22 – Mountains And Mountain Chains

Sources: Wikipedia, Google Maps

Aquila Chrysaetos
Aquila Chrysaetos

From Cocullo, Abruzzo’s most majestic mountains will be a short distance away…


Monti Marsicani – Camosciara

The Monti Marsicani are the sixth-highest mountain chain in the continental Apennines. They are located at the southern end of the historic Marsica region, mostly in the province of L’Aquila, and to a small extent in the provinces of Frosinone and Isernia. Their tallest peak is Mount Greco (2285 m).

Monti Marsicani – mount Greco

The Marsicani mountains are bordered to the north by the Fucino Basin and the Peligna Valley, to the east by the Gizio River valley and the Altopiano delle Cinquemiglia, to the south by the valleys of the Sangro and Volturno rivers, and to the west by the valleys of the Liri and Melfa rivers. Their terrain is wild and rugged, and they have a well-preserved natural environment that includes extensive beech woods and is home to the Marsican brown bear, the Apennine wolf and the Abruzzo chamois. This natural state is due chiefly to the presence of the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise, which is now nearly 100 years old and has  given protection to nearly the entire mountain chain. The Marsicani chain comprises many subchains, with more than 50 peaks above 2000 m. The mountains are separated by numerous valleys formed by rivers and streams that flow into the Tyrrhenian Sea (the Melfa, Liri and Volturno), the Adriatic Sea (the Sangro, Gizio and Sagittario), and the Fucino Basin (the Giovenco and Rosa).  The largest lakes in the area are those of Barrea (artificial) and Scanno (natural), but there are also the smaller ones of Villalago, Montagna Spaccata, Castel San Vincenzo, Vivo and Pantaniello.

Monti Marsicani – gorges of Celano


Gran Sasso – plateau

The Gran Sasso is the highest mountain massif in the continental Apennines. It is located in the central Apennines, in the easternmost sector of the Abruzzo range, and on the border between the provinces of L’Aquila, Teramo and Pescara.

Gran Sasso – mountain chain

In its entirety, from the Passo delle Capannelle in the northwest to the Gole di Popoli in the southeast, the Gran Sasso chain is about 50 km long and 15 km wide.

Gran Sasso – Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo

Like most Apennine and pre-Apennine chains, the Gran Sasso is oriented west-northwest to southeast, but because of its higher elevations it has much harsher conditions than the others. It has two main parallel subchains: a northern, more rugged one extending from Monte Corvo (2623 m) in the northwest to Vado di Sole in the southeast; and a southern one, with lower elevations and less severe conditions, extending from Passo delle Capannelle and Monte San Franco (2132 m) in the northwest to Monte Capo di Serre (1771 m) in the southeast.

Gran Sasso – mount Corvo – 2623 m.

There is also a vast southeastern sector with numerous lower peaks, including Monte Ruzza (1643 m), Monte Bolza (1904 m), Monte Camarda (1384 m), Monte Cappucciata (1802 m), Monte Picca (1405 m), and many others, as far as the Gole di Popoli gorges. The Gran Sasso’s two highest summits are in the northern subchain. The first is the Corno Grande, which actually comprises three peaks: an eastern one (2903 m), a central one (2893 m), and a western one (which, at 2914 m, is also the highest peak in the continental Apennines). The second-highest summit is the Corno Piccolo (2655 m).

Gran Sasso, Corno Piccolo

Nestled in a hollow, and protected by the three peaks of the Corno Grande, is the Ghiacciaio del Calderone, the second-southernmost glacier in Europe. In the heart of the massif, between the two subchains, lies the vast Campo Imperatore plateau, and between the two summits is the Campo Pericoli basin. The mountains are scored by deep valleys, including Val Maone, Valle del Venacquaro, and Valle dell’Inferno.

Gran Sasso – mount Brancastello – 2385 m.

The Calderone Glacier is located on the northern slope of the Corno Grande, in a basin with direct northern exposure that is enclosed and shaded much of the time by the two crests of the peak. It has an elevation ranging from 2650 m to 2850 m, and is located at latitude 42°28′ N. It has traditionally been considered the southernmost glacier in Europe, but that designation is now held by the glacier on Mount Elbrus, in Russia.

