While waiting for the Giro to arrive in Italy this year, I spent some time in the Abruzzo region with my brother, cycling and exploring.
Abruzzo is a perfect place for a cycling holiday, with beautiful, low-traffic roads, spectacular scenery, and enchanting medieval towns. So, I thought I'd join in the fun off-season ride sharing with some Abruzzo shots.
(Lots) more photos on the jump...
We spent our first two nights at Villa Collina, a B&B run by a British couple, Cilla and Bryan, in the countryside about 20 kilometers from the Adriatic coast. Cilla and Bryan agreed to store my bike box for the duration of my trip, and they had a mountain bike for my brother to use, so we were off to a great start.
The day after our arrival, we did our first ride, a 45-kilometer loop with a lunch stop in the hilltop town of Atri.
After a steep ride up from the B&B to the main road, it was downhill toward the coast, with a good view of the Adriatic Sea, until the final climb into Atri.
In Atri we parked our bikes and had a look around. Atri's 13th-century cathedral gave us our first look at the lion-and-lamb theme common to many Abruzzo church facades.
At another doorway of the same church, the lions were poised to tuck into a tasty feast of small prey.
At another Atri church, the lions were dwarfed by a lamb that looked like a character from Shrek.
The last bit of the ride back featured a long downhill, then a climb up to the B&B through groves of olive trees.
At the end of my trip, I returned to Villa Collina to retrieve my bike box, and managed to fit in a last, short ride to the town of Cermignano. The town had a great view of the Appennini mountains, and the return ride past the hilltown of Cellino Attenasio with the sea in the distance was beautiful.
Our second home base in Abruzzo was Sulmona, a lovely city surrounded by mountains, with enticing bike routes in every direction.
First up, a 70-kilometer round-trip ride to the medieval town of Scanno. We rode west out of Sulmona, past the town of Introdacqua.
About halfway to Scanno, as we passed through the village of Anversa, the scenery became very dramatic.
From Anversa, we could see the road ahead cutting across the side of a huge gorge. It's barely visible in this shot, but the horizontal cut coming in from the right side about 2/3 of the way down the picture is the road.
Here's what it looked like once we got up there:
After passing through a tunnel, we stopped to check out the view back down to Anversa.
Further on, we took a detour to ride across a bridge over a very green lake, to a small park from which you could hike up to a hermitage.
Finally, we reached Lake Scanno, which is apparently a popular resort area in the summer. On this drizzly day in May, though, we had the lake all to ourselves.
We stopped for lunch at an agriturismo, which is a working farm that takes in paying guests. The lunch was wonderful, but with more than half the ride still ahead of us, we had to reluctantly decline the large pitcher of red wine they set down on the table as soon as we sat down. After lunch, it was a short climb up from the lake to Scanno.
We loved Scanno, and spent a long time wandering the ancient streets, most of which were inaccessible to cars.
In the piazza at the entrance to the town there were two bars, each with its curbside sentry of old men shootin' the shit. This was the day of the Giro start in Amsterdam, and as we passed these gents on our way in for a post-stroll coffee, I could hear them talking about the "maglia rosa." Ah, italy!
The next day, we had time for a short ride before my brother's afternoon train to Rome. We headed out of Sulmona toward the east, past a fleld of poppies, to another medieval hilltown, Pacentro, nestled in the foothills at the edge of Maiella National Park.
The ride down was super fun, a coast all the way to the outskirts of Sulmona.
The next day, I rode back up to Pacentro and continued climbing, into the National Park. Past Pacentro there was no traffic, just solitude. The road was a stunner.
Normally, if I saw a group of loose dogs while riding, I'd get nervous, but these Abruzzo sheepdogs were the mellowest dogs I've ever seen.
Approaching Passo San Leonardo, the road passed through an alpine meadow.
The ride down was awesome!
The icing on the cake near the end of the descent was the perfect view of Pacentro, with Sulmona in the valley below.
All photos by Susie Hartigan.