Stories as a gift


My Path' Wolves

by Carlo Romani

A route that crosses five protected areas between Latium and Abruzzi: Regional Natural Reserve of Monte Catillo, Regional Natural Park of Lucretili Mountains, Regional Natural Park of Simbruini Mountains, Natural Reserve of Zompo lo Schioppo and National Park of Abruzzi, Latium and Molise, with 53 official trails spread over 230 kilometers (142.915 miles).

Here we are after a couple of months of preparation with targeted outings and inspections, trying to walk, where possible with a heavy backpack to get used to prolonged fatigue, I am at the end of this adventure: the Wolf’s Path. A fascinating name that brings to mind far more dramatic and difficult stories than the one I have just experienced. As soon as I learned of the existence of this route, almost all my free time was devoted to the study of tracks, routes, places to stop, trying to spend as few days as possible, in other words to assemble shorter steps to have less expenses.

The original steps were:

1 Tivoli – San Polo
2 San Polo – Licenza
3 Licenza – Riofreddo
4 Riofreddo - Camerata Nuova
5 Camerata Nuova – Livata
6 Livata – Jenne
7 Jenne – Trevi Nel Lazio
8 Trevi Nel Lazio – Morino
9 Morino – Civita D'Antino
10 Civita d'Antino - Villavallelonga
11 Villavallelonga – Pescasseroli
12 Pescasseroli – San Donato Val Di Comino

The route designed by me included 8 steps:

1 Tivoli – San Polo – Licenza
2 Licenza – Riofreddo – Camerata Nuova
3 Camerata Nuova – Livata
4 Livata – Jenne – Trevi Nel Lazio
5 Trevi Nel Lazio – Morino
6 Morino – Civita D'Antino - Villavallelonga
7 Villavallelonga – Pescasseroli
8 Pescasseroli – San Donato Val Di Comino

So on 11/06/2017, my friend Aldo and I, started from Tivoli with tracks that we knew were not too reliable, with the bare essentials in the backpacks and a great desire to travel these 200 kilometres in eight days. We had estimates of accumulated distance and climb which, of course, turned out to be wrong in most cases, although there have been mistakes on our part in identifying the path, so at the end of the day we had travelled still longer than expected. We were not used to travelling such long and demanding steps in sequence and this had inevitably e negative impact on moral well-being. In the evening you went to sleep tired, aware that you had only the night to recover and knowing that the next day will be more or less the same thing. Fortunately, the third step, (Camerata Nuova - Livata) certainly the least demanding, has lightened the situation a little, giving us a breathing space and allowing us a relaxing afternoon, cheered up also by the arrival of our friend Giovanna who came to join us in Livata making us a pleasant surprise.

11/06/2017 - The first step (Tivoli-Licenza), practically already traveled at times in different exits, did not scare me, they were known places and in fact it passed without problems. Tivoli - San Polo dei Cavalieri passing through the Monte Catillo reserve is basically a walk in the woods. At San Polo we came across a race/event, “La Scarpettata”, (I think going from San Polo to Prato Favale), at a reception banquet we were asked where we were heading and have been offered tea and a little water; then we continued along the paved road leading us up to the path for Malepasso, then Valle Cavalera, Pratone, Campitello, descent towards Licenza and detour road to the Villa di Orazio: closed! The resting place (Luisella), practically on the road of the Path, where we had dinner and slept without further movement. Lina the owner welcomed us with wine and appetizers, and then showed us what they were preparing in the kitchen especially for us: homemade fettuccine and ravioli. Dinner, walk in Licenza with ice cream and a good night sleep to face the next step.

12/06/2017 - Second step (Licenza-Camerata Nuova). The first part of the route ran quietly without particular hitches apart from the heat that began to be felt and the heavy weight of the backpacks we were not used to. Once in Riofreddo, stop at the bar where Aldo decided to leave all the excess weight to unload the backpack (he would go back to get his things when the trip was over); half an hour and we left again, mistaking the entrance of the path and finding ourselves shortly after on the very steep bank of the river between brambles and unsurpassable bush. At the highest discouragement, to be honest, I almost decided to give up. No way, let's go back and finally we found the right path, marked by the way, and we continued with a little more energy. A rather long step, after Riofreddo, Oricola, Rocca di Botte and finally Camerata Nuova. We did not have to arrive right in the village, Villa Arboretum is located about a kilometre before. Beautiful place: fresh, wooded, well maintained. We talked a little with the friendly and easy-going owners, then ½ kilo of Carbonara pasta + rinds with rocket salad and cherry tomatoes + excellent homemade wine. To bed!

