An appeal to canoeists: put a wetsuit in your backpack before exploring the Aterno River in L'Aquila territory, within the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park. According to tradition, its waters are the coldest in Italy.
Certainly, in the stretch through the San Venanzio Gorges, the river is particularly rough, which is why they have equipped the trail with ropes to use in case of danger.
Because the Aterno is this, beauties, and you don't mess with it.
You're looking at the major stream in the region with its 145 kilometres in length, with a reservoir of about 3188 square kilometres and an average annual flow of about 53.6 cubic metres/sec.
It originates from the headwaters of Mount Civitella near Aringo, at an altitude of 1,616 metres, in a place known as the "fishpond" and is fed by numerous streams that descend from Gran Sasso.
In the section from the headwaters area to L'Aquila, through fields and cart tracks, you can skirt the river on paths and unpaved roads that can be traveled by foot or mountain bike, to discover mills, parishes and ancient towns. Of the many mills that dotted the riverbanks, only those near Pizzoli are still active.
After touching the Abruzzo capital and its plains, the rio enters the narrow San Venanzio Gorges up to Raiano, where the San Venanzio Gorges Nature Reserve is located.
It is a highly evocative stretch where the Aterno has its own language of darts, rapids and jumps; then, magically, it quiets down after passing the Hermitage of San Venanzio, set in the rock in a spectacular natural setting.
Don't miss a visit to the religious monument, built in the late 15th century and the beginning of the following one, with the interior preserving remains of 16th-century frescoes, the 16th-century Compianto, which can be accessed by walking through the corridor of the hermit cells with ex votos.
As you can see, the landscape changes. The spaces become wider, the slopes gentler, the rocks disappear and its waters slow down.
Near Popoli, the river loses its personality by joining the Sagittario River, thus taking the name Aterno-Pescara. But that is another story. Stories of rivers, of cultures, of landscapes, of nature.