Have you ever heard of the Abruzzo region before?
Probably not, and that’s because it’s one of Italy’s best kept secrets…
Abruzzo is a land steeped in history.
I love to slowly discover its secrets, like a shepherd, leading his flock from the mountains to the sea during the first weeks of Autumn, walking along narrow roads and unearthing countless wonders.
I grew up in the countryside of Abruzzo, in the rural heart of this region, where at twilight the Gran Sasso mountains resemble a woman sleeping, our dear “Bella addormentata.”
Our house is surrounded by medicinal plants and orange trees planted by my great grandfather Amedeo. He used the garden for all of his experiments, resulting in the creation of an orange liqueur called Aurum, still widely in use today and to me, one of the greatest reminders of my family when far from home.
Abruzzo is a region rich in colour and contrast: from the verdant green shades of our mountains, where bears, wolves, and golden eagles watch over rock-carved hermitages, such as the one of San Bartolomeo, to the crystal blue waters of our springs.
The gorge of Sagittarius nestles the town of Scanno; a precious gem, as precious as the artisanal jewellery that is made there. This village has been captured many times by Henri Cartier Bresson, and by its many visitors. On the hills, I hear the echoes of sheep bells, followed by their wise shepherds, while the smell of Pecorino and truffles perfumes the air. Surrounding us are snowy mountain tops, where bowls of steamy polenta with homemade sausages await, and yet, the Adriatic sea glints on the horizon.
The coast provides another landscape, marbled with beautiful “trabocchi” or fishermen palafitte over water, where poets of the past found safe and inspiring shelter, and which today have been converted into “pieds dans l’eau“r estaurants. Here fisherman hurry to cast their nets and restauranteurs assemble delicious meals, from a typical “brodetto alla Vastese” to a classic spaghetti “alle vongole”. Every dish pairs beautifully with a glass of dry Trebbiano wine. Each day by the sea finds perfect conclusion in a delicious mulberry ice cream from gelateria Cicco in the nearby Francavilla, my family’s hometown.
On the hills, shades of gold and silver appear, where the wheat sways in the sweet summer breeze. I see the glorious olive trees from Loreto Aprutino, the most refined area for olives and grapes, a valley surmounted by a castle and embraced by an ancient hamlet, with extraordinary traditions of ceramics and gastronomy. I love to sit among hunters and local producers to enjoy a classic pasta “alla chitarra” from Ristorante la Bilancia, my all time favourite.
Abruzzo is eclectic, surprising, maybe shy and perfectly imperfect, yet, once discovered – it’s a secret worth preserving.
My Abruzzo (map):
Villages I love:
Where to stay:
Favourite gastronomic experiences:
La Bilancia for traditional recipes, hearty dishes and homemade charcuterie.
Nonno Pescatore for the freshest seafood dishes.
Agriturismo Bellavista for a classic farm to table meal.
Il Salice for river gambas served in any way possible.
Trattoria San Domenico for fisherman style simple dishes.
Mucciante for grilled meat in the mountains to be enjoyed with friends.
Trabocco Pesce Palombo for a once in a lifetime experience over waters.
Any “sagra” or food festival that takes place during the summer (Elice for “pasta alla mugnaia” festival is my favourite).
Best aperitivo: Nole, Ferrara, La fabbrica del vino, Don Franchino.
Favourite wine makers: Valentini, Emidio Pepe, Tiberio, De fermo, Aurum.
Pasticceria M. Lullo for “sise delle monache”, La Bresciana for maritozzo con la panna, Bar D’Amico for a classic “parrozzo”, Gastronomia La Chitarra antica for a typical “fiadone,” mulberry ice cream from Cicco gelateria and homemade pasta from Pitocco pasta all’uovo.
Sightseeings to not miss: Santa maria in Porclaneta, Oratorio di S.Pellegrino Bominaco, Eremo di San Bartolomeo.
Brands to support: Giuliva heritage, Parco 1923.
Best souvenir: Saffron from Aielli, Dried sweet pepper, Pasta from Cocco, ceramics from Castelli.
Best experiences in nature: Kayak in the Tirino river, hike in the area of Pescasseroli to do bear watching, but also wolf howling at night. Truffle and mushroom hunt in the woods near Montorio al Vomano. Rent a sailing boat and sail to Punta Aderci natural reserve, drive by the trabocchi coastline, explore the Stiffe caves and hike to the top of Gran Sasso.
Photos by Allegra Pomillo