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Bel Abruzzo with side trips to Umbria, Lazio and Campania

avvocato

10+ Posts
By avvocato from New Jersey, Summer 2003
June 27 - July 10 Abruzzo+

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

L'Aquila and Campo Imperatore

June 27
Arrive in Rome and drive to L’Aquila (A24) to the Hotel Duca degli Abruzzi. Walk around the city center, Piazza Duomo where there is an outdoor market everyday in the morning. Plenty of pizzerias, bars and gelato places to recover from the trip. Plenty of bancomats to use and obtain the cash needed. Had dinner at the Tetto Ristorante in the hotel, which was very good.

Abruzzese cuisine is excellent as you will see in this entire trip report. Tonight, penne with artichokes, mixed grill and potato croquettes and arugula salad. Dessert included fresh figs and cherries and a ricotta torta. In fact the desserts were self serve. The views outside the restaurant are panoramic – either of the city or the far mountains.

June 28 Drive into the mountains, Campo Imperatore. On the way there stopped for a bit at Filetto Madonna d’Appari, a church on the way to Santo Stefano di Sessiano. Beatuiful site with a wedding in progress. There is a spring there as well. Once in the mountains, you can see foxes, eagles, wild horses and, of course, sheep. Spend some time walking around Santo Stefano di Sessiano a 15th century town that is being renovated by many property owners and will be an area for rentals (villas and apartments) in the near future. Some of the apartments look really nice and modern, as I got a personal tour from one of the owners.

The village was an outpost for the Medici’s who of course lived in Tuscany. The owner also took me on a tour of the renovation of some of the medivel palazzos, including the “Captain’s Quarters”.

Had pranzo at L’Ostello del Cavaliere on the outside terrace. They serve a wonderful meal including cacio marcetto which is hard to find today in Italy. There was a faro salad and lentil soup (this is a premiere lentil growing region in Italy). Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the wine of choice in this region and clearly it is a very good wine. Don’t miss out! Of note was a saffron gnocchi dish.

The day ended with a climb up the nearby Rocca di Calascio (13th century) to 1,460m asl for an unparallelled view of the valley and the Gran Sasso albeit obscured by the rainy late afternoon storms.
 

avvocato

10+ Posts
Scanno, Mutignano & Pineto, L'Aquila

June 29
An early drive to Scanno, through the Gole di Saggitario, passing Lago di Scanno. Again the scenery was as picturesque as can be imagined but the drive can be challenging on the steep mountain roads.

It was Sunday and arrived in time for mass at the Chiesa Sa. Maria delle Valle. This is a town with a great deal of pride in its past; women were dressed in black woolen dresses traditional garb (even though it was HOT); and the art of tombolo lace and filigreed gold jewelry is available for purchase. I was lucky enough to see a short tombolo demonstration at “La Violetta”, a nice shop.

Had pranzo at Osteria Costanza e Roberto. Of note was a saffron, zucchini rotini pasta course, then agnello with potatoes, montepulciano, and a wonderful dessert made with Pane del’Orso. If you get a chance to try this speciality do not turn it down.

Drove to Pescasseroli through the Passo Godi to where the National Park of Abruzzo is headquartered. There is a small zoo there housing bears and wolves. I got my chance to go face to face with a Marsican bear. A Sunday flea market was shutting down as I got there. The local band was in the midst of a concert.

June 30 Drive to Pineto on the Teramo coast by going directly under the impressive peak of the Gran Sasso. The tunnel is over 10,000m in length. It is a marvel of Italian transportation engineering.

On the way, I took my new friends Charles and Eleanor to Scerne to meet Charles’ Aunt. They have a interesting olive oil business. I enjoyed some morning coffee and cookies. I also tried out the oil with an impromptu bruschetta with “fresh off the vine” tomatoes.

Continued on to Pineto and met my cousins for lunch (which was quite good, spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and pepperoncini, grilled zucchini and eggplant, tomato/cuke salad and some torta), and afterwards drove to Mutignano to meet my Aunt – 86 years old and 5 years old when she last saw my late father.

There was a nice park at the top of the hill in Mutignano that was shady and cool in the summer heat and with fantastic views of the valley on one side and in the distance, the Adriatic Sea to the other side. The beach at Pineto is wide and sandy. Behind the beach are pineta trees from which the town derives its name. The town began its modern existence in the 1920’s and 1930’s, eventually taking over the administration of the area from Mutignano and Scerne.

