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Hermitage San Giovanni all’Orfento in the Majella National Park, Abruzzo – how to get there and what to expect.


I should have published this post a year ago just after hiking in Abruzzo in June, but I don’t think anything if it comes to the trail to the Eremo di San Giovanni all’Orfento has changed. I believe there are no changes also if it comes to bears.

There are bears in Majella Park.

Abruzzo is known not only for its beauty and its wildlife.
The mascot or maybe rather the symbol of the Majella Park is a bear. Bearing it in my mind, I spent hours reading everything I could learn about the bears before hitting the trail. I just didn’t want to be eaten by one of them while trekking around, even if people are not on the bears’ menu. Just in case, I also read about a grizzly and a black bear. You never know, maybe one day I’ll end up in Alaska, so it’s good to know how to deal with these lovely animals. Anyway, I also learned that the brown marsican bear that lives in Abruzzo is a little different from its cousins; it’s shy and avoids people.

The track to Hermitage San Giovanni all’Orfento is one of the longer tracks in Majella Park.

Even though it’s not particularly difficult (except for a few funny parts), it can take 6-7 hours to do it. At the end of the trail, you can see and visit a 12th-century hermitage carved in the rock.

map of the track to eremo di san giovanni.
The map of the track to Hermitage di San Giovanni.

Before setting off on the track, visit the Caramico visitor centre.

And register yourself saying where are you going to go. Honestly, I thought it was because of the safety and the bears (maybe it is), but mainly because the management of the Park wants to know how many people go on the track and to control the number of tourists walking around the Majella Park. The Caramico visitor center is in La Valle dell’Orfento.

The Hermitage San Giovanni all’Orfento track starts in Caramico Terme. We got there by car, left the car in the small park, found route S (it’s very close to the park), and started walking. I have already mentioned that we did the path in June. The weather was lovely and sunny, and it was bloody hot. Fortunately, I had a big hat with me and I’m sure thanks to it my head didn’t boil, as the long part of the trail is solely in the sun.

a woman walking through green track in mountains
Just walking.

Take a lot of water with you if you want to do the trail in the summer.

At the beginning, we were walking in the wood when I heard a weird sound behind me. Everything that I read an evening before about bear quickly run through my mind. I wanted to be attacked from behind, so I turned around and saw a beautiful doe looking at me with big brown eyes. Then it jumped away. It was an amazing short encounter.  I’m always thrilled when I can encounter a wild animal, especially when it doesn’t want to eat me. And actually in The Majella Park you can spot wild animals pretty often. At the edge of the wood we spotted a fountain and luckily we filled with water 2 empty plastic bottles we hadn’t thrown away.

The Majella Park might be very sunny.

Therefore be prepared for a lot of sun on the track. Then we went out to the vast highlands bathed in the sun.

Green mountains in Abruzzo.
A huge part of the paths in the sun.

 

After just several minutes I was already ready to die: there was no shadow at all. We spend over 1.3 hours walking in such conditions. I cannot say I enjoyed it. It was about midday, the climbing up in the full sun was hard.I stopped every few minutes under the pretext of taking a picture, but really just to catch my breath. With tongue on the chin, Curling, I reached the edge of the highlands and, hallelujah! I saw a fountain with fresh mountain water.

There are many forests in  the Majella Park, but this one was a bit odd. 

The next part of the path leads through the forest, actually a pretty weird forest. The tree trunks were in odd brown-grey, curved probably from winds and snow and they grew in an unnatural order. I think the forest was natural, it was too old for being planted by people.

grey trunk trees
A weird forest.

 

The forest was dusky, even the sun was piercing through their crowns. The air was fresh, but weirdly heavy and standing still. And it was very quite. There was something disturbing about it, it was like inscrutable forests from tale fairies. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a pack of orcs, wolves, bears and anything else jumped on us. We stopped there to eat sandwiches anyway.

Then there are more surprises.

The forest ends the road uphill, next, we got into next wood and then got down.

green grass and foresty with a mountain track
Second part of the track goes down.

 

Doing this part I was pretty happy I got my sticks. The track down is not tough, but if you have bad knees, as I have, it might be a bit tricky. Actually finding the right path was not so easy either, as there were no signs, so basically we followed just something that looked like a footpath and after more or less 10 min of stepping down, we saw something that looked like the goal of our hiking.

I was wrong thinking that the most difficult of the track we left behind us.

Hermits had the habit of living in strange spots, and this hermitage is in a difficult-to-reach place. Getting inside the cave where is the hermitage might be a wee challenge for those who don’t have a head for heights. I’m telling you why:


Firstly we had to get down again. The passage is rather narrow, but there are kinds of handles in the rock, you can hold on so it’s not so bad. Then, if you want to see the hermitage inside, you have to follow a path carved at a height of 4-5 meters into a steep wall.

stairs carved in a steep mountain rock
The way to the hermitage.

 

It’s more or less 8m long and then the last few meters you have to crawl. Literally. Crawling is the only option to get to the hermitage. You have a rock over your head and a chasm of several meters under your belly. Basically you are the stuffing of a rock sandwich

path carved in a steep mountain rock
A walkable part of the way to the hermitage.

 

I didn’t get into the hermitage. There were people inside the cave, so we had to wait for them to leave. After several min, we gave up, and actually, I was rather happy because of it. I don’t think I would like crawling between rocks. You can check on Youtube Eremo di San Giovanni all’Orfento in the Majella Park and you’ll see what it looks like and decide whether you would like to see the hermitage inside. Let me know under the post if you ever visited Eremo.

path carved in a steep mountain rock
Hermitge di Giovanni all’Orfento.

 

 

 

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