L'itinerario ha inizio dallo splendido borgo di Villavallelonga a 1005 metri d'altezza, nel cuore del Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo Lazio e Molise. Da piazza largo Fontana, nei pressi del municipio, ci si tiene a destra per imboccare via Canale in direzione sud; dopo 100 metri, si gira a destra e si raggiunge l’ingresso del Museo dell'Orso che merita senz’altro una visita.
Gran Sasso and Laga Mountains National Park
With its 150,000 hectares, the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park is one of the largest parks in Italy. Established in 1995, Lazio and Marche were also marginally affected. The Abruzzo area covers the provinces of Teramo, L'Aquila and Pescara and 41 municipalities. Its territory has typically mountainous characteristics, with almost alpine scenery, and is made up of two distinct mountainous groups: the Gran Sasso d' Italia massif and the group above it, the Monti della Laga.
The Gran Sasso is the Abruzzo mountain par excellence, with its majestic peaks, the highest of the Apennines, culminating in the Corno Grande (2,912 m asl), Corno Piccolo, Pizzo d' Intermesoli and Monte Camicia. It houses the Calderone glacier, the only one in the Apennines and the southernmost glacier in Europe, and is flanked to the south by the Campo Imperatore plateau, a vast karstic high-altitude heath (between 1,600 and over 2,000 metres above sea level) of breathtaking beauty, the closest to Tibet in Europe.
In the Park live about 2,300 superior plant species, more than a fifth of the entire European flora, and more than a third of the Italian floristic patrimony. The vegetation includes beech trees on the Laga (with white fir tree) and on the Teramo slopes of Gran Sasso, pastures in Campo Imperatore and Voltigno, and magnificent high altitude blooms. There is also a great fauna, especially that of species of significant naturalistic interest. These include the Abruzzo chamois, reintroduced in 1992 and now present with over one hundred individuals; the Apennine wolf, with a population of over thirty specimens. Recently the Marsican brown bear has also reappeared, as proof of the strong commitment made by the Park Authority in the protection and enhancement of an extraordinary and unique territory.
The naturalistic aspects are not the only attraction of this Park, which is characterized by a communion between nature and human presence. The countless ancient and beautifully preserved villages and castles scattered throughout its territory bear witness to this: on the Teramo side, first of all the small medieval villages between the woods of the Laga and the hermitages of the Mountain of Flowers, the splendid Renaissance centre of Campli, Civitella del Tronto with its mighty fortress, the spectacular ruins of Castel Manfrino overlooking the gorges of Salinello, the medieval castles of Castel di Luco and Piano di Roseto, castles with the famous and precious pottery shops and the oratory of San Donato, the delightful old town centres of Isola del Gran Sasso, Cortino, Valle Castellana, Tossicia and Pietracamela; on the L'Aquila side, Campotosto with its large lake, L' Aquila with its splendid museums and monuments, and then the old historical centres of Gran Sasso, with their medieval atmosphere intact: Assergi, Barisciano, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Calascio with its splendid fortress, Castelvecchio Calvisio and Carapelle Calvisio, Castel del Monte, Ofena. On the Pescara side, steeply sloping towards the hills and the sea, the Forca di Penne tower dominates the two sides, sea and mountainous, at the foot of Farindola, with its famous pecorino cheese.