nestled in the mountains of abruzzo
We had a couple of days that we weren’t sure where we were going to go between the Amalfi Coast and Rome. So, naturally we turned to Airbnb to give us some ideas. And it did. We were debating between a couple different places but ultimately went with a flat in Sulmona, in the Abruzzo region. Where is that? Exactly. That’s precisely what we wanted. A place that not many tourists go, at least in the ‘typical route,’ sense. It was beautiful and felt mostly untouched by non-Italians. Our host was extremely welcoming, greeting us with a cooked omelet, homemade vegetable soup and fresh chocolate chip cake. This place is awesome. She later gave us a tour of where she worked, a local nearby Abbey, which was overtaken by Nazis during WWII, and since are trying to restore it. The town itself is famous and known for its confetti. Initia
lly, we thought of the scraps of paper and sequins that are thrown in the air on NYE. No, no, no. This confetti is very celebrated in this region. Italian confetti are small, almond sweets with a colorful sugar coating. They are usually presented in bouquet form resembling flowers or designed into other festive shapes such as animals or hearts. The confetti is given to people on special occasions: weddings, anniversaries, etc.
We did not purchase any confetti, but what we did consume was a meal that we will never, ever forget. Our host walked us to a restaurant on a side street in the main center: Ristorante Il Vecchio Muro . To start, it was set up very cozy and welcoming. There was covered outdoor seating which was already packed with loud, laughing families and happy couples. Inside had a warm atmosphere, tan walls with exposed brick accents. We walked to the back room, where we could watch the chefs at work with the brick pizza oven. To fast forward to the delicious parts: the bread was the best we had in all of Italy thus far. Shamefully enough, we down a lot of carbs. Soft and fresh and a mix between Italian bread and Sourdough. Heaven. What else? We ordered the mozzarella mixed salad and again, oh my god. The mozzarella balls were practically the size of Ryann’s fists, not to mention whatever mouth-watering marinade it had been sitting in, what a step below perfection. Lastly, the entrées. Devin ordered the plate that was locally famous, Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (spaghetti with parmesan and black pepper). Just look at this thing:
We’ve heard of bread bowls. Taco salad bowls. But bowls made out of fried parmesan? Never. WHY NOT, AMERICA!? Perfecto. Ryann ordered ravioli which was the best pasta she’s ever tasted in her entire life. Sorry, mom.
Venturing out of our host’s town, we headed towards Scanno, but passed Villalago on the way. Villalago seemed like a beautiful place to camp during the summer. We had to resist all temptation from jumping in the sparkling blue lake water but did kick ourselves a little for not taking advantage of the park and camping. It was a very small and quiet town that probably boomed with campers during the peak season. There were paddle boats for hire and many hiking trails. It was a cute little stop! It had a little waterfall as well, perhaps a perfect place for a little picnic in the fresh mountainous air.
After our pull-off in Villalago, we made it to Scanno. We heard the raving reviews of the medieval mountain town, but didn’t see too much. Yes, the buildings and houses were very old, retaining every ounce of charm and enchantment. But, other than that, there wasn’t much of a draw. According to our host, some older women still wear the traditional large skirts and costume, but after wandering the streets, we didn’t see any. Ah well. We enjoyed a delectable coffee and people-watched for a bit, enjoying the warm weather and seeing a different part of Italy.
Castel del Monte
On our way to Rocca Calascio Castle, we thought we’d better stop at the town that the movie The American made famous. If you’ve never seen it, you’re not a huge George Clooney fan. Since it was mostly on our way, we thought we’d drive through, enjoy a cappuccino and get a glimpse, that way when we watch the movie, it might be of more interest to us.
Another side-note is that our host had told us when The American was shooting, that her and her husband went to be cast as extras. They had been more or less promised that they would appear on screen as a couple and have a close-up, not just a background person. So, just like any other women would, she told her friends and colleagues, got her hair done and a new outfit, taking the motto seriously, “Ready for my close-up!” When her and her husband arrived, they had to wait outside of a restaurant to be called. Her husband had to use the restroom, so he went inside the restaurant to go. She said she waited and waited, pacing around frantic while watching others being called. She asked other people if she saw her husband, because she was too scared to leave her place. Hours later, her husband came out of the restaurant. He was cast as George Clooney’s double. Telling us this story, the animosity remains within her, not ready to let go of her chance at stardom or making it big.
The town in itself is cute- it looks like any other Italian town in the region, the only difference is that it is built around a national park. There are many pine trees towering nearby, mothers are seen pushing strollers and children playing on the playground. It seems very family-oriented and an outdoorsy town. There is a map in the middle of town displaying the various ski and snowboarding trails. Next to the map is a display of all the movies that have been filmed in the town, The American being the most recent. Overall, it’s a nice little town, but probably not worth the drive unless it’s winter and you’re a skier.
Rocca Calascio Castle
Our last stop before Rome was Rocca Calascio Castle. Traveling around Europe, you’re bound to get the chance to visit many different castles in many different countries. We do not claim to be well-traveled enough to have a real, expert opinion on such topic; however, this specific castle was one of our favorite places we’ve ever been. Well, it was for Ryann. For Devin, the Burning Nestle plant that he came in contact with might’ve left a damper in his memory (So yes, try to stay on the path). When we went, there were maybe 8 other people there at the time. We think that we were very fortunate because of all the parking lots scattered along the way that maybe it can get a lot busier. Phew! A great thing about it though, is that if it does get busy, the area is so big that you’re more than likely going to find a section of the Castle grounds to yourself.
We needn’t add how spectacular and stunning the views are as well. The farmland and scenery is just gorgeous. We wished it was closer to home, because it was that peaceful and beautiful. We would probably visit at least once a week. Another plus for our eyes to feast on were watching the farmer and trusty dog herd his sheep. It just seemed all so authentic and unspoiled.
For a long story short, Abruzzo was an amazing find and a highlight of our entire Italy trip. Just like Koh Lanta, we don’t want to overshare or advertise too much, for fear it could be ruined and overran with tourists. But to our friends and family, you can’t miss it!