpin bend. Another dirt road on the left at this point goes into the woods and brings the mountain biker in fairly quick order to Forca di Penne.

From Bussi sul Tirino to Capestrano and Collepietro

Route: Bussi sul Tirino (300 mt – 0 Km), unpaved route begins (550 mt – 3,5 Km), turn right (640 mt – 4,6 Km), hairpin bends (700 mt – 5,7 Km), route to Collepietro (850 m – 8 Km), hills (900 mt – 10,5 Km), Capestrano (500 mt – 17 Km), unpaved road along river Tirino (350 mt – 22 Km), Church San Pietro ad Oratorium (340 mt – 24,2 Km), Bussi sul Tirino (300 mt – 32 Km).

Type of route: an average route  over manageable unpaved roadbeds with two short stretches of paved road

Time of year: all year round

Altitude: from 300 mt to 900 mt

Dstance: 30 Km

Climb: 600 mt

Time needed: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Starting in the centre of Bussi, the biker proceeds to the end part of a straight stretch on the POpoli-to-L’Aquila road, going in the direction of Popoli and coming to the point where the road start downhill – a big forniture store stands just opposite. A dirt road going towaerd Popoli and a narrow pathway going in the direction of Valle Gemmina both starts here. The mountain biker cycles up the pathway and then along the valley, encountering only very few stretches where the ground is broken up and not really manageable by bike. The climb requires fairly solid technique for he first 3,5 Km from the start, at whch point the path widens into a cart track. At a fork in the middle of a clearing which is at the top of a rocky, uphill stretch, the biker turns right and cycles downhill. Another winding, climbing stretch plus 500 mt on level terrain brings the rider to the paved road for Collepietro. This is reached at a distance 8,5 Km from the setting-out point and is at an altitude of 850 mt. Once here the cyclist goes toward the village soccer field and takes the dirt road which is seen just behind, pedalling uphill for about 1,5 Km. At the end of the climb there appears a plateau set in the middle of the loveliest mountains in Abruzzo – Gran Sasso ahead, Mount Velino to the left, the Majella Massif and Mount Morrone behind. At the plateau’s far end begins the long, demanding way down to Capestrano and beyond to the National Route  for L’Aquila, wuhich the mountain bke route joins near the fork branching off to Capo d’Acqua. At Capo d’Acqua the biker turns right down in the direction of Bussi, leaves the road and turns once again right down the dirt road which runs along beside the pure, crystal waters of the Tirino river. The cyclist continues on the dirt road, passes a large fish farm for the raising of freshwater trout and comes back to Bussi after a 32 km rde from start to finish. Last but not least, the freshwater crayfish and river trout await much-merited savouring in one of the village restaurants. 

From Vallelarga di Pettorano sul Gizio to the slopes of Mount Genzana

Wander route: Vallelarga and beginning dirt road (480 mt – 0 Km), beginning of the wood (620 mt – 1,6 Km), end of the wood (1120 mt – 6,7 Km), first spring (1160 mt – 7 Km), sottobosco (1300 mt – 8 Km), plateau and end of woods (1360 mt – 9 Km), Fonte dell’ Acero (1560 mt – 11 Km), hairpin bend (1800 mt – 18 Km), plateau (1810 mt – 18,3 Km)

Type of route: a demanding route over manageable unpaved roadbeds.

Time of year: all year round in the absence of snow, numerous horseflies in summer make this season inadvisable

Altitude: from 480 to 1810 mt

Distance: 18 Km – outward leg only

Climb: 1330 mt

Time needed: 3 hours – outward leg only

The cyclist mounts at a parking area which has a fountain. The area is located a short distance before Pettorano sul Gizio, to the rigght side coming from Sulmona along the Nationall Route that goes in the direction Roccaraso; the parking area is about 5 Km out of Sulmona itself. From here, which is the starting point, the route goes rght in the same direction as indicated by the signs for INtrodacqua Scalo, Vallelarga and Scanno, crosses the bridge over the river Gizio and over the railway underpass and turns onto the paved road that climbs left. After passing a group of houses, the cyclist begins a steep climb up a dirt road with an uneven surface. This soon enters dense woods. The altitude 5 Km from the starting point is already 1000 m. A few short stretches over level terrain is a way, and the only way, by which the bker can recover soome breath. Exiting the woods ( 7 Km, altitude 1160 mt) the cyclist comes across the first of the springs. The road reenters the woods for a more demanding stretch lasting one and a quartere miles. At a 9 Km mrk counting from the start, the route exits the woods again near an animal enclosure which is found on the left at a locality called Le Crescenze. The ride is the halfway point wth the most testing uphill parts now over. At just before completion of the ride’s 11th Km there is a spot ideal for a moment of respite near Fonte dell’ Acero spring.- The view from here is glorious, extending over magnificent expanses of forest as far as majestic Mt. Amaro. The cyclist is uphill once more and then over flat ground: afteer this the route comes to another spring. In gradual stages the cyclist reaches a hairpin bend which preceeds a plateau and which is the highest point of the route (18,3 Km, altitude 1810 m). Once having reached the plateau the cyclist ssesses his reserves of energy and chooses eighter to start back, in this case taking the first turning to the right and following the dirt road that goes to Frattura and on from there to Scanno which is 33 Km from Sulmona, or otherwise chooses to go on in the straight, downhill direction toward Toppe di Vurgo as far as a fork in the road near a road barrier. Taking the way left at this fork brings the biker down to Cinquemiglia plateau below to a spot near a small church, while taking the fork that goes right carries the cyclist on, first over level tarrain and than downhill, to the spectacular Chiarano Gorge. From here, too, the route continues back down to Cinquemiglia Plateau. The cyclist reaches the National Route that goes to Roccaraso but in view of the dangerous trafic turns down the so called “Napoleonica”, a lesser road that goes to Roccapia, and cyclist back to Pettorano this way.

