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Europe's greatest driving roads: Via Campocatino

February 10, 2021

Europe's greatest driving roads: Via Campocatino

 

It's not the highest, the longest or even the most remote. But, tucked into the mountains 80 kilometres south-east of Rome, this little-known gem may just be the greatest driving road you've never heard of.

The Via Campocatino starts from a medieval town and ends at a ski resort. It unfurls through 18 kilometres of twisting, flowing tarmac. Throw in alpine forest, stunning mountain views and, in the summer, few if any other cars, and you have near perfect driving conditions.

Sign of the town of Campocitano
Ford Fiesta driving inside the town of Campocitano

 

The road begins in Guarcino. A handsome town with medieval architecture and ancient roots. Called Varcenum by the Romans, its name ultimately descends from the ancient tribe who ruled the region for centuries before: the Ernici.

As well as the Via Campocatino, Guarcino has another treat in store. The famed Amaretti di Guarcino. Soft, oval, almond macaroons. Made here for centuries and, with an espresso, a perfect sharpener for the drive ahead.

Ford Fiesta driving on steep paved road

 

Climbing 1200 metres over its 18 kilometres, the Via Campocatino has an almost constant gradient of around 6%. Tighter turns out of the town open into a surging road of flowing sections and swooping hairpin bends.

The sparse summer traffic means it's usually just you and the mountain. Occasionally the forest clears, giving way to a flash of bright sky, epic views expanding as you climb. Higher, snow patches appear, the trees diminish, but the road never lets up.

Rising, writhing, but always with just enough road to keep urging you on. It's this intense character that makes the Via Campocatino a perfect match for the agile power of a hot hatch.

After a swooping 180-degree left-hand curve at around 13 kilometres, you'll pass the Osservatorio Astronomico di Campo Catino. A state-of-the-art astronomical observatory, sited to take advantage of the clear, dark skies, undisturbed by light pollution.

For a few evenings every summer, visitors are invited in, to gaze at the galaxies. But for now, it's all eyes on the road.

Emerging at the ski resort of Campocatino, perched just above the tree line at 1800 meters, you're rewarded with magnificent views. Mountains to the north and east, and on clear days, as far as the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west.

There's also a handful of good mountain restaurants, ideal for enjoying the view along with some excellent local cuisine. 

Aerial view of the town of Campocitano

 

As we said, it may not be the highest, longest, or the most remote of roads. But for superb driving and wild beauty, the little-known Via Campocatino really is one of Europe's greatest.

See the Ford Fiesta ST: https://ford.to/FordFiestaST

Watch all our 'Europe's Greatest Driving Roads' films: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSDdJ-bq9Y1_kmQLP9PPrMe5S8UcVKioQ

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