Whether you approach Abruzzo from Le Marche in the north or Rome in the west, your arrival will be signalled by the spectacular bulk of the Gran Sasso massif, containing by far the highest of the Apennine peaks as well as a national park (w gransassolagapark.it) with hiking trails. If you come by autostrada from Le Marche, you’ll actually travel underneath the mountains, through a 10km tunnel, passing the entrance to a particle-physics research laboratory bored into the very heart of the mountain range. The massif itself consists of two parallel chains, flanking the Campo Imperatore plain that stretches for 27km at over 2000m above sea level.
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Gran Sasso trails
Gran Sasso trails
Snow can continue to fall on the park’s highest mountain, Corno Grande (2912m), until late May, and remain thick on the ground well into June, so outside July and August, the ascent should only be attempted by experienced and fully equipped climbers. At all times you should be prepared for some fairly strenuous scree-climbing and steep descents. If you are fit, but not experienced, it is probably wiser to take a guide: contact Mountain Evolution (w mountainevolution.com). Perhaps the most challenging route is the tough trek from the Campo Imperatore right across the mountain range, taking in the Corno Grande, sleeping over at the Rifugio Franchetti (w rifugiofranchetti.it). The website has several suggested itineraries (in Italian only), and the staff are also very knowledgeable. If you’re going to do any of the Gran Sasso trails, you’ll need the CAI Gran Sasso d’Italia map (on sale in newsagents around the region), and should check out weather conditions with your hotel or online at w meteomont.org first.