Saturday, 16 November 2013


90% of the time the weather here in the Appenines of Abruzzo is as near to perfect as it's possible to get.  The seasons are just as they should be, deep powder in the winter, glorious sunshine all summer long.  

The remaining 10%, however, leaves you in absolutely no doubt whatsoever why Abruzzo is both the greenest and wildest region of all of Italy.  The last 5 days have given us a significant portion of that 10%, and a serious dose of cabin fever as a result.

But one day last week, no rain, and a brief but tentative respite.  So we took full advantage to banish the blues and got out onto the hills.  

Or, rather, through a gorge and up and over the gorge; we skirted a mountain, went across the ridge, down and round the other side and back to where we started.  20km, over 1600m of climbing and 8 hours later we had an amazing day and another route for the Kokopelli portfolio of self-guided hikes.

Sadly most of it was done in thick cloud so the pictures are fairly shite (as were our views).  What it did give us, however, was a real assault on our senses.  We may not have been able to see beyond our noses but, my goodness, we could certainly sense where we were.  From subtle changes in the feel of the air around us, to the roaring sounds of cascading water way below, we knew when we were on the edge of something spectacular, if only we could see through the fog.  

Rock face looming spookily into view

Another unexpected surprise of poor visibility came when we lost daylight and made our final descent by torchlight.  The lights of Fara San Martino a long way down below, and Casoli on the hill in the distance, was magical indeed.  What was truly fascinating was the vastness of the De Cecco pasta factory, never before seen from above and all lit up like that.  It was just like looking down on the lights of the airport as you come into land.  Amazing.

A wonderful circular hike into an incredible gorge.  But, please, not to be recommended in fog and dark.  Choose your weather carefully and you'll have a day to remember.

Detailed self-guided trip notes are free to all who stay with us:

... and there's a bottle of Prosecco waiting in the fridge for all who complete at least 3 of our hikes (regardless of season)!

Here are the pics (for what they're worth).  We could do with some better ones, so if anyone fancies it let us know.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Halloween as it should be.


How wrong we were when we thought Serramonacesca became the ghouls, ghosts & demons capital of Italy for Halloween.  From all the activity, plotting, planning and excitement of the village in the weeks leading up to the 31st October, we could have been forgiven for thinking so.

We really got into the swing of things.  We KNOW how to do Halloween.

When we dressed up as Frankinstein's bride (me) and the Grim Reaper (KP) to add some atmospherics to our Vin Brulle (mulled wine) stand, we thought we looked just the part.  Wrong.

No-one else was dressed up.  And it was politely pointed out that all "Americanisms" were kept at bay. This was Halloween in it's ancient, traditional sense, and proud Serramonacesca was guarding its traditions jealously.  As it turned out, you didn't need to dress up at all, the atmosphere over the two days was incredible.

In Abruzzo, and particularly in Serramonacesca, the festivities of 31 October/1 November are steeped in the ancient rituals of Paganism neatly merged with Christianity (as are so many Pagan rituals).  It is said that on the foggy evening of All Saints and All Souls, the departed (represented by carved pumpkin heads) roam the streets stopping at houses to ask for alms (i.e., Halloween as it used to be).

And Serra does it brilliantly.  The old "centro storico" of the town is taken over for the festivities.  The narrow streets are lit by torches, the cantina's (cellars) of the old houses are taken over for wine tasting, mulled wine, vino cotto, speciality beer, deli meats, roasted chestnuts, dried fruits, cakes and candies.  There is a large marquee serving a traditional "Abruzzese" supper to rows and rows of tables, wine freely flowing.  Through the streets there are story tellers, fairy tales, street performers, street theatre, puppets and musicians.  In the piazza there are bonfires with chestnuts roasting above.

And not a single Grim Reaper to be seen.

Serramonacesca (not us) KNOW how Halloween should  be done.

Well worth a visit: 31 October & 1 November (programme and links below)



Where we are:


Wednesday 30 October  21:00
" Pecure alla Callare "
Fixed menu supper in the marquee, limited numbers, reservation required.
Info and reservations - > 338.7987439

Thursday, 31 October

19:00  "Opening of the Festival "

Performance of groups of Abruzzo music, singing and dancing around the fire.

" Du barrel ... la gare "
Battle of the Accordians!

