I’ve returned recently from my second trip to Abruzzo. If you read my previous post on Sulmona, you’ll know that I’ve been chomping at the bit to return and explore further. Tops on my list was a visit to Rocca Calascio.
Rocca Calascio, which sits at 4,790 ft, is the highest fortress in the Apennines.
I made the journey with my friend David, who was kind enough to play tour guide and navigator. Having him along was a real treat because he clearly loves these mountains and the treasures they contain. As we departed Sulmona early in the morning David lamented the overcast and rainy weather that seemed to have rolled in overnight. I, too, was feeling like the day would be a bust. After all, I’d been told Rocca Calascio is one of the most stunning places in all of Italy. Why else would the movies Lady Hawke and The Name of the Rose have featured it so prominently?
Surprising beauty on a rainy day.
The universe seems to be asking me, more and more, to let go of my expectations of how things are supposed to turn out – in spite of things playing out in opposition to my expectations, So, I resisted any temptation to scrap the trip. “Let’s see what presents itself,” I thought to myself.
By the time we reached the little village below Rocca Calascio, the skies still were ominous. We stopped for a coffee (I had my usual doppio machiatto) hoping that the drizzle that had just started would pass. When we did leave the sweet little cafe/bar/restaurant, the proprietor followed us out the door and insisted we take his umbrella. The was just one of many acts of kindness and selflessness we experienced that day.
So we trudged up the hill. I was holding my camera protectively under my cotton sweater. We lamented, again, the weather conditions, and David remarked about just how spectacular the views could be in better weather. I commented that stormy skies often add a drama not achievable on clear days – but I’m not sure I really believed this was going to be the case. As we came up to the lonely, but beautiful octagonal church of Santa Maria della Pietà, the clouds literally parted and illuminated the facade of the church. I was trying to stay calm at this unexpected good fortune and readied my camera. David held an umbrella for me since we still were under a fine, but steady, drizzle. I hoped I had captured something dramatic. I tried, in vain, to wipe away the mist and get a sense of the results on the digital screen on the camera back. Fortunately, later my hopes had been realized.
I literally had about ten minutes of the most spectacular heavenly light – just enough to head up to the fortress, while snapping away at every turn. And then the skies closed ranks, and we were left in a flat gloom. Still, I was grateful for this brief light show – like it was teasing me to come back when I had more time.
I won’t attempt to give you a history lesson on Rocca Calascio. Wikipedia does a much better job.
I will, however, attempt to tell you that the feeling of standing on this mountaintop was incredible. The profound sense of space and silence made me want to choose a rock, plant myself there, and stare out into space. My mind literally was stunned into silence. And, believe me, that is a rare thing! I’m not one to sit still and meditate, but I plan to go back to Rocca Calascio and do just that.
I hope this story about Rocca Calascio is yet another temptation to make the journey to Sulmona, and dive into the spectacular beauty of Abruzzo. My heartfelt thanks to the indomitable and passionate Novelia Giannantonio for being my guardian angel and for making arrangements and paving the way for my incredible adventures there (be sure to stay tuned for an upcoming story about my trek into the mountains with local shepherds – Novelia orchestrated it all!). When you come to Sulmona, be sure to consider renting Novelia’s lovely spacious two-bedroom Casa di Cuore. But, be sure to book early (I can provide her contact info, just send me a note through my contact link), or it might not be available. Novelia, and her wonderful husband Peppe, also will help get you pointed in the right directions to make the most out of your time in Sulmona.
Another wonderful resource, which covers so many things about Sulmona is WelcomeToSulmona.com. It’s the best English language resource guide to Sulmona.
In closing, I include a YouTube Video (from Adriano Rotondo – he does amazing videos) with breathtaking aerial views of Rocca Calascio. I promise you, when you visit this magical place you will feel your soul expand and your spirit soar!
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