12 July 2011

The "Little Tibet" of Italy and Spaghetti Westerns

What do Spaghetti Westerns have to do with Campo Imperatore, sometimes called the "little Tibet" of Italy? That question was answered yesterday on the way to hike in this stunning area with my husband and friends. Campo Imperatore is a large plateau 4921 feet above sea level, 18.6 miles long and 6.2 miles wide and overlooked by  the tallest peak in the Apennine Mountains and located in the Gran Sasso National Park.

Turns out that some of the Spaghetti Westerns, so-called in the US (called Italian Westerns in Italy), were filmed here. I could just imagine it as we drove along. Miles and miles of open, uninterrupted  land with hills and mountains in the distance. I pictured the cowboys on their horses galloping freely and doing all those things that cowboys do. I imagined the delight of the directors in finding this gem of a location which looks like the old wild west of the US. As if to oblige my musings, we even saw some horses grazing along the way.

But, back to the Italian Westerns; they were a sub-genre of Western films dating from the mid-1960's. Sergio Leone was probably the most famous of the Italian directors and among the best known of his films were: "A Fistful of Dollars", "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", and "Once Upon a Time in the West". Ironically, they were originally released in Italian by a man who spoke no English and had never visited the US, but nonetheless redefined the image of the cowboy. They further expanded to include other directors in Italy and Europe and were then called European Westerns. Over 600 European Westerns were made between 1960-1980.

We had our first glimpse of Corno Grande, the highest peak (9500 feet) in the Gran Sasso Range of the Apennine Mountains, as we turned a corner near our hike destination in Campo Imperatore:

The rewards for hiking up to 7800, besides the exhilaration of good physical exertion on an absolutely crystal clear, 74 degree day, were these views:

Corno Picolo:

Corno Grande:

Flags of Italy and the European Union put up on top by the Club Alpino Italiano:

A happy hiker at the top:

What is exhilarating you this summer?


  1. I have never been as fit as you! I do enjoy small hikes and beautiful scenery. Add some historical or cultural sights to the mix, and I'm in heaven.

    I thought the Spaghetti Westerns had been shot in Spain. What do I know?

  2. Rosaria, Some of them were shot in Spain, some in Utah, USA and some in the center and south of Italy, including the Gran Sasso region. Gorgeous area.

  3. Whew! What a breathtaking journey, in more ways than one. Great photos!

    One of my all-time favorite films is, believe it or not, Once Upon a Time in the West. Claudia Cardinale was so beautiful in that, and it's the film that led me to a decades-long crush on Charles Bronson.

  4. Lisa, I love it! the original got cut way down for the American audience but was hugely successful in Europe in the long version. So that version was then released in the US and did well.

  5. Wow! Just stupendous views! And what is exhilarating you this summer is the same thing for me, except in the Pacific Northwest!!

  6. You look like you just stepped out of the spa!! Gorgeous! You and the vista;)

  7. Wow. Just wow. I love it.

  8. Your pics are breathtaking - and I'm so glad to learn from your post about the spaghetti westerns - I had no idea! Exhilarating for me recently was hiking the Royal Arch trail in Boulder, CO (Chataqua) with my sweetie. Very different landscape than your Cornos, but still lovely :)

  9. More stunningness. I love Italy, just love it.

  10. DJan, It feels good doesn't it? I went to the temperate rain forest up there and enjoyed it immensely.

    Lauren, Thanks. I felt good, not just-stepped-out-of-the-spa good, but good!

    Judith, I've done some hiking outside of Boulder and loved it!

    Allison, There's lots to love about Italy.

  11. That is really gorgeous. I can only imagine the air.

  12. Patti, Clear, clean, lovely. My lungs thanked me.

  13. How lovely those mountains look, and as others have said you look peachy too!
    Once upon a time long long ago, my first husband use to manage a music artist called 'Chris Rea' and they made a music video in a place called 'Al Maria' in Spain, which they said was where the Spaghetti westerns were made, had a purpose built old west town as well, so I guess there must be a few places, as you suggested, it never occured to me at the time though why they were called spaghetti westerns, when Al Maria is in Spain? maybe Paella western did not sound so good.
    Reminds me
    Spaghetti Vongole for dinner tonight, funnily enough it was Chris who first cooked this and I have loved it ever since.
    Hapy hiking!

  14. Lynne, Yes, they were filmed in different areas, ours being one. Spaghetti Vongole is one of my favorites. The clams here are small and sweet.

  15. These pictures took my breath away....i can't imagine how you felt to stand and look over this beauty. Was it hard to leave?

    the spaghetti western info is very interesting, I never knew any of this....thanks for sharing!

    Have I told you lately that you are living my dream? What a life!

  16. Nanny, It was exhilarating to reach the top and see that panorama! No, no, you must live your own dream! But I do feel grateful for my life.

  17. What a fabulous view from that mountain top! A couple of years ago we hiked up to Inspiration Point on the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, and that was a hard effort for me as I am not used to altitude. I'd need to work out to do a hike like yours. Living in a flat area at sea level I don't get much practice.

    We've seen all the Sergio Leone films..my husband is a big fan.

  18. Pat, I love hiking but it's more difficult at altitude. I had heard of "spaghetti westerns" but didn't know anything about them until now.


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