Wednesday, May 21, 2008


This incredible place is named Castrovalva and it is a fraction of the municipality Anversa degli Abruzzi.

Driving the motorway Roma-Pescara take the exit Cocullo, heading towards Scanno. Once crossed Anversa degli Abruzzi, you enter the Gole del Sagittario canyon, and after a little bridge a fork on the left heads to Castrovalva.
After few hairpin bends on a tiny road you can start to see the little village on the top of the mountain ridge coming, until the road thread its way in a cave digged in the rock to come suddenly out the other side of the ridge. Just another little bit and you're done. The road ends up over there, with a couple of parking lots.
It's all about a few houses, three churches, a (closed) bar and a bed and breakfast with few rooms and a couple of little apartments, one of which we rented (the B'n'B is easy to find but i will avoid to praise it, since the keepers belong to those kind of people that, allthough never missing to complain for the services not working, they carefully avoid to give their due contribution to the community, giving the fiscal receipt to the customers).

The thing that amazes the most of this village is the absolute, almost deafening silence, broken only by nature noises... a flock of birds, the swish of the wind, the meowing of a cat... During the holidays (we spent over there also May the 1st [Labor day, in Italy]), some people go there, and some noises can be heard from the neighboring houses, and from the motorbikers, three hundred meters [1000 feet] below, on the Gole road. But the mood of peace and quiet is still prevalent. Also the scents are different, they smell like rare herbs, exotic gardens.

M. C. Escher, Castrovalva (1930)

The disconcerting idea that one thinks of, observing Castrovalva, is that it looks suspended up there challanging any gravity law. This sensation is well given on the painting by M. C. Escher that lived there for some time. Yes, I'm speaking about that painter of the Moebius ribbon rid by the ants, and of the monks busy climbing forever the impossible stairways... (looking to the painting, in the landscape, bottom right, you can see Anversa, and behind, far away, Cocullo).

Map of the excursion
(from the WWF brochure)

The climate was perfect for a good excursion. Let's put on the hiking shoes, then!
We started walking on the white road signed as path n. 18, that goes to the little cemetery and follows on a comfortable hiking path in the woods. At a certain point you can see from the top the town of Anversa, which, covering the path, can be kept as a reference. We went down under the level of Anversa, till the Cavuto sources, on the Sagittario river, where there is the WWF park center, reachable also by car from Anversa. We stopped for a rest in the garden, where Maddie had plenty of cuddles from a bunch of Roman tourists come there by bus. R. shot some photos to the bushes of herbs that are grown in that garden, each one with its sign that shows the name, from the most common ones like thyme to some others never heard before (Anversa was famous in the middle age for growing medical and magical herbs...).
After a half an hour rest we took to our hiking again along path number 17, which at first follows the coast of Sagittario river, a hundred meters under the level of the road, and then it goes uphill till it reaches the little bridge where there is the fork to Castrovalva. Here the forest finishes and the main road must be followed, till the hiking path starts to climb steeper among the rocks, cutting the hairpin bends, till Castrovalva, at the opposite side of path 18 starting point.

Walking slowly we took about three hours and a half.
The excursion is wonderful, except maybe the last part which, if made in the afternoon, is the most demanding tract under the hot sun. Infact my suggestion is to hike the ring in a different way: park the car at Cavuto sources, climb to Castrovalva on path 17 in the morning, still fresh, and get back on path 18, much easier and downhill, after.


rowena said...

Good job on highlighting the trail in pink. For those of us who are myself! :-D

O. Hietamaa said...

That picture by Escher is not a painting but a lithograph. And the Moebius ribbon with ants is not a painting but a woodcut. Escher was never much of a painter.

dario said...

Thanks for the contribution.

That's all because for my miserable English. I used the words "painting" and "painter" as the translation of the Italian "pittura" and "pittore", which refer in general to any kind of visual art/artist.