It has always been one of those tours I wanted to organise but it was always too far. Living in Bologna is very convenient, when I look for a 3 days tour I can go south and north in so many different places with no more than 5 hours train. I think I’m lucky to be here and to have a chance to explore more, which is one of the reasons why I don’t want to waste any weekends. Now that I’ve been there I should say that I’m sorry it was only the option B for the weekend, in-fact my first plan was taking me to Bolzano, and then I would have climbed Stelvio, however the weather forecast was so dreadful that I decided for a plan B which brought me in Abruzzo and now I’m glad it did because I liked it more than I thought. This tour has been also an opportunity to travel with Enrico a friend who was experimenting for the first time the bikepacking on a cycling tour. Get my bicycle ready for a tour it is such an easy thing to me, like walking, but I understood it is not for everyone, at the first most of the cyclists have doubts: “What should I carry?”, “How should I fix the bikepacking?”, “Would I be ready for it?”. Perhaps through recklessness, I have never had these doubts, but I understand that it can be supportive to have someone who has already made many trips to start with, and I am happy to share the road and inspire a new cycle traveler.
Day one: Termoli – Valico delle Capannelle – L”Aquila (75 Km – 1,190 Elevation – Sunny and a bit windy)
The train from Bologna to Termoli was one of the new regional trains, with proper bicycle slots and comfortable seats next to it. It is always nice travelling by this kind of train. We reached Termoli that was nearly 3pm. Typical time of summer heat, humid and sunny, the road approaches the hills and then slips into the valley and slowly ascends. Up to 20 km from Termoli, I was fearing the worst, but then the humidity dropped and towards the interior, it was almost fine even if we have been slowed down by an upwind. Alongside the Piaganini Lake opens up, an expanse of blue waters and waters and ice-grey rocks. From that point, I began to understand the beauty of the Gran Sasso park that awaits us along the weekend route. The arrival at the Capannelle pass, preceded by a series of uphill curves is effortless and in a little while, we are ready to descend towards L’Aquila. The historic centre of Aquila is gorgeous, almost exciting, although 20 years have passed since the earthquake that severely damaged it, some of its streets are still closed with beautiful buildings enclosed by iron and wood elements to keep them standing waiting for the reconstruction works. A centre full of history that risked being lost forever and that now comes out with new strength and grace experienced by its citizens who fill its streets and bars.
Day two: L’Aquila – Gran Sasso – Rocca Calascio – Castel del Monte – Bolognano (124 Km – 2,090 Elevation – Cloudy and Windy)
The second day started with the fear of the windy day with gusts up to 100 km/h on the Gran Sasso. Such a strong wind would make pedaling impossible. We left early, we headed towards the climb of Gran Sasso, the wind was already blowing, but it was still acceptable. We reached the base of the cable car in Fonte Ceretto and after talking with the operator who already reports strong wind at high altitude, we decided to go up from that point with the cable car to avoid risks. The trip became very touristy, the cable car was full of cyclists, some had in mind to go up and down on MBT tracks, they suggested to change the downhill route and go through Rocca Calascio which they say, is also the symbol of Abruzzo. Above the Gran Sasso the view was covered by clouds and the wind was very strong and cold. We immediately descended towards Campo Imperatore where the width of this plateau was breathtaking as expected. There aren’t many cyclists, but we share the road with a few as we go up towards Santo Stefano di Sessiano. Colours from Campo Imperatore are unique, with golden yellow meadows and a black sky above us (check the video). I thought that soon it would have rained, instead, when we arrived in Santo Stefano the sun began to warm up our path and time to get to Rocca Calascio, even if we were still pedalling against the wind, the sky opened up and allows us to look at these villages in their entirety. This is the interior of Abruzzo, an area of hills and ancient villages I would never have imagined. The stop at Rocca Calascio is truly unique. Perched on the top of a small road that can only be covered on foot, by bike, or with a local bus. There are no cars, the view is beautiful, a cold fountain allows us to cool off and stop for lunch right along this little road. From here the day seemed to go downhill, in fact, we went down for several km towards Popoli, on small roads, but with considerable heat. Once in the valley, the traffic intensifies, but after a while, we went up to Bolognano, a small town with widespread street art, and no shop, not even a single restaurant or a bar, nothing. The BnB La Casetta that welcomes us has a very nice backyard, the place is lovely and the hostess has also baked a tart that is still hot, but unfortunately, we soon have to get back on the bike to go shopping in the nearest town which added another 22 km to our long 124 km route between ups and downs. I was tired and nearly starving, but the local cheese and a bit of red wine brought back my good mood.
Day three: Bolognano – Majella Blockhaus – Pescara (101 km – 2,140 Elevation – Raining day)
In the morning the sky was overcast, the promised rain has arrived. I didn’t want to think about it because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to climb the BLOCKHAUS which is called “THE BAD GIANT” of the Apennines. The climb starts from Scafa towards Lettomanoppello, 28 km, 2,038m in altitude and 7.3% of the average gradient, the road to follow are straightforward, in the direction of Passo Lanciano, the hairpin bends climb from Lettomanopello above 12%, and then carry on for long and demanding km just below 11%. When we reached 1600m, it was nearly cold, but the thermometer has stopped at 15 degrees, enough to try to climb to the top. From the crossroads of Lanciano we went up among the trees, it was still raining, but less, we arrived at the shelters where it seemed to see the arrival from below, but it is not so. The road continues, until a bar closed the passage to cars and a signal indicates 3km from the summit. The sky was dark, but the Majella Massif appeared from time to time in the clouds, magnificent in its grandeur. Another image that I won’t forget. Unfortunately, the clouds were rising rapidly and we were soon inside, the visibility was poor, it was raining, the descent towards Roccamorice was cold, but the joy of having climbed the Blockhaus was huge. The day was coming to an end, to return we only needed to ride the 36km on the state road towards Pescara, easy, but wet given the pouring rain that did not leave us until the arrival. The surprises of the day were not over, when we arrived in Pescara we met two travellers in the bike carriage, Roberta and her partner had faced very demanding journeys and they were planning a trip in Mongolia. I hope to have a chance to meet them on the roads because the magic of travel is exquisite also when you share it.
TOTAL BUDGET 3 DAYS ALL-INCLUSIVE: 146 euro