Before entering the National Park of the Gran Sasso, we stop off at Castelli, where to admire an art form which has prospered in this area since the 15th century when the Benedictine monks conscientiously worked the mixture of water and clay so as to transform it in to exquisite pieces of ceramic. Approximately 1km from the town of Castelli, visitors have the opportunity to witness a superb example of the technique. Defined by Carlo Levi as Italy's Majolica Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of San Donato boasts a ceiling covered in 780 decorative tiles dating back to the early 17th century. Those visiting the Francesco Grue Institute of Art have the opportunity to admire the International Collection of Contemporary Ceramic, which includes some 500 works by artists from more than 50 countries, and a monumental nativity scene constructed by the pupils of the institute between 1965 an 1975.

Travelling onwards in the direction of Farindola, we soon find ourselves in the territory of the National park of the Gran Sasso and the Monti della Laga. This is where one of the main information points, the Chamois Museum, and a Geological Observatory are all located. The chamois is considered to be the king of the Park, especially since the number of bears and wolves, once prolific in the area, have been reduced to a few dozen. The porous limestone terrain makes the place similar to parts of the Scottish Highlands, and the ideal habitat for the oak tree. This is where to find the Calderone glacier and the highest peak of the Apennines: the 2912 meter high Corno Grande.

The next part of our journey takes us to Campo Imperatore, a vast high plain some 1600 meters above sea level. After 26kms we come to Fonte Cerreto, home to a famous cable car station. It was here that the fleeing Fascist ruler Benito Mussolini was captured by the Germans in 1943. Today the place is above all a ski resort and an excellent place from where to head in to the mountains. Close by lies Assergi, the administrative center of the park. Those wishing to taste the gastronomic specialities of the region should head for Camarda and Paganica, towns famous for their excellent dairy products and cured meats.

At Castel del Monte, a network of museums reveals the secrets of the transumanza - the passage of sheep from the high ground in the hills to winter pastures nearer the coast and vice versa which occurs twice a year. The museum of Rocca Calascio, is situated between the picturesque town of Castelvecchio Calvisio and Santo Stefano di Sessanio, the destiny of the latter linked to that of the Italian-Swedish philosopher Daniele Kihlgren who, whilst travelling through the mountain landscape by motorbike came across the tiny, all but disserted, village and decided to settle here and initiate a comprehensive restoration project which was to include a great number of buildings including the medieval Palazzo delle Loggette. In recognition of the philosopher's efforts, the Association of Small Towns has included Santo Stefano in the exclusive club of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. So as to increase ones knowledge of the biodiversity of this territory, its well worth taking time to visit the town of Barisciano, and its Apennine Flora Research Center run by the Park authorities in collaboration with the University of Camerino.