Friday, November 1

Traditions, fairy tales, legends and witchcraft through the streets of the historic center with traveling shows of street artists, puppets, storytellers, face painting, etc.

“La Checocce chiĆ² belle”
Competition for the most beautiful pumpkin.  Five judges will give a score from 6 to 10 to the pumpkins (strictly lit with a candle inside).
Free registration until 17:00


19:00  "Opening of the Festival "

22:00 PM
Reggae Abruzzo live.

Monday, 9 September 2013


(great terrain for the trail runner too)

  • Price for the 5-day package: €550 per couple
  • Includes accommodation (and not a tent in sight!)
  • Food in local restaurants, pre-supper drinks in local bars
  • Use of mountain bikes and snowshoes
  • Transfers, maps, detailed guides, and so on, and so on....

All completely adaptable, in content and time.

Where we are:

Download the full pdf version: 

For booking or more information:  +39 333 4636 075 or email

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Autumn & Winter Kokopelli Style!

As we skip merrily (but with a touch of sadness) into the final lap of summer, our thoughts after such an amazingly crazy wonderful summer with a whole host of equally amazing, crazy wonderful people, turn to how we can launch Kokopelli Autumn and Kokopelli Winter.

Last year, our first full winter here, we took the time out to just explore life in these hills, mountains and beaches of Abruzzo as the curtains slowly come down on summer.  Summer is magnificent, but could we, should we, develop an autumn/winter season here too?  

And we had an absolute ball.  The best ever.

So the answer was a huge, big, massive YES, YES, YES!!!!!!!!

This land of Abruzzo comes into it's own.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  All taken between the end of September and March.  

Click on the links & enjoy.


Ah.  Almost forgot.  If you do want to come and stay and explore with us, you don't have to camp (although you could if you really, really wanted), as we have a rather nice warm room in the house, complete with radiators and en-suite bathroom.

We'll also be developing The Barn to include a wood burner, radiators & heated bathroom.  Hey, I might even be persuaded to do breakfast too if you really, really want me to....



Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Diary of a Kokopelli Camper

....The real adventure of this past week, however, was a trip with John to the Abruzzo mountains.  We stayed in an English campground with an American Indian name, Kokopelli, and one day we hiked La Maiella to 2700 meters, the highest I’ve ever climbed. 

Majella mountains in May

It was a test of endurance and an opportunity to see John in his natural element, learning from him about mountains and their environment. At 52 I am just starting to feel challenged by such a climb, though not enough that it slows me down.  We were out on the trails from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm, getting back to the car just as it started to rain.  

It was hot in Rome and we were happy to head to the mountains, but the temperature actually got higher as we approached the town of Serramonacesca, the location of the nearest campground we had found on the internet, so hot that I started to think that we should change destinations and go to the Abruzzo National Park where the elevation was higher.  We had our picnic lunch in the center of town in the shade of a tree by the town hall.  Not a soul to be seen, blistering heat, 41 according to the car thermometer. 

When we found the campground I told Kevin, the Englishman who runs it, that we would stay a night and see if we could stand the heat. As he showed us around the facilities, though, I knew that it was a great place.  Clean restrooms, abundant outdoor and indoor kitchen and dining spaces. Cool white canvas tents furnished like dessert caravans, for rent if we decided our own little tent was too hot. 

Kokopelli Bell Tents
We left some of our stuff at our chosen tentsite and hit the road again to scout our hike.  Kevin had sold us a decent map and given us directions and after a half-hour of winding roads we were at the base parking area for the trails. La Maiella, the second highest peaks of the Appenines after Gran Sasso, rises above you grayish white against the blue sky.  The vehicular road ends in a cluster of communications antennas feeling like a space station.  We continued a bit on foot, passing two Tibetan monks (!) to whom I bowed and was greeted with a smiling “buon giorno”. The goal today was only scouting so we stopped at a lookout and contemplated the ridges and peaks.  Cima delle Murelle, Monte Focolone, Monte Aquaviva.  They looked relatively close and I optimistically contemplated walking all the way to Monte Amaro even though Kevin said it was 5 hours in and 5 back out. 

