A very tough stage in terms of length, height difference and orientation difficulty (the path is non-existent for several kilometers): only for experienced hikers.
The effort of the long climb is amply rewarded by the view of Monte Morrone (2,061 m), from where we admire the enormous bulk of the Majella group.
The stage is very long and tiring, both for the difference in height and for the orientation difficulties; it is recommended that less experienced hikers break it at the Rifugio Iaccio Grande.
The climb, to Sella Tremonti first and to Monte Rotondo after, has very steep and tiring sections; better ration the energy.
From Colle dei Sambuchi, the track on the ground disappears for several kilometers and so do the signs: it is necessary to constantly monitor the GPS track and guess the direction in the tall grass and the woods, keeping as close as possible to the ridge.
The only water point is at the Centro Visite del Lupo di Popoli (hamlet Impianezza), a few kilometers from the start of the route: bring a great supply, you will need it.
We leave Popoli, taking us to the upper and ancient part of the town; we start the climb (approximately 200 m height difference) to the old castle, on an easy path. Once at the castle, we take the old dirt road to the right, walking on a slight slope (we go up approximately another 200 m height difference, almost without realizing it) to the Centro Visite del Lupo, in the locality of Impianezza.
We then start the long climb to Sella Tremonti (approximately 600 m height difference): after a stretch on a forest road, at a bend, we take a good path and the slope increases significantly. The plateau that houses the Monte Corvo Refuge (unattended) gives us the opportunity to catch our breath; then, we return to the path and continue the steep ascent.
From Sella Tremonti (1,293 m) we turn south-east and begin to climb (approx.400 m height difference) to Monte Rotondo, crossing on a path the Schiena dell'Asino. Once on the crest, some woods’ stretches make it difficult to identify the track on the ground; however, the direction remains very intuitive.
From the summit cross (1,731 m), we continue along the ridge, on a path that is not very evident; we slowly lose altitude (about 150 m drop). Passed Colle dei Sambuchi, we enter the woods and the track disappears as well as the signs; for the next 4 km we must improvise, trying to skirt the south-western edge in continuous ups and downs.
After retracing the path, we proceed swiftly to the Rifugio Iaccio Grande (where those who are tired can break the still long stage). We then begin the climb (approx. 350 m height difference) to Monte Morrone. The path is not always evident, but the trail markers are almost always visible and we proceed without particular difficulties (the slope is never extreme) through wide lawns. From the summit of Monte Morrone we enjoy a splendid 360 ° panorama; the view of the Majella group and Monte Amaro (2,793 m) is amazing.
We begin the long descent (approximately 1.000 m drop); we remain on the ridge for a while, then turn north and enter the valley of Iaccio della Madonna, following it entirely (on level) to the mountain lodge of the same name (another possible stopping point). After passing the building, with a short climb we go around the hump on the right and bend towards the south-east, starting to descend again; the path, never too steep, alternates aerial sections with parts in the woods, gradually more present. With a more accentuated slope, the last ramp leads us to the dirt road; we take it to the right and proceed on level until we reach the beautiful village of Roccacaramanico, to which we descend through an easy path.
At the foot of Monte Morrone stands the small village of Roccacaramanico, established in the medieval period to control the Valle dell'Orta.
Over the centuries, it has been hit by terrible earthquakes. However, the most serious problem was the depopulation during the second half of the 20th century (especially towards Australia and the United States), leaving the village with only one inhabitant: Angiolina Del Papa. The elderly lady guarded the village, coping alone with the enormous snowfalls of the winter period, until, in recent decades, some families decided to come and live in this timeless place. The village, now in a state of decay, has been subjected to a conservative recovery action.
In Roccacaramanico the chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie was built as a place of pilgrimage where it was possible to receive a plenary indulgence. The Church wanted to oppose the rampant phenomenon of hermitages of the Celestine monks, a movement created right between the Majella and Morrone mountains and inspired by the figure of Celestine V, a great hermit. They were also called "Brothers of the Holy Spirit" and were frowned upon by the pope for their independence and the revolutionary significance of the religious message.
In the Mesozoic period, about 60 million years ago, these places were similar to ... the Bahamas: lagoons surrounded by cliffs with long escarpments that went into deep basins.
While in all the rest of the Apennines the escarpments develop from west to east, here there is a north-south trend (especially in the Majella). Just above Roccacaramanico, there was once a cliff that slowly descended towards the deep basin located to the north (up to the present Marche).
The entire northern sector of the Majella has rocks impregnated with bitumen. Used already in the Neolithic period, it was used by the Romans to waterproof ships. This deposit was among the most important in Europe and mining continued until the 1860s: bitumen was used first for lighting and then for asphalting the roads.
Other precious rocks of the Majella were used to make tiles exported all over the world (Washington, Paris, Vienna ..); naval companies dedicated exclusively to their transport were established.
At the entrance to the village of Roccacaramanico is the Museo etnografico Marcello De Giovanni, where you can admire glimpses of the Abruzzo's peasant life of the past.
Here are collected the tools of traditional crafts, in particular those for making musical strings from sheep guts. The production of musical strings has been an excellence of the Val d'Orta craftsmanship for many centuries, and the artisans of the nearby Salle were renowned.
In the countryside, it is easy to come across small stone constructions called a falsa cupola, similar to rudimentary trulli. With drystone walls, they were the summer residences of non-transhumant shepherds, who also owned small plots of solina wheat or potatoes.
It is worth taking a day to climb the main peak of the Majella (i.e. Monte Amaro, 2,793 m), along the path that climbs the Rava del Ferro.
It is a long and tiring excursion (the difference in height is not indifferent, approximately over 1,500 m height difference), but the Martian landscape offered by the summit (the second highest in the continental Apennines, after the Gran Sasso) is of indescribable charm, as well as the glimpses of the Valle di Femmina Morta.
The Solina wheat is reappearing more and more often to the tables of Abruzzo. It is an ancient variety of soft wheat that has been replaced over time by the varieties that are best suited to industrial production. Its flour is excellent for the production of homemade bread and homemade pasta; in recent years, it has been reintroduced on the local market for its excellent nutritional properties.
Lu pappone was the shepherd's typical meal: hard bread was soaked with a little onion, potatoes, pecorino and the leftovers of the cheek lard. With its name and uninviting appearance, it was cooked all together to form a mush: the locals assure you that, properly prepared, it is a real treat.
Rifugio Iaccio Grande, about halfway through the stage. The shelter is unattended and you need to ask for the keys (there is however a room that is always open, empty, with a fireplace). Tel. +39 085928138 - +39 085 54621
Rifugio Iaccio della Madonna, in the homonymous valley. The shelter is unattended and you need to ask for the keys (there is however a room that is always open, empty, with a fireplace). Tel. +39 085922343
B&B La Taverna, in Roccacaramanico. Tel. +39 329 538 4599
B&B Fonte di Marco, in Roccacaramanico. Tel. +39 329 236 3228
Va' Sentiero is a grassroot project, thanks to the spontaneous contribution oft housands of people.
Even the most complicated dream, a 7,000km uphill dream,
can be achieved... together.