Dozens of visits over many years and I have still not scratched the surface of every corner of Italy, which is why I rely on guest writers to fill in the travel blanks. Today, Bobbi Lerman takes us off the beaten path for a highlight tour of the Abruzzo region, just east of Rome.
I am always on the lookout for off the beaten path destinations taking me away from the maddening tourist crowds. So, I jumped at the opportunity to spend time solo traveling through the Abruzzo region, where I was quickly taken in by the irresistible lure of ancient sky high towns and the wild, diverse landscape of snow capped mountains stretching down to emerald seas.
Pescara offers white sandy beaches, and wide promenades, lined with palm trees, shops and an eclectic mix of cafes to sit and people watch. After a hectic day of sightseeing, I never missed out on experiencing la passeggiata; the Italian tradition of the late afternoon stroll. It offers ample opportunity to indulge in one more flavor of gelato. Warning: Italian ice cream is highly addictive!
Luxury travelers, families or girls’ getaway visitors, can set off in a different direction each morning. Head south toward Ortona, a seaside hill town along the Chieti coast with scores of pebbly beaches, picture-postcard inlets lined with grapevines, bushes of golden gorse and my favorite, the ruins of an Arogonese castle built in 1418, standing guard against the sea.
Abruzzo’s four national parks, offer a wide variety of activities fit for every season and every level of ability: walking trails for bird watchers, nature photographers, or hikers; mountain biking; canoeing; rock climbing; or both cross country and downhill skiing.
The scenic hill town of Castelli in the Gran Sasso Mountains is enchanted and famous for Italian Majolica. The adage “shop ‘till you drop” acquires new meaning with so many enticing displays in the store windows. The highlight of the town’s Majolica offerings is the church of San Donato…just don’t forget to look up. The ceramic tiled ceiling dates back to 1615 and is considered the Sistine Chapel of Majolica.
From Castelli, journey north to Civitela del Tronto, a town perched upon on a rocky crest with views reaching from the Gran Sasso down to the coast. Families will enjoy exploring the Spanish fortress towering above the town and then wander the narrow stone lanes, before settling down to enjoy some exceptional local cuisine at Ristorante Zunica.
A stop worth at least a day is Sulmona. Encircled by the mountains of the Apennine range, Sulmona is famous for its medieval churches, sugared confetti almonds (of which I ate dozens) and its mounted jousting tournament, the Giostra of Sulmona. It takes place the last week of July and features a pageant of walk-on players in authentic 16th Century costume, dancers, musicians and flag-throwing demonstrations.
A montage of Italian landscape and culture, Abruzzo is a place where you can drive from the sea to the mountains within an hour’s time. The warm, open people of this delightful region made my experience here unforgettable.
Bobbi Lerman is a writer of historical romance, memoir and travel essay and founder of Scribbler’s Ink an on line prompt writing group.
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