After the articles on the Gran Sasso National Park and the one on Majella Park the time has come to tell you about the Abruzzo area I know the most, the one I have frequented since I was a child. It is the area of the Sirente Velino Park, which is located south of L'Aquila and to reach it you have to climb the Rocche Plateau dominated by Monte Sirente (2349 mt) and from Monte Velino (2487 mt, the 3rd highest peak of the Apennines). Between the two peaks this park has sprung up which extends for more than 50.000 hectares, between mountains and large open spaces inhabited by golden eagles, wolves and foxes. But inside the park there are also some beautiful towns with a long past like Ovindoli, Rocca di Mezzo or Rovere which are the perfect base for exploring the entire park. This area is also popular with Campo Felice ski lifts and Ovindoli (where you can ski on the Mount Magnola, 2200 mt), two places very popular especially by the Romans in winter. In summer, however, here you can go for walks, trekking, horseback riding, cycling and much more.
What to see in the Sirente Velino Park
Arriving by motorway from Rome, your gateway to the Sirente Velino Park will be the town of Celano. Already from the exit of the motorway the beautiful will appear before your eyes Piccolomini Castle, which dominates the top of the town and dates back to the 400th century. It is the fairytale castle, with 4 crenellated towers, a lift bridge and the walkway on the walls from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Avezzano plain. Inside the castle there is the Museum of Sacred Art of the Marsica with paintings, goldsmiths and sacred objects found in the area, but also some archaeological finds found in the Fucino plain. In the historic center of Celano there are several noteworthy churches, including the 200th century Church of San Giovanni Battista, with a Romanesque stone portal and, inside, fragments of medieval frescoes.
Gorges of Celano
Immediately outside the town there are the gorges of Celano, which represent the best known karst canyon of the Apennines; here the erosive action of the Foce stream has shaped over the centuries very high rock walls, truly unique. You can go downhill starting from Val d'Arano (Ovindoli) or uphill from Celano (it takes at least 3h30). The scenery is truly impressive! It is preferable to wear a protective helmet while walking and, above all, to avoid going there during the period of flooding of the Foce.
The small village of Aielli it has only become a tourist destination in recent years, since the project was born Borgo Universo, with the festival of the same name taking place every summer. In fact, since 2007, the whole village has been enlivened by dozens of murals by the greatest Italian and foreign street artists inspired by astronomy. The reason for this theme is to be found in the thirteenth century Tower of the Stars which stands in the upper part of the village and houses an astronomical observatory with an adjoining museum dedicated to the moon (which can be visited by appointment). If you love street art you can't really miss this open-air museum with 26 murals by Okuda, Millo, Zamoc, Alleg, Matlakas and many others.
Ovindoli is a small town perched at 1375 meters and represents the gateway to the south of the Sirente Velino Park. Since the 60s it has become an important tourist center (especially for Romans and Neapolitans) thanks to the ski center on Mount Magnola (2200 m) which is one of the largest in the center-south, but is also very lively in summer. From here it is possible to explore the entire Velino Sirente Natural Park. All the streets of the village lead to Piazza San Rocco, where bars, restaurants and clubs overlook, but the best view can be enjoyed from the Monument of the Alpine, in the highest part of the country.
La Arano Valley it starts from Ovindoli and is enclosed between the Velino (2487 m) and Sirente (2349 m) mountains. The valley can be traveled on foot (in about 2h) or on horseback (2-3h, you will find many riding schools right at the beginning of the valley, just outside Ovindoli). It is an excursion for everyone, it is in the plain among the chestnut woods but offers magnificent views of the Celano Gorges. From here the paths start to reach the Mount Etra along the Via Romana (1800 m - 6h30 'between A / R starting from Ovindoli) and for the Celano Gorges (3-4h one way).
Set between the Monti di Campo Felice and the Monti della Magnola, the valley of the Piani di Pezza is of karst origin and is a truly uncontaminated place. It can be reached on foot from Rocca di Mezzo or with a 10 'drive from Ovindoli. In winter you can practice cross-country skiing, ski touring and ski mountaineering and in summer trekking on foot, horseback and mountain bike. There are several marked itineraries that start either from Rocca di Mezzo or directly in the plain, from Refuge of the Wolf (where the food is very good - they also sell trail maps here). The mountain slopes that surround the valley are covered with beech woods up to 1850 m of altitude, while the plain is almost completely devoid of vegetation. If you are good walkers you can reach the Sebastiani Refuge (2102 m- 700 meters in altitude), managed by the CAI, from which you can enjoy a magnificent view over the whole valley. The Marsican wolf, the golden eagle, the gryphon and the bear live among the forests of the Piani di Pezza.
