Review of the magnificent itinerary to the Towers of Casanova on the Gran Sasso massif. The route known as the Sentiero del Centenario is a long and challenging ridge itinerary that connects many mountains and includes the Ferrata Famigliari that climbs to some more marked ridges. There are many unprotected and exposed sections where caution is required and a steady step. Long way back. Ideal to be divided into two days.
The starting point of the itinerary is on the road to reach Campo Imperatore in the province of L'Aquila. Leaving the SS 117 between Fonte Cerreto and Castel Del Monte following for Campo Imperatore we will reach a hairpin bend to the left after about 6 km. Near the bend there is a dirt track on the right towards a picnic area already visible from the road. We will leave the car in this clearing to undertake the trip.
Directions for Google Maps available here.
Leave the car near the picnic area and follow the wide path that goes up towards the ridge. The path in this stretch is actually a dirt road that leads us in about 30 minutes to a crossroads near the Vado di Corno: we ignore the path that goes up to the left for Monte Aquila and we keep to the right starting in fact the long ridge of the Path of the Centenary. We follow the yellow and red stamps with signpost 235. Very beautiful this first section with a view of the Campo Imperatore plateau in a steep climb along the ridge that will lead us to Mount Brancastello. We ignore the fork that leads to Pizzo San Gabriele and we reach Mount Brancastello (2385 m - ca 2h from the parking lot).
We continue on the ridge in the direction of the Towers of Casanova along a scenic stretch of ridge on a good path. We then reach the start of the Ferrata Famigliari at the Toranova di Casanova (2280 m - 2h 45 'from the parking lot).
The Via Ferrata initially presents a metal ladder and other aided sections to reach the Torre di Casanova in about 20 minutes. The via ferrata is not difficult and the rock is well climbable. We climb diagonally or on short rocky slopes. We meet another stair, some new aided passages and we then reach the Towers of Casanova (2365 m - 20 'from the start of the via ferrata - ca 3h from the beginning).
Up to this point the technical difficulties have been rather limited. We go down on a saddle between the two towers, then it again up meeting a sign of the Path of the Centenary. We continue keeping the left on a narrow ledge going down towards a new saddle: on the left a track follows a sharp ridge, we will keep the yellow-red markings on the right the Path of the Centenary that goes down steeply avoiding the ridge. We reach a characteristic saddle that we cross and, with the help of some wire ropes, we reach the Saddle of Santa Colomba (2260 m - ca 3h 45 'total). The traits just passed have a rather slippery bottom and you need to be very careful.
From the saddle you climb again a series of aided sections that lead us to the Monte Infornace (2469 m - 20 'from the saddle), we pass it and ignore the deviation to the right towards the Canala. We continue straight on the main ridge until it reaches the Saddle (2420 m) that separates Mount Infornace from Monte Prena. Let's start with a series of aided sections until reaching the summit of Monte Prena (2561 m - about 6h total).
Starting again from the Monte Prena in short, we will have to pay attention not to follow the yellow-red signs from which we would undertake the Brancadoro Mountaineering Path. We turn to see a curious stuck stone. We will keep the left to lose quickly altitude following the track that leads us to the ridge which will lead us to the last part of the trail to Monte Camicia. Attention to the difficulties of this part of the path called "Costa di Ferruccio". From the Vado di Ferruccio (2245 m) we ignore the paths that come off and we walk along a long ridge, with some treacherous stretches due to the debris bottom, until we reach Mount Camicia (2564 m - 8h total).
From Monte Camicia we now begin a stretch of descent that will lead us to the end of the Centenary Trail, not before having looked over our shoulder at the long ridge just past. We go down on path 8A which goes along a long semi-circle going down into the Vallone di Vradda until we reach a saddle from which we descend to Fonte Vetica where the Path of the Centenary ends (1h 45 'from Monte Camicia - 10h from the parking lot).
At this point we will have to go back to the parking lot and we will have some alternatives. The ideal would be hitchhiking or a second vehicle. Alternatively you reach the road leading to Campo Imperatore and following it you will reach the car. Alternatively, there is a network of paths that run parallel to a lower level between the slopes of the Centenary Trail. The only risk with the latter option is to further extend the return.
Leaving the car in the location indicated in the report it will be necessary to travel almost 18 km on a paved road or along some paths along the hillside. Ideal to break the itinerary in two days by spending the night at Rifugio De Carolis.
The path is named after the anniversary of the section of L'Aquila of the CAI and was inaugurated in 1974. In 2019 the equipment was modernized in almost the entire path.
The Gran Sasso massif includes many aided routes. From Campo Imperatore it is possible to undertake the Ferrata Brizio, the Ferrata to the Bafile Shelter and the Ferrata Danesi. Although it is also possible to go up to the Corno Piccolo from Campo Imperatore, we suggest the itinerary departing from Prati di Tivo linking the Aided path Ventricini and the Ferrata Ricci.
Approach: 2:45 h
Ferrata: 1:15 h
Itinerary: 13:00 h
Via Ferrata gap: 80 m
Route difference: 759 m
Max altitude: 2564 m
Length: 35 Km
Mountain Group: Appenino Abruzzese