If its doesn’t CHALLENGE you It Doesn’t CHANGE you

Val Maone and Rio Arno waterfalls in Abruzzo – 7 January 2023

Our first adventure of the year takes place at the base of the Gran Sasso in Abruzzo, starting from Prati di Tivo . Our goal is to travel through the beautiful Val Maone to reach the Rio Arno waterfalls .

Val Maone , squeezed between the  rocky pillars of Pizzo d’Intermesoli and the ridges of Corno Piccolo , is one of the most beautiful glacial valleys of the Gran Sasso. It is a historic passageway between L’Aquila and Teramo, the road of the carfagni and carders of Pietracameli , it is the temple of shepherds and stone huts, it is the white hell where the tragedy of Cambi and Cichetti is an exceptional climbing wall for mountaineers and bouldering enthusiasts, it is the place where peonies and pulsatillas bloom and where it is possible to come across Alpine Rosalia . It can be summarized by saying that it is a place rich in history and naturalistic importance, a place not to be missed.

We start from the tourist resort of Prati di Tivo and, through various scenarios, we reach the Rio Arno waterfalls, crossing the spectacular Val Maone. It does not present particular difficulties, although the presence of a couple of landslides of considerable size suggests the utmost caution in those stretches, given that the debris has invaded the path. The bottom is mainly represented by a dirt road, which wedges itself in a spectacular valley between the Corno Piccolo and the Northern peak of the Intermesoli . The excursion takes place on a stretch of the Sentiero Italia , number 100 .

The route we have traced is a ring tour that is a bit different from the classic one which proposes to take the Sentiero Italia 100 round trip. The path starts not far from the clearing of Prati di Tivo, in front of the highest peak of the whole Apennines. Leave your car in the large car park and continue down following the paved road in the direction of other hotels; after a few tens of metres, on the left, there is the entrance to a dirt road, closed with a metal bar: this is the beginning of the route.

With the majestic Corno Piccolo on the left, the path immediately enters a stretch of beech forest, slightly uphill and winding. Not long after, the path crosses over and you reach a crossroads. We continue to the right to begin the descent towards the bottom of Val Maone . A long and stony descent takes us down to the valley where the valley shows its beauty among the green of the beech trees and gigantic moss-covered boulders.

At this point you come across two memorials dedicated to the mountaineers Campi and Cichetti who died in a tragedy in 1929 caused by one of the biggest snowstorms of the past century. Continuing the path, the ascent of the valley begins, passing through a second really important and impressive point that makes us reflect on the majestic and unpredictable force of nature. Cyclopean boulders detached from the mountain during the landslides of 2011 which overwhelmed and destroyed part of the beech forest, a real cemetery of fallen trees dragged by the mass of an enormous boulder.

The climb finally ends with the two panoramic points on the Rio Arno waterfall whose rumble can be heard. Their water flow varies according to the season. In summer it is possible to reach the concrete channel, which is used to divert part of the water for civil purposes, and cool off on the banks of the beautiful pool of crystalline water.

At this point there is the crossroads to return to Prati di Tivo in a loop. From here the route proceeds uphill on the Sentiero Italia, with a breathtaking overall view. It is not difficult to observe, both on the side of the Corno Piccolo and on that of the Intermesoli, chamois clinging to the mountain, or eagles that imperiously furrow the sky: the possibility of spotting these splendid specimens of fauna makes the excursion particularly fascinating and fortunately we had way to meet them.

We return to the beech forest and then with the same route to the square of Prati di Tivo where a hot drink such as an unmissable hot chocolate awaits us.

Prati di Tivo, the strategic point for many activities

The Prati di Tivo are a protected area located in the Abruzzo region of Italy. They are located in the Monti della Laga mountain range , on the border between the provinces of Teramo and L’Aquila . The area is characterized by an alpine and mountainous landscape, with meadows and pastures, beech and fir woods, and crystalline waterways. The Prati di Tivo are a popular destination for lovers of nature and outdoor activities, such as hiking, trekking, ski mountaineering, and snowshoeing. The area is also famous for its wildlife, including chamois, ibexes, wolves and golden eagles. There are numerous marked trails and hiking routes to explore the area.

The tragedy of Cambi and Cichetti of 1929

In February 1929, Val Maone and the Rio Arno Valley, one of the most idyllic places on the Gran Sasso, witnessed a famous tragedy. Mario Cambi and Paolo Emilio Cichetti, who left Assergi on the 8th for the Garibaldi refuge , attempted the next day to make the first winter ascent of the southern ridge of Corno Piccolo.
Rejected by the difficulties of climbing and by the frost, they laboriously return to the refuge. In the following two days, however, an unprecedented snowfall submerges the Gran Sasso and the Garibaldi, which is literally submerged. At dawn on February 12, now exhausted, the two friends somehow open a passage towards Pietracamelathat’s life. They fail, for a while. Cambi collapses in the snow and dies an hour or two’s walk from the village, Cichetti even closer.
The search for the two disappeared involves alpine troops, foresters and dozens of Roman and Abruzzo mountaineers. A few years later, memorials were erected at the sites where their bodies were found, and two elegant rocky peaks of the Gran Sasso were dedicated to the two missing mountaineers.  The fourth peak of Corno Grande known as Torrione Cambi was named after Cambi and the miter of the South-South-East Ridge of Corno Piccolo was named after Cichetti .

Useful tips

This splendid excursion allows you to visit the points of interest in the valley in full but even if it is short the descent and ascent from Val Maone can be tough for the less experienced so we recommend following the Sentiero Italia number 100 to reach the Rio Arno waterfalls and return backwards. Val Maone is splendid in all seasons so you just have to take advantage of it and visit this place that shows the power of nature.

Good walk!

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