Front Row Abruzzo: The Allure of Prati di Tivo

Prati di Tivo views

Prati di Tivo is a mountain destination that offers a front-row seat to Abruzzo in the summer via its La Maddonina cable car.  It sedately whisks you up to nature’s grand spectacle, a combination of breathtaking vistas of rolling meadows, beech, silver birch and pine forests, and the distant peaks of the Apennines and the sparkling Adriatic coastline. For those that like walking with a hearty local lunch it’s the most perfect destination. It offers comfortable routes for beginners, families and more advanced walkers.

Connect with the Past and Find Inspiration

The story of Prati di Tivo dates back to ancient times when the area was inhabited by shepherds and farmers who recognised its fertile lands and abundant resources and it was utilised as a part of the transumanza. This was the historical bi-annual migration to warmer areas within Italy for the winter and the return in the summer. Over the centuries, the transumanza has changed, passing from the horizontal one from one region to another, which forced the shepherd away from their family to a nomadic life away from home for months, to the vertical one in the same territory. This allows sheep to be grazed, returning home at the end of the day.

The Madonnina del Gran Sasso, also known as the Madonna of the Gran Sasso is a pilgrim spot that you will find at the top of the cable cars, 20005 metres above sea level.  It holds a significant place in the history and culture of the Gran Sasso mountain range in Italy. The origins can be traced back to 1576 when legend has during a period of severe drought and famine, a shepherd girl discovered a small wooden statue of the Madonna hidden among the rocks near the summit of the Gran Sasso. The finding was seen as a miraculous event, and the statue became an object of veneration for the local community.

Over time, this became a shrine dedicated to the Madonna which grew in popularity, attracting pilgrims and devotees who sought solace and divine intervention. In the following centuries, the Madonnina del Gran Sasso underwent several transformations to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims.  Today visitors have the opportunity to partake in a time-honoured tradition by ringing the bell, a symbolic gesture that signifies gratitude and reverence.  A festa is held on the first Sunday of August with local families picnicking and a mass being held at the shrine.

On your visit, you may be lucky to see a famous young shepherdess Anna Bilanzola who leads her flock of 200 sheep up from Pietracamela to graze on Prati di Tivo.  She  won the national award for ‘Agricultural Entrepreneur’ in 2022 with her family’s cheese ‘Tre Punto Zero’ and agriturismo. Some things are timeless in the mountains!


For those who fancy lunch, an hour’s walk from the cable car is the alpine-style Rifugio Franchietta, which is run by Luca Mazzoleni.  A hidden gem it  beckons travellers with its warm hospitality, and delectable pastoral cuisine and on a small terrace with to-die-for views of Abruzzo. The rifugio’s menu is served on a first come first served basis, bookings are not taken and dishes are a celebration of local flavours, featuring traditional hearty Abruzzesi dishes crafted with the freshest ingredients sourced from the surrounding mountain villages. It’s incredible seeing what they produce 2344 metres above sea level. Spring water is supplied from the Caldarone, Europe’s most southerly glacier on the Corno Grande. More advanced walkers and climbers with axes and crampons can stay the night and set off for the itineraries at dawn.

Here’s an example of their Ferragosto menu

  • Porcini Bean and Potato Soup
  • Cheese and Truffle Lasagna
  •  Pecora alla Callara served with polenta  (slow-cooked mutton with peperoncino)
  • Fruits of the Forest and Apple Strudel!

Look out for the documentary about the refuge, Chi Apre Serra that is currently being shown. Its 30 minutes reveal how this is not a hotel but a shelter to offer protection in case of bad weather, tiredness, lack of food or god forbid accidents.  It reveals the difficulties of keeping it in tip-top condition, and disposing of what is consumed and really makes you appreciate the passion and dedication behind the vocation of running one.

The Allure of the Gran Sasso

As you savour your meal, basking in the crisp mountain air, you can’t help but feel a profound sense of connection with the untamed beauty that surrounds you.  Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast seeking an exhilarating walk courtesy of a sedate cable car ride or a food lover in search of a local gastronomic delight with outstanding views, Prati di Tivo and the Refuge Franchietta hold an irresistible allure. Embrace this mountain paradise, and let the cable car transport you to a world of natural wonders and culinary delights.

The 2023 Prati di Tivo summer cable car prices are €16 return

Hours 8.00 – 18.00.  Don’t be late otherwise, you will be walking down Prati di Tivo to the car park, not an awful experience but hey you paid for a ticket down!

Rifugio Franchetti 

View the Website or  Facebook Page

To book the Rifugio Franchetti as a walker or advanced climber tel. 0861959634 – 3332324474 or email

Enjoy the Cable Car Vistas

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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