From Rocca di Sotto the road winds its way up through the ancient beech forest, deeper and deeper into the Gran Sasso National Park to Campo Imperatore giving you the sense of being on your way to the end of the world. And only infrequently will you meet another tourist searching for solitude and adventure in this peace of paradise. The only thing likely to be standing in your way is a herd of cows, horses, wild boar or a solitary shepherd with his flock.
After 36 kilometers meandering uphill, the beautiful and imposing plateau, “Campo Imperatore”, appears as if from nowhere. The plain is about two thousand meters high, 15 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide.
It lies in the heart of the mountain range and is spattered with wild flowers, gorges, ancient pilgrim paths and wetland areas hidden here and there.
Over the centuries, extreme weather conditions have transformed the mountains into impressive chalk-white rocky outcrops, that would make you think you were in the Himalayas, hence its nickname “Little Tibet”.
If you drive from the plateau in the direction of Santo Stefano, we recommend a culinary stop at the wooden hut “Anna Rita”. The waitress serves you with gnarled fists and few teeth, but nevertheless provides you with delicious fresh produce and a big smile; A “handful” of arrosticini (lamb) skewers, which you can grill outside on the barbecue, with a hunk of bread, a piece of pecorino (sheep’s cheese) and a string of sausages. While you are enjoying this “primitive” meal, washed down with a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine, perhaps a herd of “wild” horses passes by.
What more does a person need…
You can hike endlessly in this mountain prairie which has also been a popular skiing area for over a hundred years. The hotel “Campo Imperatore”, which is now closed, is famous for being the place where Mussolini was secretly held in World War II. The area can also be reached by cable car, departing from Fonte Cerrato.
The medieval towns such as Santo Stefano di Sessanio and Castel del Monte are really worth a visit because of their great views, old houses, endless stairs, winding roads and small gates.
A few kilometers further, Rocca Calascio with its spectacular castle is also a must-see.
But what is especially striking about Campo Imperatore is the quiet; Highly recommended for travelers who want to let go of their ‘normal’ life…An oasis of peace and breathtaking views, where time stands still and you can actually feel alone, at last, in this world.