Monte Amaro 2793m asl

That evening we dined on pastina and sardines and corn at the campground while a family from England, South Africa and Le Marche ate near us and an international clientele from France, Holland and even Italy (!) puttered around the outdoor kitchen areas.  Later we watched the stars in the clear clear sky and saw the biggest meteorite I have ever seen, a “fireball” which lit up the night sky dramatically and then burnt out seconds later. Slept fine despite the heat until the rooster crowed at 4:45!  

The night sky from Kokopelli

The next day I was up with the rooster, reading and writing over my coffee in the cool morning air.  We left at 7:00, were at the bakery to get bread for sandwiches at 7;30 and packed and walking away from the car at the antenna site at 8:00. For the next 3 hours we climbed and climbed, through cool pine forests (Pino Mugo) and up rocky inclines.  At a certain point we paused in a crevice which was cool and shady, I took off my sweaty t-shirt to dry it in the sun and put on a warm pile and ate dried fruit and drank cool water.  We still had a ways to climb to reach the “bivacco Fusco”.  

There we saw a herd of chamois running across the snow (?!!_) and up the steep slopes of Monte Focalone. I was impressed to say the least.  When we finally got to Monte Focalone, the chamois were nowhere to be seen and the landscape was hot and dry, shards of flaky grey stone like slate crunching under our feet.  I was exhausted and tried to make shade from John’s walking sticks and my windbreaker, with little success.  We moved on toward Monte Aquaviva but as we approached it and it seemed to recede into the distance we decided that the view we had earned from this point was as good as we could get.  So we stopped to eat our sandwiches and turned to head back. 

The trip down was faster but treacherous, slipping down rocky slopes, contemplating the distance to our car which seemed surprisingly (almost frighteningly) far.  There were long uphill sections as well which I hadn’t noticed on the hike out.  Realizing that we were well ahead of schedule and that in the valley it was probably 15 degrees warmer, we stopped to rest in a grassy area next to the trail before tackling the last hour to the car.  We timed it right as a heavy rain began just as we got to the car and it followed us down into the valley. 

That evening, after a much-needed shower, we went to eat at an unattractive but characteristic and tasty trattoria in a neighboring town and returned to sleep comfortably in our little tent. Even the rooster didn’t get me out of bed early the next morning. 

Our last hike was local, a trail described in perfect detail in the campground information booklet (photocopied pages of which were free to borrow). We walked along country roads, through woods thick with spider webs and dried mud trails, into the little town of Roccamontepiano (you can’t invent these names!).  There we bought breakfast and bread for lunch and drank cold water from a nice fountain dedicated to San Rocco (patron Saint of all things rural).  I had a capuccino at my favorite bar where we had stopped before by car several times.  Then back into the woods and onwards on a treacherous poorly marked trail which eventually morphed back into a country road.  We started seeing English neighbors (‘top of the morning to you’) and before too long were back at our tent. I love round trip hikes that don’t require a car! John was not so thrilled with this one, preferring by far the high mountain trails. 

View from the trail to Roccamontepiano

Later when we headed back to Rome we took a detour up to Caramanico Terme and got stuck in a huge downpour and hailstorm which left the ground covered in white ice.  Global weirding I said, and John, ever the rational one,  said it was actually normal for such mountain locations to rapid and experience extreme changes in weather. We found the visitors center there closed despite the sign saying it was open (but they nicely responded to an email I wrote with an almost believable explanation and apology). The road to Sulmona was among the most beautiful in Italy. 

The camping experience, a little English world in the midst of the Italian mountains, was magical and inspiring.  I want to write more about the place in a venue where it can help Kevin and Jackie’s business thrive.   Now, back to Rome and painting windows!

Word for word from Tom Rankin:
Photos by Kokopelli.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Blogging Conference & A Microadventure

So here I am lying in my tent at 7am having breakfast in bed fully clothed, including coat and wooly hat, snuggled under my sleeping bag and the blanket crocheted by my dad.  I'm reading whilst listening to the rain outside, and the birds of course.  Lots and lots of birds.  

In fact the birds have been my comforting companions over my little two night microadventure.  All alone, just me and my tent amongst the pine trees on the side of a hill a little below Santo Stefano tucked amongst the Apeninnes mountains of the Gran Sasso.  All night long the nightingales sing.  A beautiful, haunting song, broken every now and then by the call of a little owl and the snuffles, yaps, squeaks and snorts of my fellow inhabitants of these woods.

