Campo Imperatore - Road to Paradise (1,179m / 3,868ft of ascent, 27 km)Campo Imperatore - The Emperor's Camp (Italy's Little Tibet)
If you ever wanted to find a ride that both gave a sense of tremendous awe and at the same time utterly thrilled you, then this place surely ranks as one of the greats.
Great highways lead from Rome in all directions (though the crazy tailgate and don't give an inch driving spurs you on to escape the madness). Take the A24 Highway with its huge aerial viaducts to L'Aquilla (in 2009, suffered a severe earthquake). Then the Assergi exit (don't enter the tunnel, or it's 6 miles under the mountain). Zip up to Fonte Cerreto (1,120m 3,674ft), a most picturesque spot, where cyclists, bikers, and Ferraris frequent. In winter, when the road further ahead is closed, take the spectacular cable car ride (Funivia) to the resort above the high plane of Campo Imperatore - your final destination 27km ahead.
The AscentTake a snack and a double espresso (you are going to need it to make the first climb), then load the water and gear (helmet for the big, big descents) and head on up.
The road starts gently through the winding glade, then dramatically steepens into bends. A further haul places you right on a prominence of the mountainside on a beautiful set of hairpins that lead onto the mid range. A brilliant area with panoramic views. Now you begin to realise that you have come to Paradise.
The Mid RegionCross the mid plane - a wild expanse of mountain views and vistas, then another rise to behold the stunning view down and across the Altiplano.
A couple mile descent (drop 99m, 325ft) leads to the vast, open plane, flanked by tall rugged peaks and ridges that take 10 hours to hike.
Cross the broad plain and then ascend
The ResortAt the top (2,200m, 7,217ft), you can cafe' or lunch on great pasta. Though don't miss the trek up to the rebuilt Rifugio, situated above. Sleeping there is just a fab environment. Say hi to Lamberto Felice (the leather-skin warden). If you are up for it, climb the stupendous peak of Corno Grande, which captured your view on the ascent, and now dominates the head of the plane.
In all, a trip to Paradise, and you'll not want to leave this place. I liked it so much that I biked and climbed every time I worked in the region. Made the route twice in one day. That's how fab this place is. And of course, there's the wine and great Italian company.
Return, I must.
External LinksCamping and Tourism
Italy's Little Tibet
Type Campo Imperatore in the box