If from L’Aquila you go northeast, towards Paganica-Camarda, you will be welcome by quickly changing landscape. You will feel like you have been transported on a mountain. The small road that leads to Releais&Ristorante Elodia (www.elodia.it) is truly beautiful and, while you’re there, be sure to visit the sanctuary of Madonna d’Appari, located inside a cleft between a rock wall and a stream. Elodia is the spot for you if you are looking for quality, professionalism, and a peaceful atmosphere: it is a family-run restaurant that offers high-quality food, combining tradition with modern techniques and creating a beautiful synthesis of modern-day Abruzzo and a message for the entire territory of L’Aquila. Elodia is a convenient spot if you wish to go up to Campo Imperatore or wander along one of the many Gran Sasso’s paths. Here you can also sleep in one of the 6 beautiful rooms located just right beside the restaurant and be awaken by bird songs and mountain perfumes.
The day after take the highway 17 that connects L’Aquila with Sulmona and head towards Navelli, Santo Stefano di Sessanio and Calascio. Navelli is renowned for the best saffron in the world. If you wish to buy some and get to know this precious product’s history, ask the Cooperativa Altopiano di Navelli. Santo Stefano di Sessanio is a lovely small town with an ancient atmosphere: a lot of old houses have been restored and converted in an albergo diffuso (scattered hotel), while in the many trattorias offers the unfaltering lentils, one of the best of the country (even if nowadays the production has reached historical lows). Calascio is situated about 1,500 mts above sea level. Its evocative Rocca has been recently listed by the National Geographic as one of the most beautiful castles in the world. The view from up there is truly breathtaking: on one side, you have the plane of Navelli; on the other, the massif of Gran Sasso. It is impossible to describe it.
If you wish to sleep in a unique place, exit in Barisciano and reach the monastery of Santo Colombo. A former convent of monks, it was abandoned about a century ago and has been restored thank to combined efforts of the municipality and the Ente Parco, that has installed a botanical garden and a study center for the floral variety of the Apennine mountains. There are 8 rooms available, each one tastefully decorated. The restaurant has an event room and a smaller one for everyday meals. The cuisine is simple, but built upon genuine and selected products.