A tour through the culture and history of the 5 most beautiful and evocative villages in Abruzzo. Immerse yourself in nature and savour the traditions of these places where time seems to stand still.
Abruzzo is a region of Southern Italy divided into four provinces: L'Aquila, Teramo, Pescara, and Chieti. The West includes the Gran Sasso of Italy and in the East a coastal area with beaches on the Adriatic Sea.
Abruzzo is a region of Southern Italy in terms of its culture, language, history, and economy. In terms of physical geography, it may also be considered part of Central Italy.
Almost half of the region's territory is protected through national parks and nature reserves, more than any administrative region on the continent, leading it to be dub "The Greenest Region in Europe."
There are three National Parks, one Regional Park, and 38 protected nature reserves that ensure the survival of rare species.
Abruzzo: Where the Sea surround the Mountains
Abruzzo, with its lively seaside resorts, ancient towns rich in history, and high peaks, is the Italian region that offers beautiful landscapes, combining different traditions and emotions.
It is no coincidence that Abruzzo's coat of arms is an Italic shield divided into bands of three different colours: white like the snow-capped mountains, green like the inland hills, and blue like the sea.
Abruzzo is a region that can be visited 365 days a year for its location and climate and its excellent skiing facilities, numerous excursions on foot or by mountain bike, splendid beaches, and towns with a history stretching back thousands of years.
Finally, we should not forget the region's long tradition of food and wine, ranging from "arrosticini" to fish "brodetto" from Sulmona sugared almonds to Torrone tender to aquilano chocolate.
Abruzzo: The 5 Most beautiful Villages
Abruzzo is also the land that preserves the small, authentic villages that are real gems not to be missed during a trip to this beautiful region because they preserve a truly unique historical, architectural, and cultural heritage, which should not only be preserved but also enhanced.
Set among the Apennines or surrounded by green parks, the villages of Abruzzo are wonderful places where time seems to stand still.
Abbateggio is a municipality in the province of Pescara.
It is a small village on the slopes of the Maiella (the mother mountain of Abruzzo), listed as one of the "Most beautiful Villages in Italy."
Surrounded by greenery and perched on a rocky spur, it had its origins with the Abbey of San Clemente a Casauria, founded by Emperor Ludwig II in 866 in the ancient town of Casauria.
Abbateggio is a village with small houses, made of white local stone overlooking the Fosso Fonte Vecchia valley, characterized by winding streets and steep stairways, from which one can look out over the green views surrounding the town.
In the historic center, corresponding to the site where Abbateggio's castle once stood, there is the Church of San Lorenzo Martire, with its Renaissance facade, 15th-century portal, and Baroque interior.
On a rocky hill opposite the village, with views of the Gran Sasso, the Maiella and Morrone mountains, and the Adriatic Sea, there is the Sanctuary of the "Madonna dell'Elcina."
This Church was built on the site where there were some Marian apparitions between the 15th and 16th centuries, assuming a considerable religious value for the entire valley.
Under the altar there is a trunk of an elm (holm oak) considered to be a remnant of the tree on which the Virgin appeared, while near the altar there is a painting depicting the Madonna in a red tunic and blue mantle, sitting on a tree, holding the Child in her arms.
According to popular devotion, the painting is the same one that Our Lady gave to the two shepherd children to whom she appeared.
Abbateggio is also rich in archaeological sites, such as the Valle Giumentina site, one of the most important Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites in Abruzzo, where a group of "tholos" huts, dry stone structures built by shepherds and farmers as shelters, can be admired.
Other archaeological sites have emerged in "Contrada Sant'Agata" and at the "Col di Gotte" crossroads.
In the former, the votive altar of a small early-medieval church, to which women devoted to Saint Agatha went to ask for fertility and an abundance of milk was brought to light.
In the second site, fragments of statues of great importance were found. Among these, the lower part of a bust, in whose six-fingered hand the God Hercules can be recognized, to whom the sanctuary now being re-emerged may have been dedicated.
It is a village with many possibilities for excursions on foot or with a mountain bike, also suitable for climbing, due to its location in the Maiella National Park.
Gastronomy also has its charm in a village full of traditions.