July 1 Walk around and discover L’Aquila to various fountains (Fontane 99 Cannelle) and Fontana Luminosa to taking in the market at the Piazza, and window shopping around the square.
 

avvocato

10+ Posts
Assisi, provincia di Teramo, Campania

July 2
Drive to Assisi and tour the Basilica of Saint Francis with Brother Maurice from Canada who adds a perspective to the sites and history of the Basilica and insight into Saint Francis, and then to the Chiesa di Sta. Chiara.

Pranzo today at the Trattoria da Elide where the wine was a wonderful torgiano, and of note was the black truffle bruschetta, pasta primavera, rosemary potatoes and mixed grill.

After pranzo, walked to the Basilica of Sta Maria of the Angels. On the way back to L’Aquila stopped in Deruta for some ceramic shopping. Then took a side trip to Marmore Falls. Although the water flow was slowed during the day (diverted as it is most of the time to a hydroelectric plant), the falls are spectacular and you can climb really close to most vistas. Most summer nights there is a light show and the falls are released fully (for the show).

July 3 Drove to Castelli, the home of majolica ceramics. This is a wonderful little town in its own right. The views of the Gran Sasso from here are indescribable. Drove then to San Gabriele to the famous sanctuary there and on to Teramo.

Had Pranzo at Antico Cantinone in the old city Teramo. This was a highlight meal consisting of wonderful melone e prusciuto, cavatelli primavera, capelli with pomidoro ragu e pallotinne (little meatballs), veal with a tomato, cheese and arugula side, montepulciano wine, and a crème sponge cake made with Archeme, a unique liquere (the dessert was kind of like a zuppe inglese but better). This was a real Teramanese meal.

Walked around old Teramo – saw the Roman amphitherater, old and restored residences, other Roman ruins. Afterwards drove to Civitella del Tronto which is an old fortress being restored at the northern border of the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies border with the Papal States (today Le Marche). The fortress is gigantic covering over 25,000 square meters. One of the final battles of the unification took place here in 1860/61. In fact, received a private tour with Bruno who is on the restoration committee. The area around here has surnames and families from Naples and Spain because of the billeting of the Kingdom’s soldiers to this important outpost and piece of Italian history.

July 4 Happy Indepedence Day! A loooooong drive to Pompei and the Sorrento area using A24 and A1. One item of note was that the Monte Cassino (WW2 battle outside Naples) loomed on the right side of the highway. In the morning walked about Pompei with people of all nations. Of course explored the “lupinaria” (bordello), which is one of the most complete buildings in the city.

Had pranzo at Vico Equesne at the Università delle Pizze on the way to Sorrento. Of course, had pizza (margherita & marinara - anchovy) and beer (Nastro Azzurro). Great American (Neopolitane) meal – pizza and beer -- on the 4th of July.

I spent a great deal of time exploring Sorrento and then relaxing at the beaches/ harbor. Stopped into a quiet bar and bought a bottle of home made but professionally bottled limoncello, after a taste test, of course.
 

avvocato

10+ Posts
Piano d. Cinquemilia, Tivoli, Pineto/Montesilvano

July 5
Today started off with more than a little excitement – un terremoto, una scossa sismica (earthquake) @ 7:06 AM (CDT) as I lay in bed and the chandeliers shaaaaakkke. With that out of the way, off to Pescocostanza.

Stopped near Popoli, to check out the Sorgenti di Pescara, the large spring from which the Pescara River is first born. The springs create a river of over 10m wide within 30m of the spring – incredible. Acqua Vera is bottled from here. Pescocostanza is over 1400m high and overlooks the Piano di Cinquemiglia. In the winter, ski resorts abound in the vicinity. There is some nice handmade jewelery made here – both traditional, e.g. presentosa, and modern.

Pranzo today at the Ristorante da Paolino run by a family from Lazio who bought it after visiting the town over many years. Another wonderful meal included bruschetta, an egg/cheese bread, a gnocchi in a light spinich cream sauce, tagliatelle with olive oil, cherry tomatoes and an olive oil infused with hot peppers, roast pork - maiale, rosemary potatoes, salad and finalamente a wonderful dessert, tre mille foglie.

