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Tibetan experience in Europe

To be in Abruzzo is to be in tune with the Seasons and the Elements, walking through budding beech-forests, wading through seas of spring flowers, or lying on a sun-warmed rock to watch clouds drift by and an Golden Eagle circling over landscape …

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The growing development of active, sports and adventure tourism is a challenge that Abruzzo has met by playing its trump cards of strong nature, unspoiled territories, countless trails through gullies, torrents, castles, retreats, peaks, highlands, woods, ancient villages: a thrilling mix for very much out-of-the-ordinary holidays.

Anyone who wants its contact with the environment to be really hands-on should definitely investigate the exciting options to be found in Abruzzo: there is no doubt that the region’s hardy nature offers the most complete range of changing environments, both in summer and in winter. Mountaineering is the main sport famous in this region: the first documented ascent of Gran Sasso was actually in 1573!

The stunning tall peaks mean that the region offers itineraries of all levels of expertise: Himalayan trekking, ascents or free climbing on massive rock faces; or more simply excursions on foot, on horseback, with skis or on mountain bikes, along countless paths that wind through gorges, torrents, castles, sanctuaries and ancient villages. Free flight fans will find Abruzzo to be a perfect setting: the countless natural terraces are excellent launch pads, the swift upsweep of the mountains from sea level (the tallest peaks in the Apennines are less than 45 km from the coast!), with the excellent “currents” this kind of orography produces, all making the region ideal for hang gliding and paragliding.

Then, of course, sport and adventure can be combined, descending many of the rivers here in a canoe or a kayak. One of the most interesting route makes its way along the upper branch of the river Vomano, in the province of Teramo. This certainly is not the Colorado river, but equally certainly it is very popular with Italian canoeists; the upper branch, in particular, is a real “black run”, and should only be attempted by someone with plenty of experience.

Canoeing can also be enjoyed along the Sangro, Aventino, Orta, Alento and Tirino rivers, in the lovely Celano gorge and on the river Aterno, across the wilds of the San Venanzio ravine. For trekking or mountain climbing there are authorised, officially registered mountain and middle mountain guides; for deltaplaning and hang gliding, Pescara and L’Aquila have aeroclubs, and in Sulmona there is the Blue Wind Association, all recognized by the Aeroclub d’Italia; however, the National Federation is always the best official point of reference for canoeing and kayaking.

Aficionados will certainly be guaranteed thrilling moments in the mountains of Abruzzo – especially in winter. Peaks, crests and frozen waterfalls are the fascinating itineraries for experts with an ice axe and crampons; gullies shooting down more than 1,000 metres from the taller pinnacles are amazing challenges for ski touring, on a par with Scandinavia or the Alps; and Abruzzo’s top-notch mountain guides are always on hand to accompany, suggest and teach. Of all the mountains present, Gran Sasso is the quintessential realm of adventure.

Here skiers, trekkers and mountain walkers are sure to find surroundings that withstand any comparison with the Alps, both in summer and in winter. For instance the snowy expanse of Campo Imperatore offers the perfect environment for cross-country skiers, who can choose between the handy circuits that have been traced out near Fonte Vetica and the long, off-track crossings in the heart of the plain. During the summer the steep faces of Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo offer a challenging climb for mountaineers of different levels of expertise.

The panorama is breathtaking for those who complete the climb, taking in all of Abruzzo: from the Adriatic to the mountains that mark the boundary with Latium. In winter these same rock faces are perfect for the more skilled off-track skiers who want some added thrills, after their crampons have pierced the snow that cloaks the grass where flocks will graze a few months later. If Campo Imperatore conjures up images of the central Asian steppe and Corno Grande has a look of the Dolomites to it, then Majella’s rocks and enormous stone pits are a far more typically Mediterranean landscape, although no less stirring for those who climb its slopes both in summer and in winter.

Trekkings to its peaks and, in general, to the upper areas of the massif, are always long and tiring, testing even the fittest climber. Cool, feathery, untouched: the beech woods on this “mother mountain” embrace the boundaries, suddenly opening upwards, on crests scented with mugho pine, rugged gorges at high altitude and vast stone-pits on the Cannella, delle Mandrelle, Taranta valleys. Higher still, between Tavola Rotonda and Mount Amaro, the Femmina Morta plateau: a balcony floating in the sky of Abruzzo. At our fingertips, the backdrop of sea.

Both in summer and winter fans of even the most demanding mountain sports will find Abruzzo’s massifs are not only a worthy challenge, but are also marvellous surroundings. Classic mountaineering, free climbing, ski touring, are all catered for in Abruzzo, whose scenarios require different levels of expertise.

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Majella National Park – Abruzzo

Walking Holidays in Majella