Walking the heart of Abruzzo has to involve the Corno Grande Mountain at some point; it’s the largest mountain in Abruzzo, effortlessly wearing its craggy 200-million-year lifetime without vanity as it looks over the 4 provinces that comprise Abruzzo, 2912 masl.
But what if, like me, you aren’t the mountaineering sort? Does the idea of sheer rock faces or blustery cable car trips up to perilous peaks bring on those vertiginous ‘hebegebees’? Is there an alternative way to get up close or high to this seemingly sagacious Abruzzo giant?!
Quite the perfect way to walk around Corno Grande’s Easterly Face is to drive up 800 masl to the small village of San Pietro just outside Isola del Gran Sasso. You can park by its well sign-posted Friday-opening eco-centre that chronicles the importance the delivery of water in the region for its local schoolchildren visitors. From here you can walk up along the road for about 10 minutes and then branch out onto the original mule track that the Foresters cut as they travelled up daily to the nearby trees on the Gran Sasso Range.
This snaking walk is lined by mostly Oak, Birch and Beech trees, all of which act as the perfect windbreakers against the high mountain gusts that tumble down the Corno Grande’ easterly face before they peter out into the local valley’s lowlands. Budding photographers don’t worry; there are perfect windows in these natural windbreakers for those who are looking for the perfect shot of this mountain.
The area is famous for the herbs that are garnered to use in the local pasta dishes. There are 18 used in local blends; I counted, still flowering even on the 1st December; Oregano, Chives, Rosemary, Thyme, I have a sneaky feeling these are all added into this infusion, as well as maybe Buffalo Grass and Juniper Berries which are plentiful and would give it perhaps its sweet, clean tang– I would love to know what other people think this mix contains as they walk at different times of the year.
Feeling hungry after this medium 1 hour 45 minute level walk? Stop off for lunch at the wonderful dinky and delicious Il Mandrone ristorante to get a taste of those herbs in action by sampling their strongole alla barcarola! Alternatively head back down to Isola del Gran Sasso and stuff your fat faces with endless cakes and pastries… there are a couple of very good cake shops to boast energy levels, particularly Angelo Merlini’s Dall’Antipasto al Dolce – (turn left as you get back into Isola, carry straight on and at the first roundabout you approach go straight over , you will see the cake shop on the right, second block).