The Pagliare and the rural villages
Inside the Sirente Velino Park there are also the straw, limestone buildings, the ancient summer residences of the farmers linked to transhumance. Abandoned for a long time, they have now been largely restored and are inhabited in the summer. Starting from Ovindoli, the most comfortable road for the Pagliare starts at Terranera, a fraction of Rocca di Mezzo and continues towards Straw of Fontecchio (1014 mt) e Agement of the Abruzzi (1084), but the road is not asphalted and you risk breaking the car. On the other hand, it is a nice excursion (about 20 km) to do on horseback or by mountain bike. The alternative is to get to Pagliare di Tione by car passing first from Secinaro and then from Tione, or with a small 3-4 km trek starting from the Chalet del Sirente (see below). The Pagliare are one of the most characteristic presences of the region and are absolutely worth a visit; they are located on rocky spurs in front of the extraordinary views of the Sirente and their visit makes you relive, if only for a moment, the history of the peasant civilization of this territory.
Prati del Sirente and Fonte Anatella
One of my favorite places, ever since I was a child, is the area of the meadows of Sirente. These meadows at 1100 meters above sea level are located on the northern slopes of Monte Sirente along the road that connects Rocca di Mezzo to Secinaro. You can park near the Pass of the Forcella and continue on foot until you reach the Anatella basin with the homonymous source. Proceeding further you then arrive at the fallow deer enclosure (the camosciara) and afterwards at the actual Prati del Sirente (the excursion is within everyone's reach - it takes less than 2h). Proceeding along the road to Secinaro you can also park near the Chalet del Sirente and from there follow one of the different paths that lead into the woods, like the one that leads to Plain of Canale (about 1h) or whatever arrives at lake of Tempra (1h-1h30 '). With the autumn foliage these paths are spectacular !! Moreover, in this area, with a little luck, it is possible to observe roe deer and foxes.
Where to sleep in Ovindoli and in the Velino Sirente Park
- Ancient Chalet Momosa (Ovindoli) : a very nice 5 bedroom chalet near the center of Ovindoli. Perfect if you are looking for a unique solution for a group of friends.
- Robust Marsi Albergo Diffuso (Oak): widespread hotel in the small village of Rovere, between Ovindoli and Rocca di Mezzo. Apartments of various sizes, all full options.
- Residence La Pinetina (Ovindoli) : recently renovated, it is located just outside the town center, is surrounded by greenery and offers very beautiful and equipped two-bedroom apartments. The restaurant with outdoor tables is also good.
- Chalet Rifugio Anfiteatro (Ovindoli) : located at 1840 meters above sea level, at the arrival of the Monte Magnola cable car, it is ideal for those who want to be immersed in nature and, in winter, go out directly with skis on. Open in both summer and winter.
- Hotel Cavallino Bianco (Ovindoli): a country institution, this hotel is located in the main square. The rooms are a bit old, but the service and prices are great.
Where to eat in Ovindoli and in the Velino Sirente Park
- Il Cafone (Ovindoli): very good restaurant near the main square, menu linked to Abruzzo traditions, often revisited in a gourmet key. Exceptional meat. My favorite! The restaurant is also very nice, furnished like a typical mountain hut. Reservations absolutely recommended.
- La Pinetina (Ovindoli): a good restaurant of Abruzzo cuisine with tables also outdoors. The arrosticini are excellent.
- The Lantern of Brontolo (Ovindoli) : an institution of Ovindoli, the Taverna di Brontolo offers traditional dishes, but not only, well cooked and in a beautiful environment.
- La Baracca (Ovindoli): nestled in the woods at the base of the ski fields, this historic restaurant is a real fairy tale house. We eat and drink very well.
- Mister 88 (Ovindoli): very nice place a few steps from the square where you drink very well; excellent beers tapped directly from a Land Rover engine. It is no coincidence that it is the meeting point for off-road enthusiasts, but not only, a bit of the whole area. They also organize events.
- From Cristina (Oak): nice restaurant where they offer a little revisited typical cuisine. Grilled meat and desserts are excellent.
- The Wolf Refuge (Piani di Pezza): this refuge at the beginning of the Piani di Pezza offers much more than the classic refuge menu. You can eat both inside and out (with a view of the valley), the polenta is very good, but also the smoked cheese and grilled meat.
- Chalet del Sirente (Sirente Park): rustic trattoria immersed in the Sirente wood with a menu of simple but good dishes.
- Ovindoli Real Time: the most updated page on events, initiatives, snow ... on everything you need to know in Ovindoli and surroundings
- Abruzzo Mountains Wild: an association that organizes trekking (day / night of 1 or more days), climbing, Nordic walking, mountain bike tours, courses (climbing, nature photography, etc.) and much more