Situated in the Abruzzi Region of Central Italy, I think I drove past Celano a thousand times on the way to somewhere else, probably always the same three or four places, doing the same three or four things. Things I used to love, that’s for sure, but that became limiting if turned into the only existing ones in life. As it always happens, after all.
Now that I’ve visited the area between Celano and Ovindoli twice (by chance) in a couple of weeks, doing different activities and exploring different itineraries, I wonder: where have I been all this time? What was I waiting to explore more? Why was I so sure there was nothing to see there?
If you need to learn a lesson, tell nature you’re ready and she’ll provide you with one straight away.
The first time
My first time around these mountains was with my adventuring companion Daniele. We got passionate about biking a few months ago (or at least I did), so we decided to begin to truly explore the surroundings with our bikes and maybe get ready for a nice bike travel this summer.
The mountain biking loop that runs through Celano, Ovindoli and Aielli looked like a good one, with beautiful landscapes and the right amount of engagement: 34 km, with an elevation gain of 870 mt.
The itinerary is either uphill or downhill, except for a very short flat section. Past the first “why am I here?” kind of breathless and struggling feeling, the opportunity to explore such a wide variety of landscapes in such a short amount of time had the upper hand, turning it into a wowing experience.
When we reached the plateau right above Aielli, a stunning view opened before us. Places we would have never imagined, nor reached for any other reason. None of the activities we used to do in the past would have taken us there.
Hadn’t we opened our lives to new things and new possibilities, we would have never seen anything like that and we would have probably kept thinking that area didn’t have much to offer.
Opening to new activities and possibilities has been a long process for both of us. In different ways and for different reasons, climbing used to be the only possible and acceptable outdoor activity. Welcoming new opportunities has been a difficult process, which included also closure, anger, pain and acceptance among the others.
Nevertheless, change never disappoints. It’s powerful, worth it and always incredibly appropriate. When you change, a whole new discovery unravels. Yet, to let life surprise us and accept something other than what we already know is always an hard one. To question whether what we do and where we are really are the only things and places where life can happen. True exploration requires change, after all, otherwise it’s just a masked comfort zone.
Just a little warning: at the moment, there’s a rather big tree avalanche along the itinerary, so be ready to load your bike on your shoulder at some point.
The second time
Once I came back from our biking experience, I was still so amazed by the beauty of what I saw and did, I couldn’t stop talking about it and really wanted to show it to my faithful hiking buddy Veronica.
Of course, the lesson still hadn’t sink enough, so I thought of taking her through the same exact itinerary, because I thought it was the only way possible. Then my mountain leader friend Giacomo invited us to go trekking with him in a new place he wanted to check out. So we decided to follow him. When I asked where we were headed, “Serra di Celano” he said. Oh, hi lesson!
Of course, the trekking itinerary to Serra di Celano wasn’t the same we did when biking, and now again, hadn’t we hiked all the way to the summit, we would have never seen such a beautiful and majestic place. Griffons flying in the sky, red bushes of Dog Roses and wild horses.
On our way up, we discussed a lot about how beauty is ever more hardly acknowledged. How the concept of adventure and exploration are spoilt and misunderstood by cultural and social conventions, and how incredible places are overlooked and disregarded because of their low-resonance, their excessive proximity, or just because they’re not extreme enough. They’re simply seen as not so valuable. The dark side of exploration and outdoor activities is an incredibly polluting and consumerist industry that doesn’t differ much from that of fashion, beauty or food.
We talked about how to be in nature doesn’t necessarily mean to love nature: educating one another to respect our Mother Earth is necessary. Nature is not an entertainment, nor a place to show one’s strength or value, but a reality to protect and collaborate with. Nature is not a show off, nor a pose, it’s not a trend nor an industry. Nature is a place where to develop our humanity and get in contact with the important things.
The things I love
Despite my extremely talkative attitude, the thing I love about nature is that it makes facts, not words. Everything is always proven by a continuum of coherence and there’s nothing that can change that. Everything has a very specific role, place and reason to be happening in all its manifestations: no social convention/invention can change that. No trying to be something different to be liked or accepted.
The thing I love about humans is that we are nature too, if we embrace it.
Being humans means to both be diverse and diversify: options, points of view, activities, places. It means to stay curious and have respect while browsing. It means to not overlook, but to not obsess over something either. To push limits, but also feel comfortable within them. To appreciate, every single thing. Acknowledge beauty. That’s always there.
Be human, life is too short to not experience it.