Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hiking in the Gole di Sagittario

Mountain-top village of Castrovalva — click to zoom in

Castrovalva to Anversa degli Abruzzi (AQ) - Despite that whole spectacle with the snakes, it was still a go for hiking anywhere in Abruzzo's mountain parks. Bears, snakes or wolves couldn't stop us. Our studio rental was located in the near-deserted hamlet of Castrovalva (fans of dutch artist Escher may be familiar with his depiction of the village). The village's proximity to Gole di Sagittario, a WWF-designated gorge and natural preserve, afforded us a well-trodden loop trail which led down the mountain to a natural oasis created by the Sagittario river below, and to the neighboring burg of Anversa degli Abruzzi before circling back. The river hosts an environment which nourishes a microclimate of flora and fauna that will appeal to nature lovers and photographers -- it seemed quite like a miniature Eden in the middle of all that sheer rock cliffs and rugged mountain tops.

Yellow star marks define our path.
We are such map fanatics that I've taken the liberty of scanning this one to give an idea of what can be done in 3 - 3½ hours if you're in Castrovalva or Anversa. It seems a lot of people think that you can't get down to the bottom of the gorge without driving off the cliff, but it is reachable either by foot or vehicle.

I'd like to quickly mention that this area of Abruzzo certainly has a long history with the Roman deity named Angitia (italian Angizia), the goddess of the snakes. As if that should be enough to explain the snake procession in Cocullo, it naturally made her an expert in the preparation of medicinal and magical potions by association - how else are you supposed to treat a snake bite? Shrubs and plants in the oasis were mainly unknown to these eyes, so here are a few photos for ambitious herbal medicine healers and hopeful snake goddesses like myself. Mouseover for details.

Belladonna Stregonia siciliana Polmonaria dell'appennino

1. Belladonna (translates to beautiful woman, yet deceivingly toxic)
2. Sideritis or ironwort (stregonia siciliana in italian) - used to treat the common cold
3. Pulmonaria (polmonaria dell'appennino in italian) - apennine relative to lungwort

Related link: Castrovalva informative detailed post by MotH