In Abbateggio, to be rediscovered among the peasant seeds is the "Spelt", the ancient food of the Egyptians and other Mediterranean peoples, whose cultivation remains in limited mountain areas with cold, calcareous soil.
2. Caramanico Terme
Situated at an altitude of 650 meters, in the heart of the Maiella National Park, Caramanico Terme is a municipality of Lombard origin that still retains its medieval layout with the remains of houses, walls, ancient gates, and a charming maze of alleyways all around the town and is enriched by some imposing mansions built during the Renaissance.
It is famous for its state-of-the-art spa center. It is a very popular destination that boasts the presence of two special waters, one sulfurous with anti-inflammatory properties and the other oligomineral with diuretic properties.
The presence of these beneficial waters has led to the creation of a thermal center where treatment and prevention activities and services dedicated to personal well-being are carried out.
This village is ideal for a relaxing holiday, but it is also perfect for hiking enthusiasts since from its historic center many paths allow you to explore the Orfento Valley.
The Orfento nature reserve is an area of the Apennines where wolves, Marsican bears, deer, roe deer, and chamois still live. It is not uncommon to see the golden eagle circling in the sky in the silence broken only by the flowing waters.
Hermits and monks have found their places of ascesis here, founding churches and hermitages set in the rock of the Maiella, such as the Hermitage of San Giovanni, which is more difficult to access, located at 1220 meters in a scenic spot in the Orfento valley.
The descent leads to Decontra, a small hamlet with a core of stone houses. The view from here is marvelous: Monte Morrone and the north-western slope of the Maiella divided by the Orta valley.
In this small village, too, you can savor delicious dishes that recall the simple but tasty cuisine made up of traditions and scents that cannot be found elsewhere, such as pasta "Alla Chitarra" with lamb sauce or cheeses accompanied by black pork and wild boar salami.
Located at an altitude of 1410 meters in the Maiella National Park, a strange mountain with large canyons, rock walls, and dense forests in the valleys, Pescocostanzo is a village of extraordinary beauty.
The town boasts a really unique architectural, historical, and religious heritage dating back to the medieval period and is one of the "Most Beautiful Villages in Italy."
Walking through its streets, you can admire masterpieces such as the Church of Jesus and Mary with the adjoining Franciscan Convent, Palazzo Sabatini, and the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria del Colle.
The village is also famous for having a long tradition of handicrafts creation such as carved wood and wrought iron items, filigree jewelry, and bobbin lace. Some of the women of Pescocostanzo still sell their precious bobbin lace directly to their homes, even from drawings.
Between Pescocostanzo and Cansano lies the "Bosco di Sant' Antonio", one of the most beautiful beech woods in Abruzzo.
Protected as a Nature Reserve since 1985, the wood contains numerous centuries-old plants, maples, wild pear trees, yews, turkey oaks, and cherry trees. Gentian, peony, and one of Italy's rarest wild orchids, "Pipactis Purpurea" bloom in early summer.
Pescocostanzo is part, together with Roccaraso and Pescasseroli, of the most important ski area in Abruzzo, which attracts many winter sports enthusiasts every winter.
In the winter, it is possible to go cross-country skiing among the beech trees and on the plateau below, while summer lends itself to walks and picnics.
4. Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Santo Stefano di Sesssanio is a charming medieval village located at an altitude of 1250 meters in the Gran Sasso and "Monti Della Laga National Park."
It was part of the Campo Imperatore- Piana di Navelli mountain community.
Among the "Most beautiful villages in Italy," it is undoubtedly a destination not to be missed during a trip to Abruzzo.
The current urban conformation of the village dates back to the Middle Ages, is part of a process in Abruzzo that sees the birth of small fortified towns in places not easy to reach to defend themselves from enemy invasions.
For this reason, it is defined as a real jewel set in the mountains.
The village, built between the eleventh and twelfth centuries and dominated by the powerful Medici family at the end of the sixteenth century, is a magical and timeless place where silence, high altitude, an enchanting landscape, and the beauty of the old town center welcome you.
