The Gran Sasso is a mountain.
Originated about 6 million years ago, its 2914 meters peak, is the highest of central Italy’s Apennine. Among its walls, still resists the Calderone glacier, traditionally considered the southernmost in Europe.
Altitude, rocks composition, the type of suffered erosions, make it very similar to the mountains of the Dolomite Alps groups.
Thanks to its elevation, which is much higher than the surrounding chains, the massif is visible from all the main peaks of central Italy. On particularly clear days even from Dalmatians mountain range.

Donatello, 44, Woodcutter

Intermesoli (Pietracamela), 800 m a.s.l.

Since he was twelve, Donatello has always had a strong passion for the mules. He explains that they are an indispensable element in his job. During the year, together with the team he belongs, he collects about 2,500 tons of wood from beech, oak and hornbeam. Almost all the wood is chopped down from woods growing close to the Gran Sasso and loaded on mules, then they carry it downstream.
Lately, together with the State Forestry Department, his team helped with the identification and cutting of maple trees for the construction of treasured violins.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"For me it is a fascinating and dangerous mountain. The only thing that matters to me, is to work together with my magnificent animals, the mules. "

Alessio, 37, Astronomer Researcher

Astronomical Observatory of Campo Imperatore, 2150 m a.s.l.

Together with the Astronomical Observatory of Campo Imperatore, there are in Italy 4 additional professional observatories of the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF):
Asiago (Padua), Loiano (Bologna), Toppo di Castelgrande (Potenza) and Serra La Nave (Catania). Between these, Campo Imperatore Observers is the highest of Italy. It can be considered one of the best in the World for the "quality of the sky".
The official opening of the observatory took place on October the 25th 1965. Since 2001, the Observatory has hosted the international program CINEOS that led to the discovery of 61,000 asteroids and 1,500 new space objects, including six near-Earth objects and a planetoid. He is currently involved in very important worldwide research projects.
By 2017 the two telescopes of Campo Imperatore Observatory (AZT-24 and Schmidt) will be remotely controlled, without the presence of researchers at the station. When this will happen, will only remain technical staff for the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance. Researchers can observe at night from any location, even from home, provided that they have an internet connection!

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
“Let’s say that it is something very intimate that I would never go to declare outside. A while ago, I tried to describe it to my wife as "a place where I can inspire myself and others" ... a magical place to get excited watching the sky getting lost among thousands of stars and then go home and thrill your loved ones around you, thanks to something that stays inside.
When you're under thousands of stars, you can see your life and the world around you from a different point of view.
Also, unlike the past, when everyone use to look at the sky with the naked eye, now only amateurs do so, because even professional astronomers observe the stars behind a computer. Working here at Campo Imperatore is a privilege, because in addition to observing the sky with professional equipment from behind a computer, allows me to observe it with the naked eye ... it's nice to be under thousands of stars, thinking about endless space and ourselves”.

Luca, 53, Mountain hut Manager

Rifugio Carlo Franchetti, 2433 m a.s.l.

The Carlo Franchetti hut, was built in the late 50's by the Roman section of the CAI, it was opened in 1960. Entirely built of limestone and covered with wood stands on a rocky outcrop in the middle of Vallone delle Cornacchie. Located between the faces of Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo, offers a magnificent view, from the gentle hills of Abruzzo/Teramo, to the nearby Adriatic Sea. Luca is member to the Roman section of the Italian Alpine Club since 1977, he served the National Mountain Rescue Corps and since 1988, he operates with the same passion the Carlo Franchetti cabin. The life of a “mountain hut man”, is a totally different life from the others, a life-style committed to the bare necessities in wide open spaces of freedom, nourished by a strong spirit of hospitality and empathy with climbers and mountain people. It is a lifestyle culture and a philosophy that is not born from the sacrifice, from the alienation, but from the knowledge of the unnecessary, from the appreciation of the small things, being self-sufficient.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?

Giocondina, 56, Bartender

Hotel Campo Imperatore, 2200 m a.s.l.

The Hotel was built in the thirties, with the project of the Piedmontese engineer Vittorio Bonadè Bottino, author in the same period of the hotels in Sestriere and hotel Principi di Piemonte in Turin. He became famous in 1943, when, after the Fall of Fascism and the subsequent arrest of Mussolini, was chosen as a prison for the former head of government, waiting to him over to the Allied Forces. Mussolini was brought to Campo Imperatore on August 28, after being held captive in the islands of Ponza and Maddalena, because the Gran Sasso appeared a safer and a more inaccessible place, so that the leader there, thinking to be a goner, he tried to kill himself cutting his veins. On 12 September, however, with a blitz known as Operation Oak, some gliders with a hundred German paratroopers were able to land the plane in front of the hotel and to release the prisoner with the amazement and disorientation of the Italian soldiers, that did not hinder in any way the operation. Giocondina’s grandfather, the forest ranger Pasqualino Vitocco, and the policeman Giovanni Natale were the only two German victims of the operation.
As for his father, he was for many years the driver of the cable railway and, in winter time, is the only way to reach the hotel and the ski slopes. Giocondina remembers that, when she was a young girl, together with some friends and other three hundred people, she was stuck for three days inside the hotel, due to a sudden snow and wind storm. Her skis, leaning there where I photographed her, are no longer found.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"To me, Gran Sasso represents the beautiful scenario that has accompanied my entire life, as well as the hope of an economic development of our communities”.