I was at an international conference about the art & business of blogging (an amazing conference actually) and I was asked incredulously "Don't you worry about the wolves or the bears or the wild pigs"?  Not a chance, says I.  Whilst I can hear all the sounds of the nocturnal world, then I know all is well, and can turn over and go back to sleep.

Bird boxes in the woods

It's been a wee while since I've camped alone, and will admit to passing feelings of apprehension over the two nights, and a few questions to myself as to why I'm doing it.  I could have joined my fellow delegates and taken one of the wonderful rooms dotted around the ancient and fabulously restored Santo Stefano.  

I could have bunked in with my friend, Giulia, who found herself in possession of a suite of rooms.  But I chose to stay in my tent.  

The weather has been foul, it's been cold up here at 1250m and fresh snow has peppered the mountain tops whilst I've been here.  I've been all alone, the only inhabitant on this tucked away little campsite.  

Santo Stefano

I've kept the light down low at night so nobody can see that I'm here, and a cosh by my bed in case I was wrong.  I've had an escape route planned, and the car close for a quick getaway.  

But now, having done it and as I'm lying here all tucked up and cosy, I'm as warm and as happy as can be.  And I'm smiling, a big cheesy grin.

My little camping spot, in the woods below

So, what I'm trying to say is, regardless of your age or gender, whether alone or with others, every now and then take a little microadventure, it could be just what you need.  

Bat boxes in the woods

As a little aside, if you do fancy it but feel a bit too apprehensive, why not give it a go here at Kokopelli?  Single travellers are always welcome, and if you don't have the equipment, you can always use my lovely little Hillberg tent.  

If, during your trip, you start to feel comfortable and fancy pushing it a bit further, we know some great wild camping spots...   


The Art & Business of Blogging:

Gran Sasso National Park:

Kokopell Camping (that's us, by the way):

Camping Gran Sasso (the delightful campsite where I spent my two nights):

Camping Gran Sasso

Friday, 24 May 2013

La Maielletta and Beyond

As beautiful as the foothills of the Majella are, if you want to explore the high peaks then head up to Passo Lanciano and La Maielletta - the masts that you can see from Kokopelli camping field.  

It takes about 25 minutes to drive up, or about 3 hours to cycle.  The climb is steady and steep, but the road is good and there are plenty of switchbacks to test your technical skills on the descent.  

With the highest point accessible by road lying at around 2000m asl you will have a respectable 1630m climb.  
Passo Lanciano is a key ski resort in the winter, so the roads are kept open and clear.  There are a couple of bars up there, plus a hotel, restaurant and spa.  The bars (only open at weekends outside peak seasons) serve good, honest nosh (including sausages cooked over the open fire in the winter) and, as such, are a favourite with hikers, bikers and cyclists at the weekend.

Every Sunday there is a small market, and throughout August the ski lifts run from Passo Lanciano up to La Maielletta.  
This summer (2013) the National Park will be running a free shuttle bus between the two ski resorts (complete with tourist guide) during the weekend of 13/14 July: 8am - 11am and 3pm - 6pm.  (

On the way up, just beyond the turning to Pretoro, there’s also a wolf sanctuary.  Although terribly sad to see these majestic creatures in captivity, remind yourselves they are there because, for various reasons, they are unable to be returned to the wild.

The hiking routes from the top are endless.  You can do anything from just an hour’s stroll taking in the incredible views to a full day’s hike up to Monte Amaro.  At 2793m asl Monte Amaro is the second highest peak of the whole Apennine range.  

Be aware, however, that these are serious mountains and should only be tackled by experienced hikers.  Weather conditions can change in an instant and it’s very easy to get caught out.  The higher peaks are also usually snowbound between November and May, so do take advice before going.
For our campers, if you’d like to explore these peaks, have a look at the Majella map (on sale in the barn) and come and have a chat with us as we’d be more than happy to advise.  
If you'd like to start at the top and walk down through one of the incredibly stunning gorges, for a small fee we'd be very happy to drop you off at the top and pick you up from either Bocca di Valle or Pennapiedimonte.  There are some great bars and restaurants in both places, so we could always pick you up after you’ve revived over a cold beer and a bite to eat.  

You can even walk all the way back down to Serramonacesca and Kokopelli, taking in the eremo di San Onofrio, the Abbazia di San Liberatore and the Torre Polegra along the way (approx 15km).