The Freedom Trail is a 3-day 60km hike over the Majella mountain starting in Sulmona and following a route via Campo di Giove, Palena, Lama dei Peligni to Casoli and then back to Sulmona via bus. It follows the route taken by many prisoners of war from Campo 78 in September 1943. Now in its 15th year, it’s a popular event and attracts hundreds of participants. If you enjoy walking (and it’s not a race but a mass stroll) and would enjoy the opportunity to make new friends from all over the world, then this is for you! Keep in touch with the Freedom Trail’s official site to find out about the dates for 2016.
Read on for a recap of this year’s trail by our new guest blogger Patrizio Cantelmi. Authentic Abruzzese and mountain enthusiast, this is the first in a series of blog post he’ll be writing for Welcome to Sulmona. Enjoy!
At first you think it’s only a three-day trek that retraces the historic path of the Allied prisoners towards freedom.
However it takes very little, to make you understand how they will be 3 days not only of strong emotions, new friendships and sincere, hard work but a dip in the history of our Italy, and of our Abruzzo – really strong and gentle.
The trek starts from Campo 78 at Fonte d’Amore, the field from which the Allied prisoners fled in September 1943. Within a few areas of the camp you can still feel the atmosphere of those times, thanks to the graffiti still visible on the walls.
Along the way the “Freedom Walkers” form a long column, made up of young and old, students arriving from all over Italy and a few foreigners too. “But is it true that there are bloggers here from the company Dolomite?” someone asks. Yes, it is true, this year Michele Della Palma and Marco Allegri are also walking with us as special guests of Dolomite, a historical Italian sport brand and sponsor of the Freedom Trail.
Some already love hiking in the mountains, for others this is their first experience… no matter what, all you need is the right spirit, and what really matters is that we all live under one sky and share the same values.
The first 4 km lead to one of Sulmona’s High Schools: “E. Fermi”, where it all started more than fifteen years ago. Teachers Adelaide Strizzi and Tonino Cicerone lead the group, tireless and precious organisers.
We keep walking to Sulmona’s historical centre, and from there continue on the route that leads up to Campo di Giove. After a day of hiking under the sun, our arrival in the little town centre is greeted by a fanfare from the Alpini, and the whole village welcomes us with in what feels like a heart-warming embrace.
As the first day comes to an end, we feel tired but at the same time gratified by having reached our first milestone, the first step towards freedom for those who walked this path in 1943.
We wake up to our second day feeling a bit bruised, but the motivation you feel around in the campsite among the other walkers helps you soothe any pain… Our goal for the day is the ascent toward the Guado di Coccia (1674 m.a.s.l.). The impressive Majella massif and Mount Porrara, and its continuation towards the south, mark the boundary between the vast Valle Peligna and the alto Aventino. Overcoming the Guado di Coccia meant for the Allied prisoners that they were virtually free. It’s here on these mountains, though, that the first martyr of the Freedom Trail lost his life: his name was Ettore De Corti, pilot Lieutenant. We stopped in a large group for a touching commemoration, and listen to wise words from Professor Mario Setta, and a trumpet playing “The Silence”.
We get back on track and start tackling the descent that leads down to Palena and then, along the route towards Taranta Peligna. Our path is enriched by new friends, who all walk together on this second day along part of the Gustav Line. We finally reach the shrine dedicated to the Brigata Majella (the Abruzzese Partisan group who were decorated with the Gold Medal of Military Valour), where every year the cultural Association “Freedom Trail” lays a plaque in memory and in honour of the fallen.
The third day, the last of this journey, feels particularly special.
After about 65 km of travelling, reaching Casoli – on the other side of the Majella massif – to take part in the official parade makes you feel really good. It makes you feel proud, like part of a wider picture, and you can’t help but think of those men who walked along those very same steps, more than seventy years ago, of their motivation and history. Only now can you really understand what’s behind this magical path, and only now do you understand why someone would want to walk this path, year after year, all over again and travel along these mountain roads.
Place of departure: Campo 78 – Fonte d’Amore (435 m.a.s.l.)
Stopovers: Campo di Giove (overnight Day 1), Taranta Peligna (overnight Day 2)
Place of arrival: Casoli
Distance: about 65 km
Highest point: Guado di Coccia – 1674 m.a.s.l.