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Among Italy’s best kept secrets, Abruzzo is a true gem! Depending on the season you choose, this region offers unique experiences to travelers passionate about nature, culture, food, wine, hiking and skiing (while spotting the sea from the slops).
Whatever your taste may be, visiting Abruzzo can’t be disappointing. This unique land, that sits in a strategic location - only one hour drive from Rome, is home of an untold list of remarkable historical sites and natural biodiversity. To help you visualize it, here you will find the highest peak of the Apennines - Gran Sasso, rolling hills, vineyards, wildlife, beaches, castles, Medieval towns and a mouthwatering culinary tradition with excellences like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, L’Aquila PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) saffron and anise ferratelle - the typical biscuits homemade by all grandmas in the area.
Wether you want to explore it over a weekend or take it slower, here Be MyJourney is going to unveil its list of hidden gems and enable you to explore this off-the-beaten-path region as a conscious traveler.
We would dare to say that paying a visit to this beautiful town would be worthy even if only to admire the Basilica di Collemaggio. This splendid church, characterised by the incredibly beautiful rose facade windows, represents an example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. In case you visit on August 28th and 29th, you will be able to attend the local event Perdonanza, added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2019. However this is surely not the only reason why you should add L’Aquila to your itinerary. Indeed, the amount of options for gourmet lovers as well as history and architecture fans is incredibly vast. Tragically, 11 years ago L’Aquila was affected by a devastating earthquake which perturbed locals’ lives. Although it has been a terrible blow, the town is finally blooming again with a number of churches, palazzos and monuments getting back to their splendor year by year. You don’t want to miss Fontana delle 99 Cannelle, composed of 99 masks which symbolise the 99 districts who contributed to the foundation of the town in the XIII Century. Other landmarks worth mentioning are Auditorium del Parco - a concert hall designed by Renzo Piano and donated to L’Aquila by Trento to show solidarity after the earthquake, Chiesa Santa Maria ad Cryptas - a Medieval church with marvellous frescos, and Santuario della Madonna d’Appari - a XII-XIII Century shrine built on a mountain side and reachable by car or through a beautiful 4KM walk starting from the village of Paganica.
We suggest you stay at Casa Rosati (20 KM from L’Aquila and 24 KM from Valle del Tirino - find this destination below), a 16th Century heritage house featuring historical decorations. Not only the well curated interiors, being surrounded by nature, Casa Rosati boasts stunning views as well.
To experience the local cuisine head over to Salette Aquilane, where you’ll find the most eccentric decorations and simple dishes. Try Cannarozzetti - short pasta with a signature sauce made with peas, mushrooms and sausage and Zuppa Inglese - a cake with alchermes, custard and chocolate, you won’t regret it. Another place worth checking out is Rifugio Mandolo', in Assergi, for a cozy atmosphere and an incredible location, right up on the mountain. You cannot miss their chargrilled meat.
This area extends among the three regions of Abruzzo, Lazio and Marche. It is one of the largest protected areas in Europe and its biodiversity has never been as precious as now that the world’s one is perishing. Home of the highest peak of the Appenini, the Abruzzese section of this National Park is also called Little Tibet. The sweet profile of the infinite hills embellishes the background and the colours of every season describe a unique nature painting. This might become one of your favourite stops along the journey!
To experience the Park at its best we suggest a sunset hike up to Monte Aquila (2.494 mt), and a responsible picnic on the grass : always remember to collect your waste and try to use biodegradable objects…To be happy here you’ll need no more than a fresh sandwich, a water canteen and a bottle of local red wine!
Another place listed among the most beautiful Italian villages. Pescocostanzo is meanly renowned for the tombolo craftsmanship - a centuries-old crochet technique typical of the region. Although this is a destination popular over the winter season, due to its proximity to ski slopes, the magnificent beauty of this hamlet is a winning choice all year round.
Don’t forget to explore Eremo di San Michele, a historical hermitage nestled in a limestone mountain, and Bosco di Sant’Antonio, a Natural Reserve and a perfect spot for another conscious picnic.
Dine at Ristorante da Paolino, one of those family-run places you will love (book ahead of time) for their authentic and warm atmosphere. You cannot miss their chestnut flour tagliolini.
