Discovering Hidden Gems in the Province of Teramo, Abruzzo
As an American, born and raised in the suburbs of New York, my discovery of the Central Italian region of Abruzzo happened in an unexpected way. My wife Dayana is from the province of Teramo and we met while she was on a short stay in New York to complete her master’s degree. I had been to Italy several times before in the past and, as the grandson of Southern Italian immigrants (Campania and Puglia) I still have any relatives and friends scattered across several different regions. Abruzzo, however, was unknown to me. Exploring Italy and its culture has always been a passion of mine. While I have been to most of the main cities and tourist locations such as Rome, Venice, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, my greatest joy has always been in discovering the hidden gems of “real Italy” the beautiful countrysides and “borghi” that don’t necessarily make it onto most people’s travel agenda. From the first time Dayana and I visited Abruzzo together, I was immediately drawn to its rugged natural beauty and the warmth of the Abbruzese people. The region of Abruzzo can be described as the “Heart of Italy” and it’s only an hour and a half or so by car from Rome. One of the most defining characteristics of the region is its landscape. Abruzzo offers the “best of both worlds,” featuring both the awe-inspiring mountains of the Apennines, perfect for hiking and winter sports, as well as the beaches of the Adriatic coast. Between these two areas of Abruzzo there is much to be discovered. Beyond the more well-known sites (L’Aquila, Roseto degli Abruzzi, Trabocchi Coast) here are a few of my favorite “hidden gems” of Abruzzo:
1. Poggio delle Rose
My introduction to the Abbruzese way of life was in my wife Dayana’s father’s tiny village of Poggio delle Rose. Traveling into town late on an August night by way of Rome to celebrate the Italian holiday of Ferragosto, Davana navigated her Fiat 500 through the windy unpaved roads through the foothills of the countryside. When we arrived, it was pitch dark and there wasn’t much to see but waking up the following morning in a medieval ‘Borgo’ with amazing views and fresh misty air was a memorable experience. We spent the following day, Ferragosto, exploring the town drinking homemade wine from local cantinas and eating Abbruzese staples such as Arrosticini and Porchetta. While only around 100 people actually live in the village the Poggesi are super warm and welcoming and love to celebrate, especially with good homemade wine! It’s well known in the area for its “Vino Cotto,” a semi-sweet red wine that locals often ‘cook’ at home in large copper vessels, and ‘castagne’ or chestnuts. Many of the homes feature small ‘cantinas’ and there is an annual ‘Festa delle Cantine’ where locals go to each cantina and sample all of the homemade wine along with ‘taglieri’ (cold cuts) and other ‘aperitivi.’ In the end, they decide whose wine is the best and a special award (and bragging rights!) is presented to the winner.
2. Torre di Cerrano
If you are looking to escape from the mountains during the summer, you can head to the Adriatic Coastal region of Abruzzo. One of my favorite places is Roseto degli Abruzzi (“Roseto”) which is a seaside resort town with a boardwalk in the province of Teramo. However, a lesser known point of interest is nearby Torre di Cerrano. Here you will find a tower dating back to the 1500s set on a hill next to a pine grove overlooking a quiet picturesque beach. It’s a perfect spot for a relaxing sunset walk and climb to the top of the tower offers great views and ‘Instagramable’ pictures overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It’s also a Marine Protected Area and you can find a wide variety of plant and sea life. The tower itself houses a museum detailing its history.
Montegualtieri is another ‘borgo’ in Teramo of Dayana’s mother’s side of the family. The village is famous for a triangular tower (la torre di Montegualtieri) which dates back to the 14th century. A climb to the top of the tower gives you a stunning view of the landscape of “Vallata del Vomano.” My first visit to the town was for a family wedding ceremony that took place outdoors right beside the tower. The location was so beautiful and Dayana and I are considering having our official ceremony there next year as well. The patron saint of Montegualtieri is Mary and the big “feast day” commemorating her also coincides with Ferragosto on the 15th of August. It’s a big three-day event filled with lots of typical food and fun games for kids.
The relatively "undiscovered" region of Abruzzo is a great place to discover some of the most authentic Italian countryside. These are just few of the many "hidden" gems that are worth seeing.