A trip on the Majella:

along the highest mountain of central Italy

Late summer of 1997: After many tries finally I succeeded in convincing my wife to do a weekend trip: Train+bike ...
I could do it since I had bought her a train discount card, valid for having a 50% discount on regional trains on weekend for two peoples. Since she take a great care of money, and the word discount appeal very more her, she accepted.

We got our bikes in the early morning ... Since we live temporarily near Pisa we had to get the train at 650 to Firenze, we loaded the cycles on baggage compartment and choose two comfortable places. We would have been in that train until 1059 so we choose to rest a little. After all Saturday is the first free day of the week ...
The tikets we bought was wrong, at least the kilometers was counted on another itinerary, via Empoli-Siena-Chiusi. This one is very interesting, it is shorter, but slower and, expecially if you have many baggages, it require three trains change, instead of being a direct service. I did not protest - after all the error was im my favour - end the trip began.

The view from Pisa to Firenze you will see in another page, as soon I will have time to do, and for me was nothing to look - I do it daily - . From Pisa onward we moved on the Firenze-Arezzo-Roma line. This line is very scenic, but i did it a lot of times, so was a good reason for rest ... only intersting view was in arezzo, where we met a ETR480 during one of test run (That series in now in regular service) and (picture right) a train of LFI in a new livery (see their page for old ones)
Along the trip I suggest the view of the lake of Alviano (if you are running the slow line is on right after about 10 min from Orvieto, on fast line it is on left after a long tunnel after Orvieto)
We arrived at the signal of protection of Orte about 3 minutes late. Our connection was quite tight so I begin to become concerned. The train remained stopped for about 8'. This could be due that in the tunnel near orte of fast line there are works, so all train are routed on the slow line, so for about 3 km on either side of the station of Orte there are only two operating tracks instead of 4. It was however stange since we were past the junction, so in the common part. Even the conductor did not know anithing. The only thing that keep us quiet was that no train was in sight on the other line ...
So we prepared the bikes near the door, and were told by the conductor to cross the track in the station
We run to the connecting train at 1110 ... it was due to leave at 1105, but still no engineers in the cab ...

No announcements ... after ten minutes the announcement of the arrival of the train from Roma of 1045 that had to be in our front ... It arrived and leave soon. The engineers came and told me that the delays (inclusive of the train from Pisa) was due to problems on the signals in the Orte station. Then we were ready to leave ... but still nothing ... after 10 minutes they did a call to the dispatchers, and received in turn a call on PA that the train had to leave soon ... It happeened that in the concitation to get the signals working again, they forget our train ...

We were arriving at Terni about 30' late ... We, and a lot of people had to switch to the train to Aquila. We would have had a large connection time, 23' but with our delay the risk were great, and many people was very concerned ... and if you see people that is concerned and do the trip weekly, so it mean that the connecting train not always waits ...
The train was on the 1S track. 1st south mean that is a stub track under the sun on the southern end of station. Under the sun, but with the diesel engine running.
The train still not moved, and even here the engineers was not yet there.
The late train from Roma had made another victim: even the train from Ancona had been delayed so we had to wait 10 more minutes. In the meantime i shot on the far end of the yard one (picture on right) of the survivor D143 (originally made by Withcomb in 1944) that are the older diesel stuff in regular service (and at end of trip I spotted the older electric one !) Even there howewer no announcements until when i asked the conductor why our train was not yet leaving. As soon he asked an announcement came. Lines are very scenic, but do not trust too much on announcements !

We left Terni. The scope of our trip was either to do a quiet weekend cycling around, to view three of the most scenic routes in Italy on preparation for the Southern Europe RailWay tour I am organizing for spring 1998. Eventually came a fourth thing ... but read on.

From Terni we vent toward Rieti. The line is fine, it pass near some natural parks but stay on bottom of valley until Antrodoco borgo Velino .
Here there is a small locomotive deposit, with its roundtable and the line begin to climb. It does a more than complete z to gain elevation, and doing so passes over the city. This is the most intersting part of the trib between terni and Aquila. You turn 3 times around the city of Antrodoco and later, when you are arriving to the next station of Rocca di Fondi you will see below also the line.
This is just an "entrée" for what you will see next day (or in the afternoon, if you want to do in one day).

Now we are going toward Rocca di Corno, next station after Antrodoco. While meeting with another train i got pictures of either the old wather reservoir and of the bridge on which we passed a few minutes before.
The line begin to climb, and you can hear the noise of the engines on the long climbing, from 484 m of Antrodoco-Borgo velino to the 1004 m of Sella Di Corno, when we enter into Abruzzi .
Abruzzi is also called (by local tourist offices) "the region of parks" . In fact in its territory lay the parks of "Gran Sasso and Mounts of Laga", "National park of Abruzzo" and "Maiella", and just a few km off its northern border the national park of monti Sibillini.

The views are beautiful, but are 1230 and we are awake since 600 so someone is going a bit sleepy (or completely sleeping ;-) ). She does not know what she is losing !

Anyway we arrive at L'Aquila for lung time. There we disembark our bicycles, and do a quick trip in the city. It does not look very interesting, except fo the medieval fountain of 99 tubs, where every tap is a differnt staue, that is anyway very near to the station.

At least we get the first glance of the Gran Sasso, the highest mountain in Central italy (2912 m)

Now begin our afternoon: Since we have a full afternoon we decide to continua by bike rather than getting the train to Sulmona: Ve can now see the line from above on another scenic part (bottom left), as well enjoy the road, with its view on the Gran Sasso before, then on the natural park of Sirente and finally after the canyon of san Venanzio a view on the mount Maiella (bottom right).

We arrived at Sulmona at evening, (if you plan again to do this itinerary by bike go throught the center of Pratola Peligna, then to Sulmona, you will avoid a hill on a busy road, the short grade at Pratola worth the other you avoid ). We found loge and dinner and went to sleep ( we lodged at hotel Stella: it do not look a great one, but is very comfortable for the price, Sulmona, as most of southern italy is well known for its pastries)
We waked next morning in the centre of the city, in front of the municipe, then we left the hotel, went to get a breakfast, then moved (downhill) to the station. The day, from what we could see out of the windows, promised very well.

Do you want to view thenext day ?
Click here for The views of Maiella and its railway

You can reach me by e-mail at: leo@dicea.unifi.it

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