From San Sebastiano di Bisegna to Pescasseroli

Wander route: San Sebastiano di Bisegna – beginnng paved road (1100 mt – 0 Km), cave at the beginnng of the wood (1200 mt – 1,5 Km), fork street that comes from Bisegna (1340 mt – 3 Km), Valle di fonte Appia (1300 mt – 4 Km),  beginning wood(1350 MT – 4,5 Km), unpaved road (1540 mt – 6,5 Km), fork – turn right (1600 mt – 7 Km), spot (1730 mt – 9,5 Km), Pietra del Principe (1800 mt – 10 Km), hut Prato Rosso (1630 mt – 13,5 Km), Pescasseroli (1180 mt – 22 Km).

Type of route: an average rote over manageable unpaved roadbeds

Time of year: all year round in the absence of snow

Altitude: from 1100 mt to 1800 mt

Distance: 22 Km , outward leg only

Climb: 700 mt

Time needed: 2 hours

The outlying neighbourhood of San Sebastiano di Bisegna can be reached from the A24 Motorway by exiting at the Pescina tollgate in L’Aquila Province and folllowing the signs from Pescina for Ortona dei Marsi and Bisegna. The cycles route sets out from Piazza Bernardini in the small neighbourhood of San Sebastiano going up a narrow road for 1.5 Km till the road comes to a quarry. The cyclist continues from here biking along the dirt road to the right that plunges into a wood. A very minor road coming from Bisegna joins from the rght 3 Km further along. The mountain biker goes past this fork and after a stretch of downhill riding comes to very beautiful Fonte Appia Valley and to level terrain at last. The route enters at this point into territory belonging to Abruzzo National Park, a park which does an admirable job of safeguarding a part of the natural heritage while drawing about a million visitors a year. A long stretch totally within forest and with not a very steep upward incline begins 500 m beyond the spring of Fonte d’Appia. At 6.5 km point from the start of the route the cyclist encountes the one stretch where the roadbed is very uneven, the rought surface carries on as far as a fork in the road that branches right and continues for 2 km still within forest across terrain which is a mixture of flat and slightly uphill parts. The trees then begin to thin out and the view extends as far as the rounded peaks above, standing out in exquisite contrast against blue sky on days when the air is clear. The route comes to an enclosure for grazing animals 9.5 Km into the ride. The mountain biker cycles uphill for another 10 Km and reaches “Pietra del Principe”, the highest point of the route. A long downhill stretch through woods is next, followed by the long, 3 km ride through verdant Terraegna Valley, mountain-biking on the level that nature lovers certainly find unforgettable. At the end of the Valley comes another short uphill section and then comes a long downhill ride through Prato Rosso Valley, passing near to the Prato Rosso Refuge, a ride which continues to where a small road leading to the Pescasseroli Sawmill and Timber Yards branches off at a point 22 km into the ride. As extremly lovely and ideal for mountain biking as it is, the choise of this itinerary among so many other equally lovely routes feasible Abruzzo National Park has been made with the intentional aim of not disturbing the animals by the mountain bike’s style of approach, which is silent, sudden and unexpected. Persons especially interested in the National Park’s fauna have the Pescasseroli Visitors’ Welcoming Centre available to THem where there are anmals roaming in large enclosed spaces, an educational section for conference and a small cinema which shows films about the Park’s animals. For the way back to San Sebastiano the cyclist takes the road for Gioia dei Marsi as far as where the road for Bisegna branches off. Less than a few kilometres of uphill followed by downhill biking brings the cyclist to Bisegna and from there to San Sebastiano, which is 20 km from Pescasseroli.