“I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” Hilaire Belloc
Here’s the thing about summer breaks in Italy – they are really long. I’m talking June to September long. That’s three months long. Which is great if you’re the kid on holidays. Not so much if you’re the parent trying to keep them occupied – or the working parent who needs to figure out childcare.
This year, the extra-long summer break coincided with a continuing case of travel fatigue. I had no desire to plan, organize or embark on any travels this summer. None. I didn’t even want to travel downtown.
Ordinarily, I delight in researching, planning and executing travel. I don’t mind squabbling children or irritated travel partners, because everything is new, exciting, different, I am out of the house.
This past year, I was tired of the planning, tired of conflicts on the road, tired of hearing complaints about food, weather and leaving the house. Even a change of scenery was not enticing me to jump right in and plan another trip. I wanted to curl up, grab a book, and just stay put.
The negatives were looming large in my mind – and let’s face it, at least occasionally, everyone has less than perfect moments when they travel.
No one is immune to succumbing to the stress of being in a new place, on a new schedule, in a new environment. Most of the time I find this exhilarating. This summer, I was dreading it. Don’t get me wrong, usually the positive experiences on our vacations far outweigh the few inevitable bumps along the way. But this summer, the thought of travelling was not filling me with joy. I was still in that first year haze after a move. I voted that we stay home.
Fortunately, the rest of the family was not as eager to take on the life of a recluse for the summer as I was, and we managed a few outings. We decided that we would travel in August. Frequently. But the build up to August was a slow one, with only one outing in June. A hike in the Apennines.
The Apennines are a surprisingly close getaway from the city. Depending on where you are heading, you can arrive in the mountains by car in only an hour or two.
I love spending time in the mountains and one of the things I love most about it is that feeling I get as I draw nearer to the spectacular vastness of the mountains. They make everything else seem so very small. The mountains are the perfect place to conquer world-weariness.
Naturalist philosopher John Muir once wrote – “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
Having lived in Rome for a year, I began to see his point. The city moves so quickly. There is a constant barrage of noise. You are constantly accosted by scents and aromas – both pleasant and not so. Living in the city, it is easy to lose sight of what is important. I find that every now and again, it is necessary to find somewhere to just be in the stillness. The Apennines are a perfect place to fill your soul with stillness, breath in the freshness of the mountain air, and relax in the beauty of your surroundings.
For the start our summer adventures we chose a day trip to Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso – Gran Sasso National Park in the nearby Abruzzo region. This was a trip that had long been on my husband’s radar. As a history buff, he was eager to see the Campo Imperatore Hotel – sight of Operation Eiche, where Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was liberated from captivity in a daring raid led by Otto Skorzeny. The Campo Imperatore Hotel looks much the same as it did in the 1940’s, which provides a unique glimpse into history. Looking at the site, it is difficult to imagine anyone landing aircraft on the small flat spaces around the hotel, but land they did.
Gran Sasso is a popular hiking spot in the Apennine Mountains. It is easy to reach by car, and there are signs along the way. Of course, this is Italy, and the signs are not always perfectly clear, but it was a fairly easy route.
There is plenty of parking at the hotel, but it begins to fill up early – especially on a beautiful day. There are plenty of other trails and areas to visit in the park itself, you can visit their website for further information.
We spent the morning hiking near the Rifugio Campo Imperatore. We had gotten a later start than we anticipated, and chose a short but challenging hike from the hotel parking lot to the rifugio above. It was not a long hike, but it was quite steep, and challenging for our two youngest hikers. We returned just in time for a lovely lunch in the hotel restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious three course lunch with dishes typical of the Abruzzo region for a bargain price. For more information on the Campo Imperatore, visit their website.
The region is stunning and definitely worth a day trip from Rome. You’ll come back refreshed and once again ready to take on the city – even in the heat of summer. Our daytrip to the mountains was the perfect place to start our summer. It was a gorgeous location which provided some much needed breathing space. I came away refreshed and ready to take on the next two months of summer. Almost.
You can find some great information about Gran Sasso here.