Gran Sasso – Calderone Glacier

On the slopes of the Corno Piccolo and in the vicinity of Monte Camicia are two permanent snow fields. The one on the Corno Piccolo, the Glacionevato Franchetti, is located under a rocky spur, half-way between the Rifugio Franchetti shelter and the Sella dei Due Corni pass. The other, in a gully that is snow-covered most of the year, is on Monte Infornace and extends from Fonte Rionne to just under the peak. In winter there are numerous ice falls, some of which form at the base of Monte Camicia, in the area known as Fondo della Balsa—a name that is probably a distortion of “Fondo del Balzo”, or “base of the leap”, a reference to the precipitous drop on the north side of Monte Camicia. The best-known ice falls are the Ghiaccio del Sud and the Cascata del Peccato.

Gran Sasso – Pizzo Cefalone – 2533 m.

The Gran Sasso has several ski resorts (Campo Imperatore, Prati di Tivo, Prato Selva) with facilities for both downhill and cross-country skiing.

Gran Sasso – mount Prena – 2561 m.
Gran Sasso – Corno Grande from the ”Madonnina” (Federico Pini)
Gran Sasso – eastern peak from Corno Grande (Federico Pini)


Monti della Laga

The Monti della Laga constitute the highest arenaceous formation in the Apennines and the fifth highest mountain chain in the continental Apennines. The chain has a total length of 24 km and follows the border between Abruzzo, Marche and Lazio, straddling the territories of the L’Aquila, Teramo, Ascoli Piceno and Rieti provinces. To the north, it is separated from the Monti Sibillini by the Tronto Valley, through which runs the Via Salaria, and to the south it is separated from the Gran Sasso chain by the steep valley of the Vomano River, which ends at the Passo delle Capannelle and Lake Campotosto. Today the SS 80 road goes through the valley, but archaeological findings indicate that a branch of the Via Cecilia went through it in ancient times.



The Sirente-Velino is a mountain chain in the central Apennines; it constitutes the central dorsal in the Abruzzo Region, flanked to the northeast by the Monti della Laga and the Gran Sasso massif, and to the west by the Monti Carseolani, Monti Simbruini, Monti Cantari and Monti Ernici. The chain lies primarily in western Abruzzo (L’Aquila province), with a small section extending further west into Lazio (Cicolano).

Sirente-Velino – mount Velino – 2487 m.

The chain is bounded to the northeast by the Subequana Valley, the Aterno Valley and the L’Aquila Basin, to the northwest by the Salto Valley, to the southwest by the Fucino Plain, and to the southeast by the Peligna Valley. To the northwest are the minor mountain formations of Monte Cava-Monte San Rocco and Monte Nuria (known as the Monti del Cicolano), which provide a geomorphological link with the Terminillo massif and the Monti Reatini chain in Lazio. To the southeast is the Majella massif. The Sirente-Velino chain is the third highest in the continental Apennines, after the Gran Sasso and the Majella. The tallest peak is Monte Velino (2,487 m).

Sirente-Velino – mount Sirente – 2349 m.

The mountains are home to two natural protected areas: the Riserva Regionale Montagne della Duchessa and the Parco Regionale Naturale del Sirente – Velino.



The Majella is the second-highest mountain chain in the continental Apennines, after the Gran Sasso. It is located in the central Apennines, in Abruzzo, on the boundary between the provinces of Chieti, L’Aquila and Pescara, and in the middle of the nature reserve of the same name, the Parco Nazionale della Majella. Its tallest peak is Monte Amaro (2793 m).

Majella – mount Amaro – 2792 m.

The Majella is a very compact limestone massif topped by several high peaks (Monte Amaro, 2793 m; Monte Acquaviva, 2737 m; Monte Focalone, 2676 m; Monte Rotondo, 2656 m; Monte Macellaro, 2646 m; Pesco Falcone, 2546 m; and Cima delle Murelle, 2598 m), and vast plateaus with elevations as high as 2500 m. Its slopes are carved by deep valleys formed by rivers such as the Orfento and the Foro. It is surrounded by smaller mountain groups, including those of Monte Morrone and Monte Porrara and the Pizzi mountains. The first two are separated from the Majella by the Orta and Aventino valleys; the Pizzi mountains, however, are connected to the massif by the Altipiani Maggiori d’Abruzzo, high limestone plateaus with an elevation around 1250 m. There are also permanent snow fields, the Nevai della Majella.

Majella – mount Porrara – 2137 m.

