The Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park it is one of the three national parks located in Abruzzo, and it develops between the provinces of Pescara, Teramo and L’Aquila, also encroaching on the Marche in the province of Ascoli Piceno and in Lazio in the province of Rieti. It is the third largest natural park in Italy, for a mostly mountainous area that includes the Gran Sasso d’Italia massif as well as the Monti della Laga.
The park is divided into eleven districts:
- the district High Peaks between Rocca Calascio and Assergi, of which Campo Imperatore is part
- the district Highway , which develops along the route of what was once the Gran Sasso state road 80
- the district Waterfalls and Woods , on the side of the province of Teramo dei Monti della Laga
- the district Between the Two Kingdoms , along the ancient border between the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Papal State
- the district Sources of Tronto , between Accumoli and Amatrice
- the district Upper Aterno valley
- the district Lands of the Barony , with the villages of Castelvecchio Calvisio and Santo Stefano di Sessanio
- the district Tirino Valley , along the homonymous river between Ofena and Bussi sul Tirino
- the district Great Abbeys
- the district Sicilian Valley , which owes its name to the Mendoza, a Sicilian family that owned the fief of the Val Vomano
- the district Via del Sale , on the ancient Via Salaria in the valley of the Tronto river
There are more than 2400 floral species recorded in Gran Sasso Park , which for this reason stands out as an area characterized by a strong plant biodiversity.
It is above all in the high-altitude environments that the most valuable floristic component can be found, such as the Apennine edelweiss, the Majella violet, the curved adonis and the Matilde’s androsace, endemic plants and glacial relics. On the Gran Sasso, then, the only yellow adonis station in our country is preserved.
The broadest forestry training is the beech forest , and very important is the blueberry moor between the high pastures and the woods.
One of the most representative animals of the territory is the Apennine chamois, which is also the symbol of the Gran Sasso Park and is present in about 500 specimens. Other mammals include the Apennine wolf, predator of roe deer and red deer, and the wild cat; but they should not be forgotten the rate , marten and stone marten. Still, it is worth mentioning the porcupine, the skunk and the snow vole, which lives at high altitudes and is a small rodent inherited from the last ice age.
Looking towards the sky, instead , on the highest peaks you can see theGolden Eagle : majestic and fascinating bird of prey that stands out for its sharp eyesight and impromptu attacks on its prey; you will also be able to come across the view of the alpine chough or the eagle owl, as well as the raven, pipit, alpine finch or eagle owl.
How to get to the Gran Sasso Park
For those who move in car , it is possible to reach the Gran Sasso Park by taking the A24 Autostrada dei Parchi and exiting at Assergi on the L’Aquila side or Colledara San Gabriele on the Teramo side; along the A14 Adriatica motorway and exiting at Giulianova Teramo on the Teramo side, and then continue in the direction of the SS 80; along the A25 and exiting at Castiglione a Casauria on the Pescara side.
By train, however, you can take advantage of the railway lines that connect Rome and Pescara o Pescara and Teramo, and then reach their destination thanks to the buses: the various municipalities of the park, in fact, are reached by regional buses that depart from the regional capitals.
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What to see
The artistic and cultural heritage of the Gran Sasso National Park is truly rich, with an exceptional variety of mills, fortified villages, castles, archaeological sites and ancient churches. Suffice it to mention, among others, the Amiternum archaeological site dell’Aquila or the Abbey of San Clemente a Casauria di Castiglione a Casauria, in the province of Pescara, but also the Chapel of the Passatore Icon of Amatrice and the Abbey of San Bartolomeo: the latter is located in Carpineto della Nora, in the province of Pescara, and represents one of the best preserved monuments of all the medieval Cistercian art of Abruzzo.
Remaining on the subject of religious architecture, they are worth a visit there Church of Sant’Egidio in Fano Adriano (in the province of Teramo) and the Church of San Pietro ad Oratorium (in the province of L’Aquila), as well as the Church of San Giovanni ad Insulam in Isola del Gran Sasso d’Italia (in the province of Teramo). The park authority itself is housed in what was once a convent dedicated to San Francesco. To take a step back in time, then, you can go to Castel Manfrino di Valle Castellana; in L’Aquila, on the other hand, there is the Fountain of the 99 spouts, along the Aterno river, which dates back to the 13th century.
What to eat
There are many typical dishes of the Gran Sasso area: for example the curly dumplings , which are enjoyed with a condiment based on mutton and sausage sauce, and above all amatriciana, which is prepared in a white or red version with local pecorino and bacon, which is obtained from the pork cheek veined with lean. The pasticcio degli dei is one of the typical sweets of Lands of the Barony , and is prepared with saffron liqueur: saffron that is grown in the Navelli plain.
The canestrato of Castel del Monte and the lentils of Santo Stefano di Sessanio are garrisons Slow Food , while the turquoise potato and the cicerchia are two of the ancient species that are cultivated. Very particular is the marcetto, a cheese with a spicy flavor that derives from the formation of dairy fly larvae. Still, it is difficult to resist the beans with pork rinds, made with the white beans of Grisciano di Accumoli, while along the Via del Sale a typical dish is that of the Ascolana olives, stuffed with chopped carrots, onion, turkey, pork and veal.
The spelled soup with chestnuts and mushrooms allows you to savor the products of tastes, while in the mountains of the central Apennines the solina is grown, a soft wheat with which a perfect bread is made to accompany the ventricina della Laga and the mortadella di Campotosto, which is produced at a height of 1300 meters. Other tasty dishes are callara sheep and sweet pizza.
In the district between the two kingdoms, soccer games with chestnuts and timballo , while wild boar and lamb are spiced with local flavors: wild herbs, truffles and blueberries. The ceppe are a type of handmade pasta not to be missed, and famous is also the porchetta italica from Campli , a pride of tradition.
Among the jewels of Gran Sasso National Park there is Campo Imperatore, a plateau which is more or less at 1,800 meters above sea level and which houses the ski resort of the same name. Here there is an alpine botanical garden named after Vincenzo Rivera, located at more than 2,100 meters above sea level: it is the second highest alpine garden in all of Europe and was inaugurated in the early 1950s.
Not far from the astronomical observatory and the Gran Sasso cable car, it is the highest garden in the entire Apennine chain and houses more than 300 plant species , which have adapted to living in difficult environmental conditions. Generally the structure is open to the public only in summer.
The Laga waterfalls
Very different from the landscape of the Gran Sasso is that of the Monti della Laga, which proves to be richer in water and, consequently, much greener.
The rocks of the Laga they are waterproof, and in this they are distinguished from the Gran Sasso and almost all the other peaks of the Apennines. The waters have shaped the rocks but are unable to penetrate underground: consequently they remain on the surface. This explains the reason why the Monti della Laga are dotted with water features, including waterfalls, steep streams and streams. The waterfall on the Tordino river, for example, is located on the northern side of Monte Gorzano, while on the northern side of Cima Lepri there is the Morricana waterfall. The Selva Grande and Fossi del Molinaro waterfalls are also very popular, while trekking lovers can try their hand at a walk along the path of the Hundred Waterfalls, among blueberry heaths and beech woods.
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