Guido, 52, National Alpine Rescue and Speleology Department

“Cima Alta”, 1700 m a.s.l.

The Alpine-like areas, the unpredictable weather, made even more extreme by the exposed position between the Tyrrhenian and the Adriatic Sea, make the Gran Sasso a mountain that has an average of two victims per year. Lately, several mountain guides, even with Himalayan experience, have lost their lives during the hiking; helicopter rescue operations are very frequent.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"The Gran Sasso is a fantastic life choice for me, I chose this mountain because it is the only one of the Apennine mountain range that, thanks to the morphological, climatic and height similarities with Alps, gives me the real feeling of living the mountains. Moreover, thanks to its geographical location in latitude and longitude that determine its specific climatic conditions, I have the chance to see an amazing variety of flora and fauna that I can hardly find elsewhere.
When you're in the mountains overlooking the sea, you can’t ask for more!”

Karoline, 33, Researcher

National Laboratories of Gran Sasso, 1000 m a.s.l. (-1400 m)

The Gran Sasso National Laboratory (LNGS) are research laboratories, belonging to the INFN and used to study the physics of particles. They are the largest underground laboratories in the World. The structure consists of an underground part, and an outer part. Both at an altitude above sea level of 1000 m, the underground part is covered by 1,400 meters of Gran Sasso rock. About 1,000 scientists from 32 countries of the world work in about 15 different experiments with which they are researching and studying particles that can reveal new and fascinating secrets about the origin of the universe and the life of stars. Born from an idea of the physicist Antonino Zichichi, their construction began in 1982 in conjunction with the construction of the motorway tunnel of Gran Sasso. Five years later, the first experiments started. The placement under the mountain, can significantly reduce the flux of cosmic rays (also studied) and can simplify the detection of particles such as neutrinos and the researches for dark matter. Laboratories have always been involved in science communication activities for the general public, alongside the intensive research .

Karoline is R&D responsible for COSINUS project, started in 2016. Her main research interests, include experimental physics of the dark matter and double beta decay without emission of neutrinos, using scintillating bolometers as detectors. The use of this cryostat, provides a fairly complex technique for achieving very low temperatures; more specifically, ten-thousandth degree above absolute zero (- 273.15 degrees Celsius).

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"In scientific terms, the Gran Sasso is the most efficient instrument I found in nature to measure my experiments, thanks to the impressive size of the rocky material surrounding the underground laboratories; it works as a filter for cosmic rays, that prevents the researches of the rare events that characterize the dark matter.
In my personal opinion, however, the Gran Sasso is the perfect environment to find the right balance between work commitments and mental relaxation allowing the right concentration, thanks to the countless landscapes where you can enjoy relaxing walks and fun excursions.”

Bakiu, 56, Shepherd

"Fonte Vetica" Campo Imperatore, 1632 m a.s.l.

Bakiu is originally from Macedonia, he is breeding flocks of sheep since he was a child and this is the only job he has always done in his entire life. He moved to Italy to work and he is at the service of an Apulian breeder who, even today, follows the traditional routes of transhumance that connect Abruzzo to Puglia. Just from L'Aquila in fact, begins the "Tratturo Magno" which ends in Foggia and is the longest transhumance route in Italy, today no longer in use.
In “Fonte Vetica” in October the 13th 1919, one of the saddest tragedies of the Gran Sasso took place, when a sudden and unexpected early winter storm, caused the death of 5,000 sheep, their shepherd, Pupo Nunzio from Roio, and two of his young children. His wife seeking them, went mad with grief .
Even today there is a monument and a memorial stone commemorating this shocking episode.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"A mountain."

Claudio, 59, Mountain Guide

"Sella Dei Due Corni”, 2575 m a.s.l.