13/06/2017 - Third step (Camerata Nuova-Livata) The shortest and easiest one. It started immediately with 600 metres of altitude change so as to warm up the muscles, but then everything became simpler, with ups and downs on dirt roads, paths and pastures leading us to Prato di Camposecco; then beech-woods, paths and again cart-roads, almost all marked, up to Livata, where as already mentioned above, Giovanna had come to visit us in the company of the inseparable Pallino who rushed joyfully towards me, as he saw me. Relaxing afternoon among beers, coffee and quiet walks in the surroundings. Towards evening Giovanna left us to our fate. We had dinner at Mamma Peppina, where we also had a room, in a familiar and comfortable environment.

14/06/2017 - Fourth step (Livata-Trevi Nel Lazio) Aldo started to have problems with his knees and he seemed to me also a little bored, maybe it wasn't what he had expected, maybe he had imagined something more stimulating, anyway he wanted to arrive at least up to Trevi Nel Lazio. Between Livata and Jenne we lost the way several times and then found it again. A short stop in Jenne; I talked to locals, Aldo went down to the village to get a sandwich. We left again towards Trevi, through a path that we both knew, since we had already walked across it the month before for an inspection. It was not the same: we were both tired and the temperature was not like the last time, at least ten degrees more. Anyway… uphill, downhill, uphill again and we saw Trevi Nel Lazio, and Aldo told me that he would return the following day to Tivoli by bus.
I was sorry but I wanted to continue; after all, this trip had been initially planned as a solitary trip, Aldo had joined me later whom I had welcomed cheerfully. We went down for the last kilometres together and we arrived at the bar of Gianni (BarCollando) who immediately recognized us. A couple of beers and Luisa arrived, the girl from the house where we would sleep, who accompanied us through the streets of the village telling us a little about the history of the place (she is a teacher and it shows!). The house was comfortable and quiet. We could also wash some clothes. After a shower, we went down for a walk, up to the tower of the Caetani Castle from where you can enjoy a view over the whole valley. Then aperitif offered by Gianni who introduced us to Franco, the owner of the restaurant “Trevi” right in front of them. Of course, we had dinner there and it was quite good. In the restaurant we knew an assessor of the municipality of Trevi (Luciano Paris) who was organizing a hostel for travellers (open your ears well) even free of charge.

15/06/2017 - Fifth step (Trevi Nel Lazio-Morino) On the 15th of June in the morning Aldo and I went our separate ways; so far we had done half the way together, I would do the other half alone. I was comforted by the fact that the new step would offer, at least in the final part, beautiful places I already knew, I knew where I would sleep, where I would have dinner. I was not entirely alone, a few miles later a dog started to follow me, a Border Collie who had decided to come with me, although I had tried to repel it (its master would have certainly be looking for him). It seemed to know the paths well and followed them, sometimes guiding me and sometimes following me at a very close range; it seemed a well-behaved dog. Every now and then it headed off in pursuit of some animal that I couldn’t even see and I heard it barking and yelping in the distance and then, after a few minutes it was again behind me, in step with me. It left me after about twenty kilometres (perhaps nostalgic for its true master) I didn't even try to recall it, it couldn’t have lived with me.

However step by step I left behind these other 28 kilometres and I arrived, after the wonderful technical descent, in La Grancia, a hamlet of Morino; I entered Villa Benice where Annamaria welcomed me as an old friend or relative of hers, offered me a coffee, a little chat and made me feel immediately at ease, as if we had always known each other. The room was beautiful, clean and comfy: I liked it! I liked a little less what I saw on my right shin once I got undressed... a big, well planted tick, surely taken during the long journey through the woods. I got dressed again quickly and went to Annamaria to figure out where to find a doctor, she called her husband, who without a second thought took the car and brought me to the Avezzano emergency room. There a doctor took it off in two minutes, disinfected and prescribed me an antibiotic, to be sure. Return to the B&B, relax shower and then dinner at the Bar-Pizzeria “Orange”; there I was received with kindness and courtesy, and ate as well excellent pizzas and various dishes at reasonable prices.

16/06/2017 - Sixth step (Morino-Villavallelonga) A step that worried me a little more than the others, I don't know why, but I thought there was no footpath: I was wrong, there was a footpath, even quite marked, although any reference to the Wolf’s Path had disappeared. Up to Civita D'Antino, the way was asphalted throughout almost its entire length, the path that had to cut the hairpin bends climbing up to the village, no longer existed. I tried in several places but I wasn’t able to find it, only almost at the end, arriving at an old abandoned farmhouse, there was a cart road split in several lanes going up towards the covered cemetery that one could see just above; from there through a paved road I reached Civita D'Antino. Going on, after crossing the town, I came out through an ancient gate, arrived at a beautiful and fresh source: "I quenched your ancestors, if you respect me I will be your story" quoted the inscription above it.