The enchanted home of what is known as the cleanest and most beautiful river in Italy. The water of river Tirino is so transparent that the reflection of the surrounding century-old white willows and black poplars together with the beneath lush flora create incredible colour effects. Observing it, it seems you are staring at a watercolour paint with predominant shades of blue and green. Book a canoe excursion with Il Bosso to enjoy the Tirino at its best!
Not to be missed: a quick plunge in the water! Even if it might sound a crazy tip, knowing that its temperature is about 10 Celsius degrees all year round, the regenerative sensation you’ll get afterwards is absolutely worthy!
A tiny place mostly known for the summer folk festival “Notte delle Streghe” - Witches’ Night 17th and 18th August - which proposes itinerant performances taking the audience to discover the hamlet’s most peculiar corners.
This is an authentic Italian village where you see kids playing free in the little square, women exchanging goods from a window to another using a broom and keys left in the front doors’ locks because everyone knows it is safe. In case you are a beauty seeker looking for Italian authenticity you should add this hidden gem to your itinerary also in the spirit of supporting the local community. Although its unique beauty does not have seasons, this is one of those little towns that live mostly during summer, when families that now live all over the country go back to their house handed down generation to generation.
Take a walk in the little alleys and have a lunch break in nature at Ristoro Mucciante to taste the typical “arrosticini” chargrilled lamb skewer.
Our restaurant suggestions are Agriturismo Sapori di Campagna, in Ofena for organic products and innovation and Borgo dei Fumari, in Prata d'Ansidonia, for the most romantic atmosphere - book a table in the fireplace room and if you like saffron and truffle we’d suggest the filled pasta: “Lune di miele con zafferano e tartufo”.
Among the most beautiful Italian hamlets, it definitely portraits the definition of a “place still in time”. A cameo surrounded by astonishing nature and impeccable architectural harmony. This is a village made of stone dwellings and arches, tiny alleys, huge and heavy front gates and little wooden tables seating in the sun.
Discover the village by getting lost - even though it is small, getting lost here is a unique experience, eat a Pizza prosciutto e fichi sandwich with a glass of local natural wine at Cantina Chiesa Madre, and take a walk in nature to admire the nearby Rocca Calascio (9 KM from Santo Stefano) - one of the most beautiful postcards from Abruzzo and home of the highest castle in Italy (at 1.460 mt).
Where to stay? Sextantio (located in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park and 14 KM from Castel del Monte). A stay at this widespread hotel will take you back in time and make you appreciate the original atmosphere of this enchanted village.
Characterised by the alternation of rolling hills and high peaks, this Park is part of UNESCO Heritage. Even though the number of natural beauty elements is infinite here, if we had to choose one thing over all we would pick the marvellous Camosciara. Since a few years, this area is only accessible by foot - the former road has been closed to protect the wild flora and fauna from cars’ smog and noise. Thanks to the multiple Park’s conservation efforts, this is an area of excellence to observe native chamois. And this is not all! This Park is also home to approximately 50 Marsicano Bears, a species of bear typical of the central area of Italy and the symbol of this National Park.
For an unforgettable experience, hike at La Camosciara.
To regenerate yourself you can spend the night at Casadonna, in Castel di Sangro (in Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo and 16 KM from Pescocostanzo): a 16th Century former monastery home of 9 charming guest rooms, the world renowned Niko Romito restaurant Reale and his Culinary Academy.
Sitting in the Northern part of Abruzzo, this town is located between sea and mountains. Thanks to its location, this area has a microclimate that allows ideal conditions to grow vines and produce outstanding wines. This is why the pristine nature here is characterised by a continuum of luxurious vineyards and green hills. This is a great destination if you are passionate about wine and gourmet cuisine: for an unforgettable wine tasting visit Bio wine producers Barone Cornacchia and Emidio Pepe.
Stay at Agriturismo Emidio Pepe, the same house where the world renowned wine producer Emidio Pepe was born. The Pepe family renovated their house and opened it to guests with the idea to let the world wine enthusiasts to experience this Abruzzo’s corner where their favourite wine originates.
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