At the heart of Gran Sasso’s massif we find the wide plateau of Campo Imperatore, famous for being the oldest still working ski resort in Italy (Papa Wojtyla used to ski and relax often in this place, saying it reminded him of his beloved Polish mountains).
Moreover, it has made history the event in wich the fascist italian dictator Mussolini was imprisoned in a hotel midway (now painted in red) on the top of Campo Imperatore and one month later freed by a secret Nazi commando operation.
Also, in early 80s, one of the most expensive italian’s public work had ended, the construction of the “Traforo del Gran Sasso”, a 10 kms tunnel with 2 lanes highway (A24) that connects the 2 sides of the massif.
At the center of the tunnel lies the most important and larger underground particle physics laboratory, the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, in wich recent experiments regarding neutrinos involved in the faster-than-light neutrino anomaly took place.
From Assergi we park at Fonte Cerreto and we take a Full-Day ticket (quite cheap for our standards, only 12 euros) for the “Funivia del Gran Sasso” that brings us from 1100 to 2100 metres high, just near the hotel, the historical museum, the little chapel and the laboratory at the top of Campo Imperatore.
From here we can see mostly the plateau, without any tree, just raw vegetation, well suited to pasture for wild horses, herds of cattle and flocks of sheep guarded by Maremmano-Abruzzese sheepdogs.
We decide to have a brief climb to Monte Aquila’s Pass, later on the path is partially rideable in direction Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi and Monte Portella.
The main Horns of the Gran Sasso are in front of us, it’s difficult not to loose concentration for the view, so take lots of photo-breaks and be cautious.
Our ring ends at the feet of Cefalone Peak, beside us lies the Val Maone, above stands the Intermesoli Peak, in a single word, beautiful!
We regress to the top of Campo Imperatore by a narrow single track in slight descent, very enjoyable.
Now we take the first of our free-ride descents, following a well marked path along the Valle Fredda (“Cold Valley”), with few harder passages but generally quite simple for a well trained biker. Unfortunately at the end we have to overpass some fallen trees in winter’s landslides, but it takes us no more than 10 minutes walking.
We reach the Funivia and go up, always from the the top of Campo Imperatore we take the second path that follows a ridid path just under the cables of the Funivia. There are a couples of variants that increases difficulties, the ride is hard but enjoyable.
The last one starts at the feet of Monte Portella, has a challenging serpentine trend and beautiful views.