On 19 August 1573, a 69 years old military engineer, Francesco De Marchi, together with Francesco Di Domenico, reached the peak of the Gran Sasso. Old documents tells that the peak was already conquered earlier by some chamois hunters, including even Francesco Di Domenico himself, thus chosen as a guide, becoming, in fact, the first Italian mountain guide.
Claudio is one of the last alpinists member of to the historical group of “Aquilotti del Gran Sasso”, established in Pietracamela, a small town near the mountain, around 1925. This group gave rise to extraordinary seasons of mountaineering achievements, opening many of the most technical pathways of Gran Sasso. Besides being a witness and guardian of this historical past, he is one of the guides who leads today many novices and lovers, through the many routes.
The “Sella dei Due Corni” is the meeting point between the two main peaks, the “Grande Corno” and the “Piccolo Corno”.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"The Gran Sasso and the meeting point between sky and earth, the ideal place where I can release my spirit and wander in the immensity of the Great Elements, looking for strong emotions and inner feelings, deep, ineffable, often far from common sensitivity’.

Mario, 58, Gran Sasso Tunnel’s Technical Manager

Assergi "Strada dei Parchi A24", 1000 m a.s.l.

The tunnel of the Gran Sasso is a road tunnel, made up of two-lane one-way traffic, which runs through the Apennines under the Gran Sasso massif, in Abruzzo. It is part of the A24 motorway, linking Rome to the Adriatic Sea via L'Aquila and Teramo. It is used as a route to access the underground National Institute of Nuclear Physics laboratories.
10 km long, is the third longest road tunnel in Italy after the Frejus Tunnel and the Mont Blanc tunnel, and the longest road tunnel which runs only Italian territory; it is also the longest twin-tube tunnel road in Europe . During its construction, eleven workers died; one of the worst incident, interrupted the work for about two years. It was inaugurated in 1984 by Prime Minister Bettino Craxi.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"I do not know what Gran Sasso mountain is for me, I prefer the sea. But I know everything that has to do with the gallery, a tunnel that allowed the connection of two areas of Abruzzo separated by a mountain range, that prevented any other easier connection attempt. A mountain that hides one of the biggest research institute in the World. In its bowels, man opened a safe path between the mountain world and the ones that faces the sea. A tunnel that offered jobs to many people and where complex systems allows the motorway traffic. "

Alessandra, 42, Chief Superintendent of the State Forestry Department

“Laghetto Pietranzoni", 1850 m a.s.l.

Gran Sasso area, became a national park in 1991 (the third largest in Italy); it has a unique wildlife heritage and a delicate and controversial relationship with the man, who has always lived in the mountains. There are about 4 pairs of Golden Eagles, as well as many other birds of prey. Important is the presence of Marsican Brown Bears and Wolves. The ancient hatreds between man and wolf, in the last century has brought the near extinction of wolves in the Apennines - only thanks to a protection work, has seen in recent years the number of specimens growing . Following numerous cases of killing and poisoning by farmers and mountain people, the State Forestry Department has implemented the guard dogs breeding projects for flocks, to be given to local shepherds. In addition to this, with "LIFE" project, we established a specialized unit of agents, qualified to train poison dogs. Alessandra has been the first in Italy to obtain the assignment for the training of Dingo, a Belgian Shepherd, in order to prevent the wildlife poisoning problem. 2017 have see the dissolution of the State Forestry Corps, is absorbed by the Carabinieri department.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"A unique place in the world that should be valued, in order to promote it as much as possible for the uniqueness, the wealth of biodiversity, the incredible and breathtaking scenery, the animals to protect, so that future generations can fully enjoy their beauty."

Vasilli, 42, Climbing Instructor

"Via dell'Immondezzaio", 2200 m a.s.l.

The Gran Sasso offers countless climbing routes, both classical and sporting ones, with many levels of difficulty.
The most popular routes, especially for rock quality, lie on the shoulders of the Little Horn, while those seeking seclusion and adventure, finds their place on the "Paretone". The most used, are the Aquilotti’s pathways (the historical group founded in the thirties in Pietracamela), the Vecchiaccio, etc. whilst the most beautiful sport routes are mostly found on the famous “Monolito” in front of the Rifugio Franchetti; fantastic limestone, holes and technical pathways. Some names: Golem, Kronos, Emanuela.
There are many stories about climbing this mountain. One that Vasilli reminds more often, is linked to the figure of the “Vecchiaccio”(Geezer), the name of a pathway on the Gran Sasso. His real name was Vito Plumari born in 1919, a Roman janitor with Sicilian origin, who had fought in the war of Russia; he had no longer the big toe because of a freezing, so he used to place a cork in his boot when he had to climb. There are photographs of him while climbing on the Piccolo Corno dated 1993. A unique figure who also impressed Manolo and Heinz Mariacher who called him “the only true mountaineer, the one that climbs for himself only, a shaman like Don Juan, in Castaneda's books”.

What is for you the Gran Sasso?
"A punch in my heart every time I see it. I always imagine to be there, at the top with my friends climbing, skiing ... getting lost.
I prefer it with a winter white dress”!
2024 © Alessandro D’Angelo
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