Foreigners often tend to associate Italy with the worldwide famous Tuscany landscapes, the romantic lagoons in Venice, the fascinating historical and artistic heritage in Rome and Florence, but this peninsula is so special and unique that even Italians are constantly fascinated while exploring less known areas of their own country.
That's what happened to me in Abruzzo, this region in the center of Italy hiding so many natural treasures: from the crystal-clear beaches along the Trabocchi Coast to the majestic Gran Sasso massif in the Apennine Mountains, from the quaint Medieval villages (Borghi) to the incredible capital L'Aquila, characterised by such a resilient soul after the 2009 terrible earthquakes.
I've selected 7 places that you can't miss for a real immersion in this incredible area, let's discover them together !
Check the August issue of Authentic Travel.And Magazine to know the entire itinerary!
1. Trabocchi Coast (La Costa dei Trabocchi)
This 70km coast along the Adriatic Sea is characterised by wooden structures right on the sea that were used to fish, i Trabocchi or Trabucchi. Their origin is uncertain, but one thing is sure: admiring the warm shades of the sunrise on a Trabocco is definitely an unforgettable feeling! Some of the structures have been renovated and transformed into beautiful restaurants, while others are owned by local cooperatives. Trabocco Punta Le Morge and Trabocco Riserva Aderci are definitely my favourite ones!
From Torino di Sangro, we decided to rent a bike to reach the enchanting beach of Punta Penna through Punta Aderci Natural Reserve. The access is completely free and the pathway is easy to find when following the coastal road until Punta Penna.
While cycling along Punta Aderci, the rich vegetation and the farmed lands will accompany you just before reaching the beautiful beaches.
Various special events are also organised in the area such as concerts, eco-trails and art expositions during summer, you can check the updated programs on the website https://www.puntaderci.it/eventi!
2. The quaint 'Borgo' of Scanno
Scanno is a place where time have stopped that can be admired by getting lost in its narrow streets and observing the slow rhythms of life of its inhabitants. Children wearing traditional dresses, the pleasing smell of biscuits from Biscotteria artigianale di Liliana Rosati which are still warm, a group of kind elderly people chatting in front of Santa Maria della Valle church and the famous heart-shaped lake (Scanno Lake) right at the feet of this Medieval village.
Scanno can be reached through one of the most spectacular panoramic road I've ever seen in the Sagittario Valley with the turquoise green San Domenico Lake.
3. Sulmona and its colourful candies
Sulmona is a must stop for the most greedy visitors! In fact, the city is known for its production of Confetti, the typical Italian candies used for special celebrations as marriages or baptisms. Confetti are almond sweets recovered by a crispy sugar coating dating back to the XV century. The Medieval city of Sulmona is considered as the home of confetti production thanks to the prominent role of the Pelino family around 1783.
Strolling in the main streets of the city, you'll notice confetti of all colours and parfumes creating beautiful decorative shapes, mainly flowers and hearts. Also, if you happen to be in Sulmona on a Wednesday morning, take the time to visit the open-air local market in Piazza Garibaldi right in front of the majestic Roman aqueduct.
4. Gran Sasso & Monti della Laga National Park
Exploring this natural park was a real connection with nature, its creatures, colours and rhythms. A real gift for the soul. Gran Sasso & Monti della Laga National Park is one of the largest protected areas in Europe hosting an essential tradition of the regional identity: transhumance. Gran Sasso mountain definitely dominates the area with its highest peak reaching 2 912m.
At Campo Imperatore (2 130m), you'll be able to discover the Astronomical Observatory and the hotel where Mussolini was kept as a prisoner for a few weeks during WWII. This is also the starting point for various treks as the one reaching Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi (about 3h). And if the mountain stimulates your appetite, you can stop at Macelleria Giuliani in Castel del Monte to buy the typical lamb sticks called Arrosticini: best spot to enjoy this delicious speciality!
5. Rocca Calascio
Calascio is another quaint village of Abruzzo so quiet and peaceful from which it's possible to reach the highest fortress in the Apennines dating back to the X century, Rocca Calascio. There's a public bus leaving from the centre of the village or a pedestrian pathway of about 3km. The view from the top is breathtaking and the atmosphere a bit mystic while walking within the Rock and admiring Santa Maria della Pietà church.
Definitely a fusion of history and nature that will make you fall in love even more with this enchanting region!
6. Canoeing on the Tirino River
Tirino River is famous for the colour of its water, considered as the clearest in Europe. Along its 25km, there's an incredibly rich ecosystem that can be partially explored by canoeing through guided excursions (Majellando, Il Bosso cooperative). The aim is to have an experience in contact with nature while discovering the history linked to the river and the flora and fauna characteristics of the area.
A natural paradise capable of talking to your soul while listening to the sounds of nature from the canoe!
L'Aquila is a unique city, a rare historical and artistic gem surrounded by the Apennine mountains that needs to be preserved. L'Aquila looks like an elegant old women that, even after a terrible accident, is able to demonstrate a terrific strength and to look forward to the future with hope and confidence.
The most devastating earthquake happened on April 6th 2009 around 3AM causing the collapse of several buildings in the historic center and more than 300 deaths. Thousands of people lost their home in such a dramatic event that marked the entire peninsula at the point that volunteers from all over Italy moved to offer their help. The song ''Domani'' by some of the most famous Italian singers became the hymn to know that the entire country was close to L'Aquila and its inhabitants.
The contrast between the artistic heritage of the city and the still visible damages to the buildings is very strong, but while visiting L'Aquila you'll immediately perceive an incredible willingness to shine again and give value to a unique story.
Some of my favourite spots in the city: Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the Spanish Fortress, Piazza del Duomo and Fontana delle 99 cannelle!
I hope I was able to transmit to you my feelings while discovering Abruzzo and maybe encouraged you to explore this authentic region of my dear Italy!