Campo Imperatore in summer

Camp Emperor

Abruzzo is a region kissed by Mother Nature, which here finds some of its maximum expressions, so much so that there are three national parks guarded here.

Among the largest in Italy is the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, which includes Apennine peaks, lakes, verdant valleys and villages with a medieval past.

It is in this national park that theCampo Imperatore plateau, of karst-alluvial and glacial origin: it was once baptized by Frederick II of Swabia as Campo Imperiale and represents one of the most incredible landscapes in Italy, so much so that it was chosen to shoot some scenes for films such as "That's life", “The Desert of the Tartars” e “They kept calling him Trinity”.

Summer in Campo Imperatore

Campo Imperatore, 8 km wide and 18 km long, is one of the largest plateaus in all of Italy: it rises in the heart of the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park and includes several Abruzzo villages, from Santo Stefano di Sessanio to Castel del Mount up to Calascio and Assergi.

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The mountaineer Fosco Maraini has compared Campo Imperatore to the Tibetan valley of Phari Dzong, so much so that the plateau is also known as Little Tibet. Surrounding it, like a rocky crown, are peaks such as Mounts Portella, Scindarella, Aquila, Portella, Prena, Brancastello, Cami and above all Corno Grande, the highest mountain in the entire Gran Sasso massif in Italy.

Campo Imperatore in winter is one of the most popular ski resorts in Abruzzo, but it is in summer which shows its most characteristic aspect: the spaces seem infinite, the atmosphere is silent and the vegetation is almost scarce due to deforestation carried out in the past.

In summer, however, the pastures are colored by blooms of violet crocuses, the sesleria of the marshes and the yellow and white alpine germander. In summer it is easy to see the valleys dotted with horses in a semi-wild state, flocks of sheep and herds of cows, protagonists every year of the transhumance towards the warmer Tavoliere delle Puglie.

Choosing to spend the summer in Campo Imperatore means making a full-immersion in the wildest and most uncontaminated nature, between walks in the open air in mountain bike, foot or horse riding which allow you to admire canyons, steep rocky walls, rivers and rock glaciers.

It also passes through Campo Imperatore the Gran Sasso horse trail which, with its 320 km, is the longest in Italy: in fact, the route connects the slopes of Pescara, Teramo and L'Aquila, it is a loop and, if not on horseback, can also be crossed on foot or by bicycle.

There are many excursions that depart right from Campo Imperatore, which can be reached via the Gran Sasso d'Italia cableway, the longest in all of Europe. At the top, at 1900 m. of height, it is found the Church of the Madonna della Neve: it was built in 1934 at the behest of Cardinal Tedeschini and was consecrated, after the restoration, by Pope John Paul II in 1993 who placed an iron cross here.

A stone's throw from the church is the historian Campo Imperatore hotel, dating back to 1943. Here Benito Mussolini, after a period of imprisonment in La Maddalena and on the island of Ponza, was imprisoned because he was considered an unassailable place. The Duce himself believed it since he even tried to cut his wrists out of desperation: to the surprise of the Italian soldiers, German paratroopers came to his aid who, during Operation Quercia, freed him. His room has now become a small museum, complete with period furnishings and the feeling of having been abandoned just a few days ago.
In Campo Imperatore, both due to the altitude and the total absence of light pollution, the skies are clear and the starry vault shows its most surprising face.

It is no coincidence that it arises here the Campo Imperatore Astronomical Observatory, used above all for scientific purposes in order to find new supernovae outside the Milky Way. By booking at the Gran Sasso Tourist Centre, it is possible to observe the stars through the AZR-24, a powerful infrared telescope, truly unique in Italy.

Then don't miss the Alpine Botanical Garden, open since 1950, only in summer: over 3500 species of plants and flowers that have adapted to grow at these particular latitudes are kept on an area of ​​nearly 300 mXNUMX. You walk in a world of colors and scents among curved adonide, genepi, gentian, Abruzzo androsace and many edelweiss.

In Campo Imperatore even the little ones can spend a few hours as children Indiana Jones at Parco Avventura a Tivio meadows, a stone's throw from the village of Pietracamela. Bridges suspended between beech trees, journeys on pulleys in dark tunnels and footbridges characterize the various routes included in the park, which differ according to the degree of difficulty.

From Campo Imperatore you can then reach some of the most beautiful medieval villages in Abruzzo, starting with Santo Spirito di Sessanio, an ancient Medici domain reborn thanks to the initiative of Daniele Kihlgren who, by purchasing several abandoned houses, redeveloped them creating a true and own Albergo Diffuso.

Going beyond the Porta Medicea you enter an ancient world made of limestone houses and tiled roofs: walking through the alleys of this village located at 1250 m. of height meet historical places such as the fourteenth-century Medici Tower, the Palazzo del Capitano with the sixteenth-century facade embellished with an elegant Renaissance loggia and the fourteenth-century Church of Santo Stefano Martire, which houses paintings from the 700th century and ancient wooden statues of Santo Stefano and the Virgin with Child.

Equally enchanting is Calascio, in whose hamlet of Rocca Calascio stands the Castle of the same name located at 1450 m. high: it seems to have been Ruggero d'Altavilla who wanted its construction between 1140 and 1239 with essentially defensive purposes. After the earthquake that shook the area in the 700th century, the Castle is now in ruins but its timeless charm has made it the star of films such as “Ladyhawke” e "The Name of The rose".

