Travel with Swide to find out the highlights of Italy: this time we take you to Abruzzo and Molise, two Regions that brings beauty and nature to a whole new level, each in different ways.
Viaggio in Italia: Abruzzo and Molise, Solitude and Beauty
Italy is fairly regarded as a small country, but as small as it may be there is a lot to see. Swide comes to the rescue and tells you what you can’t miss with our Travel Guide to Italy. This time we take you to Abruzzo and Molise, two Regions bordering with each other in Central/Southern Italy that have still a lot to discover.
Atri is called Queen of the Hill because of its stunning hilly location but close to the coast. Visit Palazzo dei Duchi Acquaviva (14 Century), S.Agostino Church, with a beautiful bell tower, now used as an auditorium. Also visit the S. Nicola Chuch (that dates back to 1200), the Medieval arch of “Capo d’Atri”.
I calanchi di Atri are majestic and spectacular natural architectures also known as “bolge” or “scrimoni” which have originated from thousands years erosion of winds and floods.
Giulianova, set on a hill, is rich in history and art, with loads of monuments to see. Visit the Madonna dello Splendore Sanctuary (1600) and S. Flaviano Church (1400). The two towers are the testimony of ancient fortifications belonging to the city’s perimeter.
Penne is called the “city of bricks” because of the abundant use of this material both for the buildings and to pave the alleys of the historical center.
One of the many things that you can’t miss in Abruzzo is the Trabocchi Coast. From Ortona to San Salvo – in a coastal range that includes white sand and steep cliffs – the territory is dotted with ancient constructions whose origins date back to 1200 that were and are used to fish from the mainland, similar to gigantic wooden spider suspended on water, incredibly resistant to sea storms, connected to the ground only by an unstable boardwalk. If you want to eat incredibly fresh and tasty fish is here you have to head to, as Trabocchi during the summer season is a very special restaurant settings.
But Abruzzo is not only about the Sea: visit the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso-Monti della Laga.
Here you’ll find many sights, like Civitella del Tronto, one of the most beautiful borghi well known in Italy for its fortress that dominates the whole town.
Teramo features a beautiful historical center with a Roman Theatre (1st Century B.C.) which seated more than 3,000 people, the Roman Amphitheatre, S.Berardo Cathedral, S.Antonio Church, the Episcopal Palace. Just outside its walls, the stunning Sanctuary of S.Maria delle Grazie.
Campli is located at the foot of the “Flower Mountain” in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso-Monti della Laga. It features ancient monuments like The Parliament’s Palace, S.Francesco Church (13th Century), the S.Pietro Church.
L’Aquila is the capital of Abruzzo, also known as “Florence of Abruzzo” or Italy’s Saltzburg” because of its beauty, this city too is located in the National Park of Gran Sasso-Monti della Laga. In 2009 the city was ravaged by a strong earthquake, resulting in many monuments being damaged or destroyed. It is still well worth a visit and of the many are the sites of interest, the most prestigious ones are the stunning Basilica di S. Maria di Collemaggio (13th Century), the majestic basilica di S. Bernardino (15th century), the biggest church of the Region. The fortress is also notable as one of the main ones that are to be found in Italy.
In the surroundings don’t miss the catacombs in S.Vittorino, the Sanctuary of Madonna d’Appari in Paganica, and the S.Massimo a Forcona Cathedral (7th Century). Also the S.Maria Assunta Church in Assergi is beautiful.
The other park of interest is Parco Nazionale della Majella, in which you must pay a visit to Eremo di S. Bartolomeo in Legio, a medieval borgo carved on a cliff overlooking S. Spirito Valley. Supposedly a miracle water is generated from the cliff.
Close to that site, only half an hour from it, there is the archeological Valley Giumentina in Abbateggio.
Called “city of stones” Guardiagrele is also located in Parco Nazionale della Majella, with fortresses and ancient monuments.
Abruzzo and Molise Regins meet in Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo-Lazio-Molise, where you have to visit Castrovalva (below), tiny fortified town on top of Sant’Angelo. It’s this very same panorama that has been depicted by Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher who in 1930 transposed it in a lithography exhibited at the Museum of Art di Washington.
Let’s talk then about the other region involved in the Park and in this journey with Swide: Molise is a small and obscure wine region in central Italy, bordered by the southern regions of Campania and Puglia. To its north is Abruzzo. It is here that north-central and southern cultures tie. One way in which this is expressed are Molise’s vineyards. Wine-making has existed here since the pre-Roman times by various ancient tribes such as the Piceni, Samnites and Etruscans. It’s only much later, though, that the production was recognized as valid.
But why Molise is a favorable ground for wines? It is a territory that features hilly areas, with good sun exposure and favorable weather conditions for grape-growing.
Molise features different wine varieties. Biferno, named for the river, produces mainly blends of rossos, biancos and rosatos. The main grapes are Trebbiano Toscano and Bombino for whites, and Montepulciano (the prevalent Abruzzo red grape) and Aglianico (common in Campania) for reds and rosatos. Pentro di Isernia also produces the same sorts of blends with the distinction that its reds are Montepulciano and Sangiovese, lighter than those from Biferno. One wine variety that will see more and more often on tables is Tintilia for reds, typical of Campobasso.
We mentioned Campobasso: the city, capital of Molise, is renowned for the craftsmanship of blades. Visit Castello Monforte, the Cathedral, or Chiesa della Santissima Trinità (Church of the Holy Trinity), that was built in 1504 outside the city walls.
The church of San Bartolomeo is a Romanesque building from the 11th century, in limestone. San Leonardo Church deserve a visit, too. If you love plants and gardens, head to Villa de Capoa which features many species of plans.
Termoli is another city of interest, with an ancient history. The old town has been restored as both Regions are seismic and have been destroyed by horrible earthquakes. It features buildings in pastel colours. The Castle is the most pre-eminent structure in Termoli.
The Castle was part of a wider fortification system.
Where to eat:
Casale Rosa (Contrada Monteverde, 4) in Vinchiaturo is incredibly well reviewed by locals. In Campobasso, head to Vecchia Trattoria Da Tonino (Corso Vittorio Emanuele 8), and Miseria e Nobiltà (Via Sant’Antonio Abate 16).
Where to Stay:
For a luxury stay, The 900 Hotel in Giulianova offers a stylish accommodation but also Castello di Semivicoli in Casacanditella could be the stay of your dreams. The most luxuroious experience, though, comes from Sextantio Albergo Diffuso in Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
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