National Park of Abruzzo

Gran Sasso
Gran Sasso – Photo ©

Recommended period: Spring – Autumn
(Sulmona – Cocullo – Pescasseroli – Opi – Villetta Barrea – Scanno – Sulmona)

Imagine driving out of New York City at 10 am and being in Yellowstone Park by noon. If that idea appeals to you, and you are in Rome, or you are planning a vacation there, consider the National Park of Abruzzo.

You can take the A24 autostrada from Rome for about 50 miles, exit onto the A25 “Strada dei Parchi”  (Parks expressway), and then get off at the Pratola – Peligna exit, and drive to Sulmona.

The trip begins in Sulmona (403 mt above sea-level), a town situated in the heart of the Peligna valley. The city, which is well-known as the birthplace of Ovidio, the poet of love, is known nowadays as being the land of confetti (there is also a museum of confetti). Its many beautiful monuments date back, mostly, to the economic and cultural heyday of the town, during the XIV and XV centuries The Natural History Museum of the Mountain Community, with its entomological section containing almost 7,000 examples of local insects, is worth a visit.

Deer – Photo ©

The next stop is the town of the snake-catchers, Cocullo, whose residents have combined the millenary Marsican traditions with the Christian devotion to S. Domenico. From here, the trip continues on the provincial road to Ortona dei Marsi, going through a karst depression area. Then it reaches Bisegna passing through the lovely Giovenco valley, and from here, it ends up in the heart of the National-Park, i.e., the town of Pescasseroli.

Still proceeding along the Sangro valley, the tour touches Opi and afterward the town of Villetta Barrea, whose artificial lake hears the same name. The tour starts back from the lake of Barrea and, following the S.S. (State road) n. 479, it climbs the -mountains through the woods of Scalone up to the pass of Monte Godi, and then it descends to the town and lake of Scanno.

Here it is worth making a stop and taking a walk in the narrow streets, many of which contain the typical fights of steps. In this way, you can admire the characteristic women’s clothes of oriental origin that some older women still wear, especially of the holiday. And you can also do some shopping in the goldsmith’s shops. The trail goes through Villalago after leaving Scanno. At the end of the Sagittario Valley, Anversa degli Abruzzi, the town where D’Annunzio’s play “La fiaccola sotto il moggio” is set. After driving 20 more kilometers, the trip ends back in Sulmona.



Bears, chamois, wolves, deer inhabit the Park. The symbol of the Park is the Marsican Brown Bear, which represented, until recently, an endangered species. At present, this danger seems to have been averted, thanks to the particular protection activity of the Park Board. Indeed, there are about 80 examples of bears living both in the Park area and in the nearby mountains. The Board of the National Park of Abruzzo has also taken several initiatives about other areas.

An example of this activity is the Operation Chamois. It has favored the reappearance of this mountain goat even on the Eastern Majella and the Gran Sasso.

About 40 wolves are living in the Park. The Operation San Francesco (started 20 years ago) has made possible the creation of a Tour Information center dedicated to them and a special Faunal Area.

An investigation is ongoing to find out if it’s possible to introduce the Lynx in the Park again.

Where to stay in Sulmona

Hotels, apartments, villas, and B&Bs in Sulmona: search and reserve here.