After lunch went to Sulmona, the home of confetti. This is another ancient Roman town, with a wonderful aqueduct framing one side of the main square. The European in-line skating championships were to be held this night so the piazza was being fitted out. There are some beautiful apartments and churches bordering the square. Confetti is everywhere for sale and in all forms, from the non-descript to the magnificent, flower arrangements, grape bunches, little insects, WoW!

July 6 From L’Aquila took a short jaunt down A24 to Tivoli. Met with Giuseppe who accompanied me around the Villa Adriana. This Roman ruin was built by Hadrian (born in Spain) and the Emporer of Rome (2nd century) to remind him of his homeland and as a royal getway for his friends and state visitors. There are some wonderful mosaics that survive.

Pranzo at the “Il Canopo”, named after one of the ruins at the old Villa. Bruschetta, local (homemade Il Canopo wine), rigatori carbonera, penne with mushrooms and crème, a saltimbocca, salad, macedonia, tiramisu and coffee. This to prepare for the trip to the gardens on the other side of town…Villa D’Este.

The “modern” Tivoli Gardens were built in 1500’s after Cardinal Ippolito D’Este lost a vote for Pope. The Cardinal was the son of Lucrezia Borgia, and the grandson of a Pope. The gardens and villa are a nice way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. Tivoli is also within an easy drive from Rome.

July 7 Today I went back to Pineto to meet some more cousins. I met several first cousins and we had a celebratory pranzo, consiting of timballo (pasta), merluzzi (fried baby cod), tomato and basil salad, ice cream and limoncello d’Abruzzo.

During the day visited with my cousins who came from Fano and drove to Montesilavano to meet others and had a nice talk about our families, since there was a lot of catching up to do. This was a great day…the food, the family and the memories. I shall savor it forever.
 

avvocato

10+ Posts
Pescara, Atri, Stiffe, Bominaco

July 8
Today is my day for Pescara. Drive to Navelli first and meet with the acting head of the saffron cooperative. He patiently explains the way it is done and bought some saffron liquere. Bought some saffron pistils for a cook friend, now she’ll have to make a saffron dinner.

The road taken continues to Popoli where it joins A25 to Pescara. It follows a old Roman road. I wanted to see the Museo delle Gente d’Abruzzo. This is a little gem of a historical museum showing the old traditions of the region and a don’t miss for people descended from Abbruzzesi. There are some G. D’Annunzio pieces and some paintings by Scipione. Drove up the coast to Silvi and connected with the road to Atri.

Stopped for pranzo at Podere San Domenico, an agriturismo being renovated but the kitchen is open. And what a kitchen it is…run by Lidia and her family…bruschetta, sausage, cheese, pancetta, zucchini, cucumbers, cece soup maltagliati, muniara (handmade pasta), tortelini, pizelle with marmalade, fresh fruit, liqueres. Excellent regional cuisine.

Continue the drive to Atri. The erosion furrows are a dominant geological feature here. In Atri toured the Sta. Maria Basilica (built over some Roman ruins), the Roman cistern.

Ended the evening at a friend's new house outside L’Aquila. I loved the house (under construction) being built in the style of Balzano, thus very Alpine-looking.

July 9 Kind of a slow day today. Spent most of it in L’Aquila, making some last minute purchases at the Piazza del Duomo, elbowing with tourists from Sicily. Side trip to the Spanish Castle and park. Meet a friend for lunch at a pizzeria. Later afternoon, went to Stiffe to explore the Grotte there. There is a 650m walk up to the origin of the underground river. This is worth a side trip if you are ever in the area south of L’Aquila (SSR 17).

After emerging from the cave, continued on to Bominaco to look at two examples of church architecture. The Sta Maria Assunta and the S Pelligrino, built in the 12th and 13th centuries and very well preserved. Chiara, who gives me a personal tour, notes that the buildings are sought out for weddings and justifiably so.

The day ends with a cena at Osteria della Posta at Poggio Picenza. The antipasti were extraordinary…fegato, prosciuto, faro, lenticche, frittata, then to the primo piatto, pasta with saffron and musrooms , a maltagliata pasta, then the secondo piatto, agnello, maiale, montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and finally a zuppa inglese.

July 10 Drive to Rome and fly back to USA, happy to be heading home but sad leaving Italy behind.
 

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