I had ridden to the coast from the foothills of the Maiella in the past but had taken the state road. Though it’s not necessarily an ugly ride, I wanted the flair the winding roads offer while riding through the lush hillside.The ride From San Martino sulla Marrucina to Fossacesia Marina via Casoli was the longest route of our planned rides this week, and one we had very much looked forward to. Rain was forecast for midafternoon but I said “Hey, we’ll surely be back by then.” More on that later. Carla, the owner of Agriturismo La Brocca, even packed us a lunch. We thanked her but mentioned she shouldn’t have gone to all that trouble since we could pick something up… she cut us off with “This is better.” as she pushed us out the door. Never argue! Grazie, Carla.
Riding towards Guardagriele, the route begins on a slight descent and gradually begins to creep upwards. But it’s so gradual, one barely notices it. And just before the steeper section towards the centre of Guardiagrele begins, we veer to the left, staying on the main road, and cruise towards Casoli.
On a side note: If you would like to extend the route with a little side trip to the historical centre of Guardiagrele it’s definitely worth the time and effort. If you haven’t had breakfast yet, I can highly recommend riding up and grabbing a ‘Sise delle Monache-da-portare-via’ (‘Nun’s Ti**ies-to-go) at Emo Lullo’s on Via Roma, the main corso, and enjoying it with a cappuccino at Bar Fil (located just around the corner, beside the Duomo). Yes, I’ve done this on many occasions even if I didn’t have a 90K+ ride planned – repeat offender, guilty as charged!
Tip: It’s probably better if you consume your pastry outside (on the bench or standing) rather than inside… just out of respect because you’re “bringing your own food”.Guardiagrele is a beautiful medievel town known for its wrought-iron, copper craft and its goldsmiths. The most famous being from the 14th century, Nicola da Guardiagrele. The people are friendly, there are good restaurants, shops and cafés.
One of my favourite wineries in Abruzzo is located in Guardiagrele: Azienda Agricola Nicola Santoleri, now run by his son Giovanni. The wines are definitely worth seeking out.
Let’s ride on to Casoli, shall we? It’s all easy sailing from here to the coast. There are a couple of small climbs but they aren’t even worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning is the fantastic scenery and winding roads. If you love getting into a tuck position and just riding fast, you will love this stretch of road.One thing you will notice is the predominance of olive orchards: the area between Guardiagrele and Casoli is known as olive oil country. Some of the best olive oil producers in the country, this is not an overstatement, are located here. One of them being Tommaso Masciantonio, who’s family established the ‘Trappeto di Caprafico’ in 1874 and is regarded as a true master of his craft. His organic olive oils and olive patés are truly exquisite. As of late they started producing two Pecorino wines but I haven’t had the opportunity to taste them yet. Some stretches of road are noticeably in need of TLC but considering the amount of cyclists we encountered on this stretch, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. The scenery definitely makes up for the odd pothole. You can’t miss Casoli, perched on a hilltop, in the distance. Our ride grazes the outskirts of the historical town, which was first recorded in 878 AD, named ‘castri de Casule’ at the time – thank you Wikipedia.
Once we veer left, descending towards the coast, we pass through an industrial area but the traffic wasn’t heavy at all. This section gets considerably flatter as we ride along, surrounded by open pastures and barely a car in sight. We also discovered a small biotope at the edge of the Sangro River with many rare regional plants and flowers – the advantages of riding rather than driving. The ride is parallel to the busier SS652 but we barely take notice.
The prize after this extended, fantastic and gradual descent is Fossacesia Marina and ‘La Costa dei Trabocchi’ where we paused for lunch just a stone’s throw from the Seafood Restaurant ‘Trabocco Punta Rocciosa’. Carla was right, the panini she made us were pretty dang good and she even threw some fresh fruit and a few cookies in for good measure.Needless to say, the view and atmosphere was too good to be true so time flew by. So quickly in fact, that we didn’t even notice how much the storm clouds built up behind us – to the west. We jumped back on our bikes and rode up the coast past San Vito Chietino and made our way land inward, towards Poggiofiorito. By this time we knew we were going to have to bite the bullet and pedal through the storm. The 2nd time this week. By the looks of the thick black clouds, this was going to be more than just a quick shower. Oh well, the view and the lunch in Fossacesia Marina were more than worth it. There’s not much more to add to the story other than the fact that we paused for 20-30 minutes during the heaviest downpour and just soldiered on uphill through the rain for the next 30K. Therefore sightseeing and taking iPhone pics wasn’t necessarily on the agenda. But it was a fantastic ride and a great experience nonetheless.
Guess when the sun came out again? Go figure.
Ride safe, ride ON, ride far and drink slow.If you enjoyed this ride description, maybe you’ll enjoy the others in the Abruzzo series:
Mentioned in this article:
Agriturismo La Brocca
Via Fonte Giardino, 39
66010 San Martino sulla Marrucina
+39 0871 809100
Room prices are €50 p. night based on double occupancy and includes a simple Italian breakfast. The restaurant offers four course menus with typical homemade regional delicacies (including wine, water and espresso) for only €16,00 per person.
Azienda Agricola Nicola Santoleri
Via Cavalieri, 20
Nicola Santoleri passed away prematurely in 2007 but his legacy lives on through his son Giovanni. The winery continues to produce fantastic small batch wines and also offers older vintages. Their barrel cellar is located in the heart of Guardiagrele. Visits are possible (by appointment only).
Piazza S. Maria Maggiore, 5
+39 0871 83942
Bar Fil is located adjacent to the Duomo of Guardiagrele and their patio in the main piazza is a great place for people-watching and enjoying a coffee, aperitivo or gelato. Good coffee and fair prices.
Pasticceria Emo Lullo
Via Roma, 105
+39 0871 82242
Nestled in a small shop on Via Roma since 1889, just a stone’s throw from the Duomo of Guardiagrele, this pastry shop is run by 4th generation baker Emo Lullo. His family is renowned for their “Sise delle Monache” (Nun’s Ti**ies) and a medley of other handmade regional desserts. A true master. Definitely worth a visit.
Trappeto di Caprafico
Località Caprafico, 35
+39 0871 897457
Tommaso Masciantonio’s family have been respected olive oil producers since 1874. They have been producing organically for over a decade and their products are of the highest quality.
Trabocco Punta Rocciosa
66022 Fossacesia Marina
+39 339 217 4435
We haven’t had the pleasure of eating here yet but the ‘trabocchi’ restaurants are all well respected for the quality they offer. The fantastic view and unique dining experience is included in the price. And regardless of the ‘trabocco’ you may choose to visit, reserving in advance is highly recommendable.