Even the village of Castel del Monte it is a true medieval jewel that takes visitors back to distant times: the town, in a continuous ups and downs, developed around the Castle built between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. There are many things to see in Castel del Monte, from the Wool Museum (material also in great demand by the Medici) to the Taverna Antica up to the Casa Antica, a building that belonged to rich courtiers that still shows a precious loggia with round arches.

The Chapel of San Marco Evangelista is also beautiful, as old as the castle of the village, rich inside with statues, bas-reliefs, a gilded wooden pulpit and a baptismal font from the XNUMXth century.

What to do and what to see

Numerous excursions depart from Campo Imperatore to scenic or meaningful places such as, for example Vetica source, an area that takes its name from a spring that feeds Castel del Monte. It stands a stone's throw from the Fonte Vetica refuge and houses a monument created by Vicentino Michetti, dedicated to the family of Pupo Nunzio di Roio, the shepherd who lost his life here together with his children due to a snowstorm that surprised him in October of 1919.

From Campo Imperatore you can reach the top of the big horn, 2919 m. high, part of the Gran Sasso d'Italia massif: it can be reached via paths no. 3 and 3A and leave from the Campo Imperatore Hotel. You pass Campo Pericoli and the Rifugio Garibaldi, cross the Sella del Brecciaio at 2506 m. high and still climb towards the Conca degli Invalidi which offers a magnificent view of the Corno Piccolo. Continue between scree and rocks up to the top of Corno Grande, passing through a panoramic ridge from which you can admire the Calderone Glacier.

The profile of the Corno Grande is reflected in the clear waters of the Pietranzoni lake, a lake of glacial origin located at 1660 m. high: its size varies according to the amount of rainwater and that which descends from the surrounding glaciers. In any case, it is a wonderful lake, which offers the most beautiful summer sunsets in Campo Imperatore.

It is also very exciting the Ring of Campo Pericoli, CAI route which also in this case starts from the Campo Imperatore Hotel. You walk towards the Passo di Monte Portella at 2260 m. high and the Sella di Monte Aquila at 2330 m. high, to then descend into a glacial basin. You pass the Rifugio Garibaldi, continuing up to Passo Lupo, returning to Campo Imperatore via the southern slope of Monte Portello.

From Campo Imperatore you can also get to Pizza Cefalone, first following trail n.1 and then the Sentiero d'Italia, or al Vallone d'Angrì. In the latter case, you start from the San Francesco refuge and continue towards Vado di Sole, to then pass hairpin bends and a beautiful beech forest before reaching Voltigno and the Stretta di Fonno; the path then descends towards the Porte di Fonno and the Case dei Buoi before arriving at the verdant meadows of the Valle d'Angrì.

A stone's throw from the village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio are the unmissable ones Cave of Stiffe: it is a magnificent complex of karst cavities born exceptionally from a so-called active resurgence. Here, in fact, the river that flows from the Due Rocche plateau flows for a good 3 km underground between sinkholes and sinkholes, to then gush out on the surface.

For the entire duration of the visit to the caves, the sound of flowing water can be heard constantly, except in the Val del Silenzio, where the silence is deafening. Very suggestive are also the Hall of the waterfall and that of the Concretion and the Black Lake, whose name is linked to the presence of an underground lake with strangely very dark waters. The Stiffe caves also include an interesting Museum of Speleology where the skeleton of an ancient cave bear is kept.

One last gem is found Bominaco and is nicknamed the "Sistine Chapel of Abruzzo": it is of the Oratory of San Pellegrino, built between the III and IV AD and with an absolutely simple appearance on the outside, surrounded by the foliage of the coniferous forest that surrounds it. Inside, however, the vaults and walls are completely covered with frescoes that narrate the life of Christ, from his childhood to his death, including scenes from the life of San Pellegrino, the Last Judgment and the Liturgical Calendar.


The plateau is the starting point for discovering places of unspeakable beauty, among lakes, peaks and ancient villages. You need time not only to go on excursions, sometimes quite long, but also to enjoy the museums that surround Campo Imperatore or even just to enjoy a few hours discovering every little secret of the celestial vault at the Astronomical Observatory.

Then we must also consider the cuisine of Abruzzo, made up of dishes that deserve to be savored not in simple and frugal picnics: in fact, there is nothing better than going to one of the many shelters in Campo Imperatore or in one of the inns of the nearby towns in Abruzzo, to taste the famous arrosticini, the Marcetto cheese from Castel del Monte, the lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio and the Pecorino di Farindola.

In and around Campo Imperatore the accommodation they are many and meet the needs of families, young people and sportsmen. You can sleep in holiday homes, hotels or B&Bs in the villages as happens at the Albergo Diffuso Sextantio in Santo Stefano di Sessanio or in isolated structures immersed in the vast landscapes of Campo Imperatore: think of the Albergo Campo Imperatore, near which moreover a hostel.

Near the valley station of the Gran Sasso d'Italia cable car there is a family-run campsite, perfect for those who want to keep in close contact with nature, especially on holiday.

Campo Imperatore summer holidays

If you are considering a summer holiday in Campo Imperatore, below you can find some useful links to find hotels and holiday apartments.

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    Region: Abruzzo
    Minimum altitude:1100m above sea level
    Maximum altitude: 2100m above sea level
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