Walking through Santo Stefano di Sessanio, among houses and streets built in white limestone, made only a little more opaque by the passing of the centuries, it seems like taking a trip back in time,
the tile roofs create a harmonious vision for those who look at the village from above.
This small village attracts many tourists who love culture and nature, ideal for those who love sustainable tourism.
There are many cultural initiatives in collaboration with organizations, institutions, and museums from all over the world, with the main attractions of the place being the Medicean Tower, which is presumed to have existed before the arrival of Francesco de' Medici's family.
Restored after it collapsed during the 2009 earthquake, it was returning to the community in April 2021.
In "Piazza Medicea" stands the Chapel of Santa Maria Delle Grazie or del Carmine, whose high altar houses the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Carmine.
In the center of the village, you can admire the palace that was built as a stately residence by the Medici, called "La Bifora" or Palazzo del Capitano.
Finally, don't miss a visit to the Chapel of the Madonna del Lago, located just outside the village, near the small lake of Santo Stefano, from which there are nature and ski trails.
What most represents Santo Stefano, however, is the "Lentil."
It is a product of the highest quality, which is grown only in the arid soils of the high mountains.
Excellent to taste, the lentil is the basis of traditional dishes that tell the story of this area, writing it in the flavors and ancient gestures of the kitchen, which has become a Slow Food presidium.
Tagliacozzo is a destination in the province of L'Aquila, in the western part of the Marsica region, lying on the slopes of Mount Civita. It is rightfully one of the "Most Beautiful Villages in Italy," thanks above all to the integrity of its ancient part.
It is a place rich in history, dating back to the Middle Ages, with a marvelous square at its center, one of the most harmonious and scenic in central Italy, from which narrow streets lead off, giving the feeling of going back a few centuries.
To grasp the essence of the town, it is necessary to arrive in its ancient heart: beyond the Roman arch, where houses, palaces, churches, alleys, and streets meet in a concentration of traditions and typicality.
Tagliacozzo has a history made of great episodes: here Corradino di Svevia was defeated by Carlo D'Angiò and this is also mentioned by Dante in the XXVIII "Canto dell'Inferno."
It also boasts a priceless cultural and historical heritage, from the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell'Oriente situated on a hill at the foot of Monte Aurunzo, to the Church and Convent of San Francesco with its beautiful facade and ancient portal and Gothic rose window, which houses the tomb of Blessed Tommaso da Celano, the first biographer of Francis of Assisi.
The oldest complex, rich in memories, is the Church and Monastery of Saints Cosma and Damian, which houses a painting known as the Holy Face.
Finally, the Oriental Museum, which displays Egyptian, Oriental and Ethiopian antiquities, should not be missed. Among the votive offerings is an 1856 painting ordered by the entire population of Tagliacozzo in thanksgiving for the end of the cholera epidemic.
The pearl of Tagliacozzo's artistic heritage is the Palazzo Ducale, which has two architecturally very different floors, one in Gothic style, the other in Renaissance style.
The center of social life is the Piazza Obelisco, to the east of the old town. This is surrounded by elegant buildings with a lovely loggia with Renaissance windows, in the center of which is a fountain with an obelisk.
Many events characterize the town's cultural activity throughout the year, such as the Festa del Volto Santo (Holy Face Festival), celebrated annually on the Sunday after Easter, the Renaissance festival in honor of Ascanio Mari in July, and the prestigious International Midsummer Festival in August.
You cannot leave Tagliacozzo without tasting the "gnocchetti" with chickpeas, polenta with sausages served in "sciffellette" (wooden plates), lamb with cheese and eggs, salami, ham, bacon, guanciale, loin of pork, coppa and livers.
In Tagliacozzo you can taste, also, delicious desserts such as almond macaroons, chocolate mostaccioli, aniseed biscuits, doughnuts with wine or sugar icing, and jam-filled "barachiglie."
Abruzzo: Amaze yourself
Abruzzo is a unique territory that offers breathtaking landscapes. Land of Sea, Mountains, and Lakes. Among Villages, Castles, and Nature. From the high peaks of the Gran Sasso and The Maiella, up to the beautiful beaches. What are you waiting for? Come to Italy, and visit these authentic villages in Abruzzo!