I met a shepherd on a path to whom I asked how to get to Villavallelonga; he explained to me more or less the way and told me that the entire path was marked. It was generally like he said, apart from mistakes on my part or perhaps missing signs, I could find the road cutting the bends of the dirt road and climbing up to about 1420 metres (4658.8 ft.), where this time I followed the same road for a couple of kilometres and then left permanently to go down towards Collelongo and then towards Villavallelonga, now a few kilometres away. Arrived on the state road, near the first bar, I called Maria, the owner of the house where I found accommodation. She told me to wait for her there, since she was very nearby; she arrived indeed after a few minutes. The cosy house was a few hundred metres away. She also made the washing machine available to wash some of my clothes. In the house there was everything, I could even cook in case of need, but I really didn't want to; it was better to go to a restaurant nearby and eat something quickly. I asked and I was recommended the restaurant La Pineta, near Fonte Vecchia where I was a little while ago. I took a shower and I went to the restaurant; the owner told me, it was early and the kitchen was still closed but if I wanted, he could prepare a cold dish for me: it was fine!

At that moment everything was fine, too bad not having enjoyed the specialties of the kitchen (they were also preparing the grill), but the cold dish was more than enough. I was far more tired than hungry.

17/06/2017 - Seventh step (Villavallelonga-Pescasseroli) Step on written prediction supposed to be easy. It started on asphalt and continued slightly uphill for 11 kilometres, coming across sources from time to time. Fortunately, I met almost no cars. Once arrived at the refuge Aceretta and left it behind me, after a few dozen metres I was at the homonymous source, where the asphalt ends and the well-marked path starts without possibility of error. The dynamic climb started, which in about three kilometres rose almost 500 meters to the pass of Aceretta and then I descended via Vallone Peschio di Iorio to the paved road towards Pescasseroli.
I had dinner in a trattoria a little outside the noise of the centre (in these days I had weaned myself off too many people), and I was lucky because they had the so called “orapi”, that are wild spinach with a particular flavour, with which they prepared homemade pasta, a real specialty. I stayed at the Albergo del Sangro, right at the beginning of Pescasseroli, in a quiet and private area. The room was clean and bright. I had breakfast with a cake of walnuts and hazelnuts, made by the owner Antonella: a true delight.

18/06/2017 - Eighth step (Pescasseroli-San Donato Val Di Comino) First kilometres on asphalt then dirt road that became a marked path in the woods. Going up and up, I reached a pass with a very suggestive little church. There was a very unpleasant cold wind. I started to go down and then went up again until I finally passed the hill. Crossing the paved road I went down the deep valley, needing to find a place to go down, then some signs led to a quite evident path that seemed to move away from the village but then turned towards it and with several hairpin bends slowly reached it. I grabbed a sandwich from a bar counter with cold cuts, we chatted, the guy asked me where I came from and how far I had gone. At the end he offered me a sandwich: he didn’t want to be paid.

I met Marco the boy from the hostel where I would stay overnight who showed me the room. I had a shower, I got changed and went out for a walk around the old town. I had dinner at Cybus, a very nice, tidy and clean restaurant where the owner / chef Angelo, while you are savoring his dishes, explains how he elaborates them seeking simplicity. I also ate things I had not ordered, by way of a food tasting. Everything was good and simple without all those fioritura that are so much in trend, today.
It was my last step, the following day I would go back home by public transport (bus and train). I was a little happy and a little sorry, too... maybe more than a little. I had spent these eight days getting to know people in different places and different situations, almost all of them had been willing to help me as if they had felt themselves the hard work I was doing.

I have had many doubts and many uncertainties while I was planning this trip, I had less while I was doing it. I am sorry that Aldo could not finish this adventure with me, but this gave me the opportunity to try even by myself to overcome the most difficult moments, to measure myself, and to discover that I still have the strength to go on. It was nice to see new places and review those already seen, meet again new people already known in the prep phase and meet new ones, but not less interesting. It was exciting to discover step by step that The Wolf’s Path really exists, even though I had doubts more than once. It was interesting to talk to people who knew it and to others, who were hearing about it for the first time, although living nearby. In the end it was a nice adventure and maybe next year ... who knows?