Home Things to doWalking in Abruzzo & Discovering its WildlifeGran Sasso & Maiella Mountains The Corno Grande – Italy’s Rocky Heart
The Corno Grande Drive

The Corno Grande – Italy’s Rocky Heart

by Sam Dunham

The Corno Grande Road from Bascianella

Overlooking our cottage in Bascianella and part of the Gran Sasso Mountain range is ’s highest mountain outside the Alps, ‘The Corno Grande’ (nicknamed ’s Rocky Heart).

Our magnificent neighbour stretches its Dolomite & Lias Limestone form up 2,912 metres above level and is approximately 200 million years old – its last lift (geological not plastic) taking place about 5 million years ago.  Below its northern face lies Europe’s most southerly glacier, the Calderone, that sadly scientists believe won’t make it past 2020 due to global warming.

Luckily for Bascianella the Corno Grande creates a micro climate and protects the province of from the colder, more extreme weather that would otherwise blow in from nearby Campo Imperatore.  This incredible  plateau is 1,600 masl,  is 26 km long, 10 km wide  & famous for being the summer film location to many of Sierge Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns and well worth a visit to ramble and just to experience and photograph the incredible skies.

The Corno Grande from Bascianella

The Corno Grande throughout the seasons as seen from Bascianella (click to view slideshow)

For anyone interested in climbing this great mountain the best times to visit are between June through to August, but be warned for those of you wanting to get to the Vetta Occidentale peak, it is a intense 8 hour climb, not for  the fainthearted, those that have vertigo or are unfit.  If you are any of those, do consider taking the Gondola lift from Campo Imperatore that will take you up to 2,233masl for a little walkabout.

For those of you who are fans of Philip Pullman’s Lyra books, you might be interested to know that deep in the depths of  the Corno Grande, researchers from Rome University have recently claimed that their giant mountain laboratory detector has picked up signs of dark matter.  This is the gravitational pull caused by some form of invisible matter that holds all distant galaxies together.  It gained the name “dark matter” because it does not shine or reflect light.

Further Reading

The Guardian – 24/04/08
Italian researchers claim they are first to have found dark matter

Useful Websites

Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park

For Reference
The Corno Grande has three summit peaks.   West – Vetta Occidentale (2912m), Central – Vetta Centrale (2893m) and  East Vetta Orientale (2903m).

Useful Vocab
Summit – Vetta
Great Horn – Corno Grande
Mountain  – Montagna
To climb – A salire
To hike – Escursione a

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