Our friends Nick and Susie recently visited us from England and were deeply impressed by the contrasting areas of mountains, hills and beaches all within a short distance of our Abruzzo villas for two. On successive days, we enjoyed the warm autumn sun as we strolled over what in a few weeks time will be the ski slopes of La Majelletta; and then found the sun to be even hotter at sea level as we went for a paddle and had miles of perfect sandy beach all to ourselves at Le Morge.
Then, in answer to their search for exercise just a little more strenuous, we took Nick and Susie to the Spirito Sancto gorge in Fara San Martino – a short drive from your Abruzzo villa for two. We’ve talked before about Fara and its stupendous Visitatore festa in August, which is climaxed by a thunderous firework display set off at the entrance to the Spirito Sancto gorge – a deep cleft leading into the heart of the towering mountains that loom over the town.
Just follow the road through Fara and park near the small wood-built bar at the top of the path that leads down to the entrance to the gorge. Stop for a coffee and take in the view !
At the very entrance to the gorge, the remains of a medieval abbey are being excavated. Once you leave that behind, you’re in ‘Lord of the Rings’ scenery as the easy-to-follow path leads you under vertical cliffs upwards into the heart of the Majella.
At weekends, especially in July and August, the Sprito Sancto gorge is a popular spot for a typical walk in Abruzzo. But in midweek, especially outside the peak season, you – like us – will probably have the place to yourself.
The gorge is steeped in legend. The story goes that it was San Martino himself who parted the mountains and created a way for the villagers of Fara to take their herds of sheep and goats up into the slopes to graze.
Take a look around you. In the cliffs you’ll see many curiously-shaped holes. Geologists will tell you that they’ve been created by water cascading down from the melting snows of the Majella each spring. But the legend is that these are marks left by the elbows of San Martino as he forced his way through the mountains to open up the path you’re now on.
This particular walk in Abruzzo can be as long or short as you want. When you’ve had enough – simply turn round and head back. Press on and you could tackle a route up to the top of Monte Amaro – the second-highest peak in the entire Appenine chain at 2793m/9163ft. An arduous day-long – but achievable – adventure for experienced, guide-led walkers only !
Or if you’re truly into challenging sports, the sheer sides of the Sancto Spirito gorge offer around thirty free-climbing routes, ranging in difficulty from Grade 3 to 7.
Aside from good trainers in dry weather, or light boots if it’s wet, you won’t need any specialist clothing or equipment for a walk through the Spirito Sancto gorge of around ‘an hour up – and an hour down’.
The shale/pebble path is generally well-marked and easy-to-follow and though it leads pretty continuously uphill, there are no steep gradients in the first couple of miles or so. But be warned that the further into the gorge you go, the tougher it gets !
We reckon that the best time to enjoy this particular walk in Abruzzo would be in the spring when the alpine flowers in the Spirito Sancto gorge must be a wonderful sight. We’ll check and let you know…
(Click on the pictures in the text for larger images)