The centrally located & culturally southern region of Abruzzo has something for everyone. Known as the greenest region in Europe, in a single day you can enjoy the sweeping views from the Apennine mountains to the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic sea. Its terrain has remained untouched and wild as its cuisine and traditions beautifully authentic. One of the most intimate ways to see and learn about the beauty of this region is by visiting its villages, participating in the sagre and speaking to the people in the local communities, often beaming with pride for their home. Like many regions throughout Italy, medieval villages are abundant. The conservation, preservation and revitalization of culture and tradition in these villages birthed the I Borghi piu belli di Italia, a private association recognizing the most beautiful villages in Italy that promotes low populated Italian towns and villages with a qualification of "outstanding historical and artistic interest". Here are 5 of our favorite borghi (villages) in Abruzzo:
Located in the Maiella National Park, Pacentro is one of the most picturesque villages, not only in Abruzzo, but in all of Italy. Only 8km from Sulmona, Pacentro is filled with Baroque, Renaissance and Medieval architecture with a skyline dominated by the incredible 14th century Castello Caldora. You can enjoy arrosticini and spaghetti alla chitarra (typical cuisine of Abruzzo) paired with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine while looking at the famous panoramic view of the village. On the first Sunday of September, in honor of the Feast of Madonna di Loreto, you can watch the amazing race, La Corsa degli Zingari…it’s not to be missed!
Tucked away in the Maiella mountains, Scanno is the enchanting village that is a photographer’s paradise, immortalized by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Mario Giacomelli. You will find a majestic heart shaped lake swarmed by swimmers in the summer months as well as natural and artistic beauty, folklore and crafts, such as lace making. It is also one of the few places left in Italy where you find women still dressed in the traditional Scannese costume. Because of its ancient origins, Scanno can be described as “a place of oriental flavor”, making it a particularly unique place to visit.
In summer and winter, alike, Pescocostanzo attracts those interested in art, culture and nature. From the fabulous skiing in nearby Roccaraso to picnicking in the Sant’Antonio Woods, this is a year round destination. Baroque and Renaissance architecture fills the pristine streets amidst rich woodlands and natural beauty. Santa Maria del Colle Basilica, possibly the most culturally significant site in the village, is thought to be one of the most beautiful and interesting churches in Abruzzo, not only because of its imposing architecture, but also because of its unparalleled collection of art.
Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Located at the edge of the Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, Santo Stefano di Sessanio has become one of the most visited medieval villages in Abruzzo. At one point in history the village was abandoned by nearly all inhabitants. As of today, many of the buildings in the tiny village have been restored or comprise of the Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, making it a revived fashionable weekend or summer retreat. It has been recognized by the Slow Food movement for its sustainable agriculture and best known for its gourmet lentils, "lenticchie".
The ancient village of Navelli, located in the province of L’Aquila, is best known for its “Oro Rosso” (red gold) referring to its production of saffron. Its postcard worthy cobbled stone streets are backdropped by the violet hued saffron fields and lush green rolling hills of the region. You won’t want to miss the views from Palazzo Santucci, historic Porta Castello and of course, Sagra di Ceci e Zafferano!