Cesacastina is a small village situated in Teramo’s Gran Sasso & Monti della Laga National Park tucked under its nearest peak of C.le d. Pietra that rises up 1683 masl. San Pietro & San Paolo is Cesacastina’s beautiful little sandstone church with tre Campanille and it makes the perfect spot to leave the car, grab a macchiato in the friendly local bar and then begin walking in the Gran Sasso Mountains to make the most of the area’s water cascades [Valle delle Cento Cascate].
There is a choice of Abruzzo walks depending on your ability that average between 1.30 and 3 hours walking. We went for the easiest starting in the village that took approximately a 1.30 round-trip. 15 minutes easy walking out of the village you’ll be able to hear the bubbling roar of the springs, streams that go to make up the River T.Zingano.
As you pass by its first high Apennine Meadow, expect (if like us you visited in Spring/early Summer) to see a riot of colour & texture through an abundance of Gorse, Toothwort, Gentiana, Belladonna & Martagons. Out on your left you’ll be able to take some great shots of what appears as 3 craggy sleeping giants, the mountains of M Mezzo, Peschio Menicone & Il Coppo, that shelter Lake Campotosto. At this point the trek splits and you will have a sign-posted choice of which of the walks you do. We headed left for the gentle downhill with lots of shade as you pass through beech woods. These seem to host a neighbourhood of cuckoos, jutting tiered rock formations that provide a perfect day bed for basking lizards and you’ll walk along an old river bed in which the downward streams gently wind, accompanied by darting Piedwagtails.
As you descend there are two family shrines, one with a quite interesting modern art wooden sculptural take on what really does look a realistic intensely painful crucifixion and another shrine robed in beautiful Marsica Iris and hiding a printed copy of De Vinci’s Last Supper.
There is a car park on the opposite side of the road to the church, take the first turning on the left afterwards and follow the trek or cheat and park halfway up the track.
As you drive by the turning off to Fratolli on your way to Cesacastina quickly wind down your car windows – the smell of these pungent roadside pines is really quite wonderful.
For lunch or dinner afterwards we recommend the restaurant Locanda del Cervo back on the Strada Maestra (5 minutes down the road you turn off to fork right into Cescastina), it is really the best place we have found for eating out in the Gran Sasso Mountains. Particularly good in the Spring & Summer is their cold Polenta Pasticcata which is a local seasonal famous dish of the ‘Strada Maestra’ area. This is just the most delicious soft & creamy polenta that is mixed with warm onions, roasted/fried tomatoes (our favourite) and peperoncini (chillies). It is often served as part of anti-pasta or with pork as a main dish and is great for after restoring energy after walking with of course some local Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.