L'itinerario ha inizio dallo splendido borgo di Villavallelonga a 1005 metri d'altezza, nel cuore del Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo Lazio e Molise. Da piazza largo Fontana, nei pressi del municipio, ci si tiene a destra per imboccare via Canale in direzione sud; dopo 100 metri, si gira a destra e si raggiunge l’ingresso del Museo dell'Orso che merita senz’altro una visita.
Regional Natural Park of Sirente-Velino
The Regional Natural Park of Sirente-Velino, established in 1989, covers 54361 hectares, with headquarters in Rocca di Mezzo and covers 22 municipalities in the province of L'Aquila. The Velino and Sirente massifs offer the visitor many interesting reasons. Known to skiers for the presence of the slopes of Ovindoli and Campo Felice, these mountains are very popular with hikers. The two limestone massifs, including the highlands of the Rocche, of Pezza and of the Prati del Sirente, are characterized by karstic fields and rocky walls, from the gorges of Celano and San Venanzio and from the caves of Stiffe.
The plant landscape of the Park is significantly different in the two massifs and in the basal areas. Among the beech-woods, the Sirente, Cerchiata and Cerasolo valleys stand out. Further down, on the slope of the Arno, there are oak woods, while holm oaks appear in the gorges. The Apennine wolf, the Marsican brown bear, the roe deer, the deer, the hedgehog, the fox, the wild cat and the wild boar, which are flanked by many small mammals, live in the Park. Among the birds stand out the golden eagle, the buzzard, the brown kite, the sparrow-hawk, the kestrel, the raven, the griffin, the peregrine falcon, the lanario, the owl and the green woodpecker.
The historical, cultural and artistic heritage preserved by the Park is of great importance, and the contribution made by this central area of Abruzzo to history and the formation of the identity profile of the region is very remarkable. The Velino area played an important role both in Prehistory and in the Italo-Roman period, as evidenced by the presence in Massa d'Albe of one of the most important cities of ancient Abruzzo, Alba Fucens. The Valle Subequana, on the other hand, is naturally and historically connected with the events of the Aquila basin, both in its phase of ancient settlement in the Italic era, as evidenced by the extraordinary necropolis of Fossa, and in the Middle Ages.
Because of the beauty and the state of conservation of its castles, its monastic convents, its abbeys and its inhabited centers, this area is preserved among the best testimonies of medieval Abruzzo. On the Rocche plateau, pastoralism was already practiced in protohistoric age. Its inhabited centers, however, have medieval origins, a period in which the plateau gained importance first military, as a link between the Fucino and the Aquila basin, and then economic, with its high pastures and its high-altitude seasonal crops. Absolutely to visit the seasonal farming villages of Pagliare di Tione, Fontecchio, Fagnano, located at the eastern edge of the plateau, unique places linked to the integrated economy between mountain farming and vertical transhumance.