There are three ski resorts on the Majella; they are located on various slopes and are not connected geographically. The best known is the one at Passolanciano-Maielletta, on the Chieti side; the others are those at Passo San Leonardo and Campo di Giove, on the L’Aquila side.

Majella – Passo San Leonardo

Also on the Majella are the Principiante ice falls, located at about 1600 m. They are 45 m high, and do not freeze easily because of their western exposure. They can be reached on foot from the town of Fara San Martino by following the Santo Spirito and Macchialonga Valley. After the last tract of forest and two meadows, the falls will be to the right of the valley. The walk takes about 3.5 hours and involves four ascents: the first two (5 and 10 m respectively) have a maximum inclination of 70o; the third is more challenging (5 m, with an inclination of 85o/90o); the last is easier (5 m, with an inclination of 75o), and leads to a frozen channel that can be descended by rappelling or by taking the path on the right.

Majella – Murelle

The Majella is separated from Mount Morrone (2061 m) by the San Leonardo Pass (1282 m). Mount Morrone is morphologically similar to the Majella, but is actually an extension of the Gran Sasso.


mount Meta

Monte Meta, one of the highest mountains in the Abruzzo Apennines, is located in the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise. It sits on the border of Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise, between the towns of Alfedena (L’Aquila province), Picinisco (Frosinone province) and Pizzone (Isernia province). At its base is the Passo dei Monaci pass (1981 m). It is often referred to simply as La Meta and gives its name to the Monti della Meta mountain chain, which extends from the Forca d’Acero pass to the south end of the Comino Valley, and gradually peters out in the Liri and Volturno valleys to the south, where its lower peaks are known as the Mainarde.


Monti Simbruini

The Monti Simbruini (“simbruini” comes from the Latin sub imbribus or “under the rains”), also called the Roman Alps, are a mountain chain located in Lazio, near the Abruzzo border. They are part of the Central Sub-Apennines, more specifically the Lazio Sub-Apennines. To the north, they border the Carseolani mountains and the towns of Rocca di Botte and Camerata Nuova; to the east, Abruzzo; to the south, the Càntari mountains; and to the west, the Affilani mountains and the area known as the Ciociaria. They are part of the Parco Naturale Regionale dei Monti Simbruini, and their territory is therefore protected.


Monti Càntari

The Monti Càntari are a mountain chain in the Central Apennines situated on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo and straddling the provinces of Frosinone and L’Aquila. The highest peak is Monte Viglio (2156 m).  They are bordered on the north and east by the Roveto Valley, on the southeast by the nearby Ernici mountains, on the south by the Ciociaria, on the west by the Granara Valley and the town of Filettino, and on the northwest by the Serra Sant’Antonio pass and the Simbruini mountains. They are a protected area within the Parco Naturale Regionale dei Monti Simbruini.


Monti Ernici

The Monti Ernici are part of the Lazio Sub-Apennines. They have an east-west orientation and are bordered on the north by the Cantari mountains and the Aniene Valley, on the east by the Liri Valley, and on the south and west by the Cosa and Sacco valleys. They are located at a watershed, and form a natural boundary between Lazio and Abruzzo.


Montagna dei Fiori

The Montagna dei Fiori is located mostly in Abruzzo (Teramo province), with a small portion jutting into the Marche Region, and lies at the eastern end of the Monti della Laga chain. The Fiori and Campli mountains, which are separated by the Salinello Gorges, constitute the Monti Gemelli (“twin mountains”) massif. The Fiori Mountain is 20 km from Ascoli Piceno and 18 km from San Giacomo di Valle Castellana, and is reached by taking the Colle San Marco road. It has two main peaks, Monte Girella (1814 m) and Monte Piselli (1676 m), both in Abruzzo. The former, which is on the south side, is popular with experienced mountain climbers, but in summer the north side can be climbed easily even with the most basic equipment. The latter is a winter sports destination very popular with the locals. The small town of San Giacomo, situated at 1110 m on the mountain, serves as a base for countless excursions. It also houses the main tourist facilities, which are open both summer and winter. At 1426 m is the ski resort, which is reached by an unpaved road. It has a chairlift and magic carpet that reach 1643 m, and attracts numerous skiers. From its peak, it is possible to see Mount Conero and, on clear summer days, the Dalmatian islands and coastline near Split. The Fiori Mountain itself, which is 30 km from the sea, is visible on the Adriatic coast from the mouth of the Tordino River to the mouth of the Tronto River.

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