The Magic of Abruzzo Blog
"We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us." Anonymous
"We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us." Anonymous
Our Amazing 5-Day Holiday in Roccasale, Italy in Abruzzo
Written by Shoshana Blauer
Though I have been to Italy several times before, this is the story of my first trip to Abruzzo - a region not well known in Italy. Last November, I had a conference to attend in Rome, and my husband and I decided to travel to some hidden places off of ‘the beaten track’. Well, did we ever find a gem! The B&B that we are staying at, La Rocca Mia House B&B, was recommended by three of my colleagues (thank you!!). The owners of the B&B arranged everything for us. They took care of every detail from breakfast to transportation to all the wonderful experiences we had.
Today, the start of our holiday in Abruzzo was an easy, and nothing short of spectacular, 2-hr bus ride due east of Rome to Roccacasale, which is in the Province of L'Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy.
Built on the slopes of the Monte Morrone in the central Apennines, the village of Roccacasale overlooks the Peligna Valley and the town of Sulmona.
Corfinio! What a sweet little village with their center piece the fountain adorned by hand crocheted squares made by the local women to honor those who died in the 2009 earthquake.
We did so much just on our first day here! We are enjoying the beautiful crisp, clear fall weather.
Domenico took us up the winding road to Scanno which is only about 45 minutes away. It is a picturesque town looking down to the valley below. We passed a beautiful lake so clear you could see the bottom, it was fun to see the original Roman bridge crossing over the pristine water.
Thankfully, Abruzzo is off the typical tourist trail (so far) and that’s what we like. Our Holiday in Abruzzo had No lines, no garbage, clean air, friendly and welcoming people… we were probably the only tourists. SO nice! Margaret and Domenico are wonderful hosts. Great first day!
Cooking with Rosa. Another amazing day in Abruzzo! For me, the real way to know a region is through the food, the people, the beauty of the land.... that’s Abruzzo! First up, pizza rustica! The ingredients are eggs, flour, zucchini, cheese, olives, ham and yeast. It’s nothing like what you think of when you say pizza!
Next up for cooking in Abruzzo - 'sugo' which means sauce and can include anything. In this case, it was zucchini, fresh mushrooms, and grated carrot. This is going to be served atop pasta- chittara!
Chittara pasta - only in Abruzzo! The pasta is cut on a special device which is strung with tight wires (like a guitar) and after the dough I’d prepared, it’s rolled over the wires to cut the perfect pasta! What fun to do this.
And finally, tiramisu. It is clearly is a classic dessert. It’s really not something I enjoy because I’m not a whipped-cream fan, but it was surprisingly fun to make!
Was it the fact that it’s a market and I love markets? Was it the perfect combo of sun and clouds on this fall day? Was it the famous “confetti” that looks like flowers but is actually local almonds wrapped individually and turned into art? Was it the winding stone staircase? Was it just that it’s Sulmona on a Wednesday in Abruzzo?! Just WOW!
After lunch we took off for Bominaco and Capistrano - today was full of sights and places in this gorgeous, beautiful and abundant valley. The church at Bominaco was built by monks, and the frescos have been preserved in this little town.
The sad fact about all these precious villages is that they are all but deserted. No work for people so they all move to bigger cities or even the USA/Canada - leaving the elders to sit and watch the vacant streets as the seasons change. Thankfully, there is intermittent construction funded by local municipalities to shore up old buildings - when the money is gone, so are the people.
On the way back to the B&B, Domenico stopped at another interesting village (cause that's what he does). I have to write the name of the little village so I won’t forget it...Pronounced, “Che-vi-tara-tenga” in the most beautiful valley in Abruzzo, originally a Jewish Ghetto in the 1400s. Nothing left of that and no descendants. This entire area was all agricultural in its heyday. The most important crop was saffron! Bulbs originally brought by monks - from Spain - who got it from the Arabs. This special variety of crocus has the saffron pistil that must be removed by hand! Once saffron was cultivated and sold “commercially” this industry in the valley all but dried up.
Abbazia di Santo Spirito al Morrone in Badia. Monastery turned convent then prison and now museum. It houses the region’s cultural departments and we were treated with a thorough tour.
After the abbazia, on what turned out to be THE most beautiful day, we had a hike planned for the Parco Nazionale della Majella. Describing this place would be like describing the Columbia Gorge. Big, bold, beautiful, expansive, unending vistas, fall colors, and more!
Still the same day!! We visited the local frantoio where olive farmers bring their crop to be processed into the magic elixir. The color of the oil has no bearing on the quality or taste. It’s the acidity that has to be less than .02 for it to be considered extra virgin and the quality is determined by the time between picking and pressing. The quicker it’s pressed, the better quality (among other factors). This frantoio has been in the family for decades and the woman I’m sitting with is the wife of the original owner.
To finish the day we had dinner at Il Carro Restaurant in Pratola. Trying Arrosticini for the first time. Little cubes of lamb roasted on a stick over coals and lightly salted after cooking. A local specialty and OH so yummy!!!
This was our last day and Margaret and Domenico managed to squeeze in one more experience for us!! We hear about “truffle hunting” but until you’ve done it, you can’t imagine… three small dogs (Lagotto Romagnolo- which are the only ones approved by the Italian Kennel Club), joyfully run around in an oak tree grove - planted specifically for truffles which grow at their bases. When the dogs smell one (and they ARE pungent), they start to dig! Their trainer comes and takes his long handled spade and carefully unearths them so as not to break their lumpy bumpy black earth-crusted exterior.
This holiday in Abruzzo, for me, was exactly what I was looking for...some place off the beaten track that gave us an authentic view of Italy from a rural point of view. See our review of the fabulous B&B that we stayed in and that arranged all these wonderful experiences for us.
Then email Margaret and Domenico so that they can set up a similar trip for YOU!
Just click here: firstname.lastname@example.org for your next holiday in Abruzzo, Italy
5 stars ***** GUEST REVIEW
"A lesser-known region of Italy, (and we secretly hope it stays that way), is Abruzzo.
La Rocca Mia B&B (Margaret and Domenico are the hosts), gives even the most well-traveled folks, experiences that demand return visits!
The accommodations are ideal for a couple or family as the former church was transformed into a warm and inviting home base. Nestled at the base of La Rocca, short drives in every direction allow for guided activities such as hiking, truffle hunting, olive harvesting and pressing, and more.
Cooking with the locals your thing? Rosa comes to you and spends several hours guiding you through the makings of an authentic Abruzzo meal. For each and every activity Margaret and Domenico have local contacts who are experts.
This town is where Domenico grew up, and his knowledge and storytelling make all the secrets come alive. Two hours by bus from Rome and you have been transported into the idyllic part of Italy that commands you come back, again and again, to see and experience more!
Thanks to La Rocca Mia- and the best hosts ever- we will be back!"
Shoshana Blauer and Stephen Miller from Portland, Oregon
About the author
This blog is curated by Margaret Gigliotti, B&B owner, teacher, explorer, wine drinker and creative writer.
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