The Campo Imperatore

Campo Imperatore
The eerie rocky landscape of the Campo Imperatore. (Photo by Reid Bramblett)

A high Alpine plain in the Abruzzi Mountains of the Abruzzo region of Italy

Campo Imperatore macceleria
Roadside BBQs on the Campo Imperatore. (Photo by Reid Bramblett)

The Campo Imperatore is a high Alpine plain known locally as a “little Tibet,” its rocky fields sprinkled with lavender, thyme, buttercups, and poppies.

The only structures up here are an observatory, a modest littel ski resort built in 1920 (and that served as a prison for Mussolini for about a month in the late summer and fall of 1943, before the Nazis rescued him), and a pair of roadside shacks that sell meat that you grill yourself on the front porch and wash down with heavy red table wine decanted into giant beer bottles.

This area—the whole of the surrounding Gran Sasso national park in the Abruzzi Mountains about two hours east of Rome, really—is popular with German filmmakers, so if you see a commercial with an Audi or Mercedes slaloming along a scenically winding mountain road, chances are it was filmed around here.

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