Sunday, 14 August 2011

Magna Majella - A Feast of a Walk

The Clearance Crew
After what seemed like weeks of preparation, meetings, advertising, planning, route clearance and marking, not to mention all the cooking by the women of Serramonacesca, the day of the Magna Majella ( finally arrived.

Testament to all the hard work, all bookings for the event had closed well before the date of the even when the total capacity of 500 was reached.  Honoured to be asked to be guides, all we had to do was get our group of 53 safely down the mountain.  Simple.  

Checking in
Together with Omar, our fellow guide, we'd got off pretty lightly as, unlike earlier groups that started from 6am, our group wasn't due to leave Serra until 9am.

We donned our official Guide badges, and joined our group on the coach.  Other than a bit of a cuffufle and a few animated discussions when one guy couldn't take his dog on the coach, the first challenge was ticked off.  All present, correct and looked relatively harmless.

Chief Gweed & Little Gweed
After a 25 minute spectacular drive up the tight winding road to Passo Lanciano , we were at the top, 1600m above sea level, and tucking into the delights of the first food stall.  Delicious homemade cakes and biscuits were devoured, the wine was sampled, not by us, I might add, at least not yet, and then we were on our way.  12km all the way back down to Serramonacesca across, through and over some spectacular terrain and stunning views.  Omar, took the lead with us bringing up the rear.

What started out as a fairly quiet, sedate group made up of lots of little groups, quickly became one big walking train full of bonhomie, chat, laughter and singing.   Despite being English with only a smattering of Italian, one by one our charges would drop back curious as to who we were, what we were doing in their country and keen to talk to us and teach us about the delights of their country, culture and cooking.

The walk took us from the plains at the top with the most fabulous far reaching views across Abruzzo, it took us through the woods and gorges below, all the way back down to the river at Serramonacesca.  The view from the top spanned all the way to the sea, from the hills of Le Marche to the north stretching all the way across to Vasto and Molise beyond.  In front of us was the dramatic sharp pyramid of Corno Grande, the highest point of the whole Apennines, and behind were the mountains of the Majella, rising up in bleak contrast out of the green tree covered hills below.  Every which way you looked you were faced with breathtaking beauty.

Every few kilometres, at natural stopping points such as an old stone shepherds hut, an ancient cave, hermitage or chapel built into the rock, we found the food stands.  Each one a sample of typical Abruzzese cooking.  Simple peasant fare but all equally delicious.  At one, just tomatoes and bread, but the biggest, ripest, sweetest tomatoes you have ever seen, all drizzled with sweet, peppery olive oil.  At another, pecorino cheese, and at others we found a meat stew, cheese balls in tomato sauce and the most tender and delicious cold pork.  

But the lower we got, the hotter it got, and the more freely flowing the wine became.  Even us guides could resist no more.  After all, how can you eat cheese without wine?! And what a merry group we became.  Singing and dancing our way down, with a good old jig breaking out when we were met with an accordion player half way down.

Finally, 6 hours later we were back down, a fairly weary bunch, a few wobbles and slips along the way, but we all made it to our final stopping point in excellent humour.  

So there we were, at the end of fabulous day, all sitting round a table in Serra tucking into our final dish, a big bowl of pasta with a delicate ragu, neatly finished off with a huge, chin dripping, chunk of watermelon.  

What a great group, great walk, great event.  All weary, sunned, well fed, wined and dined, a success indeed.  Roll on next year!





  1. I missed the Majella while I was in Abruzzo last week. Looks great - another reason to go back.

    I've decided to adopt Abruzzo as the Italian region I'd like to spread the word about - and there seems to be plenty.

    Hope the summer is proving productive!

    Regards from Milan,


  2. Thanks Alex, and really sorry to have missed you. Glad you enjoyed your stay though and are tempted to come back. As you say, there is certainly plenty here - in the short time we've been here we've very quickly become humbly aware that we are merely scratching the surface.

    Thanks again Alex, look forward to keeping up with your News From Italy!