ABRUZZO SURF & TURF – 94K LOOP

From San Martino sulla Marrucina to Fossacesia

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 definitely wanted the flair the winding roads offer while riding through the hillside.

The ride From San Martino sulla Marrucina to Fossacesia via  Casoli was the longest route of our planned rides this week and one we had been looking forward to. Rain was forecast for mid-afternnon on this day but we thought “Hey, we’ll be back by then.” More on that later. Carla, the owner of Agriturismo La Brocca, packed us some sandwiches and fruit for our ride. We thanked her but mentioned she didn’t have to go to the 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. So gradual, you barely notice it. And just before the steeper section towards the centre of Guardiagrele begins, we stick to 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’ (Nun’s Ti**ies) to go at Emo Lullo’s on Via Roma, the main corso, and consuming it with a cappucino at Bar Fil (located just around the corner, beside the Duomo). Yes, I’ve done this on many an occasion even if I didn’t have a 90K+ tour ahead of me. Repeat offender, guilty as charged!

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 the region is also 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 some 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 in the distance as it’s perched on a hilltop. Our ride grazes the town but considering I’ve never been to Casoli (shame on me), it has a lot of history and the medieval name ‘castri de Casule’ was first recorded in 878 AD – 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 – 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 pause 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 a few cookies in there 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 the storm cloud build behind us. We jumped back on our bikes and rode up the coast past San Vito Chietino and made our way land inward, toward Poggiofiorito.

By this time we knew we were going to have to bite the bullet and pedal through the storm. 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 was more than worth it.

Panoramic pic: to the left, the road behind us and to the right, the road ahead.

There’s not much more to add to the story other than the fact that we paused for 20-30 minutes during the hardest downpour and just soldiered on uphill through the rain for the next 30K. Therefore sightseeing 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 and ride ON!

Mentioned in this article:

Azienda Agricola Nicola Santoleri
Via Cavalieri, 20
66016 Guardiagrele
www.nicolasantoleri.com

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).

Bar Fil
Piazza S. Maria Maggiore, 5
66016 Guardiagrele
+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
66016 Guardiagrele
+39 0871 82242
www.pasticcerialullo.it

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
66043 Casoli
+39 0871 897457
www.trappetodicaprafico.com

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
SS16
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.