Here are 24 surprises to do, taste, experience and expect from a break in Abruzzo. They were originally created for the 2018 #AbruzzoAdventCalendar on the Facebook Page, we’ll create another for 2019!
Day 1 – Abruzzese Passion!
Pasta Grannies interviewed Nonna Maria who immigrated from Monteferrante to New Jersey over 50 years ago, but Abruzzesi traditions, food, language and love of her first home remain strong.
Day 2 – Porchetta
You can easily find porchetta trucks at market, a weekend sagra (fair/festival), sometimes even just by the side of the road ready to prepare you a sublime pannino or sliced on a tray to take home as an inexpensive indulgence. Click thru on the image to watch a video of porchetta being prepared in a wood-fired oven.
Day 3 – Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise
80% of the Apennines oldest national park – the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise is in Abruzzo & it supports 60 species of mammals, 300 birds and 40 species of reptiles, not to mention the wide variety of insects and invertebrates.
Enjoy 2.45 minutes watching some of the animals that visit a ‘Rubbing Tree’ over 365 days which shows the rich biodiversity of the animals who live in the woods around Pescasseroli and use this tree as a marker on their daily journey.
Day 4 – Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga
One of Europe’s largest protected areas, the beautiful national park Ente Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga is worth exploring for an inspiring walk even in the winter.
Day 5 – Fire
Not only is it still used to cook on, help dry foods, and snuggle round and keep warm on a chilly night, its strong importance to the ancient peoples that lived across Abruzzo means that their rites have been adopted & adapted to feature strongly in religious celebrations & sagre today.
Day 6 – Sagre!
These wonderful festivals and events run throughout the year and provide a superb opportunity to sample local food and drink, culture and if you are lucky a bit of history. Their size depends on the village or town that is hosting them but some have been going on for centuries, and act as a wonderful way to bring the community together. Many will re-enact a historical event or a pagan festival whilst the smaller villages will often celebrate a local harvest that they like to show off on the feast day of their patron saint. Have a look behind the scenes of the ‘La Notte nell ‘ Ilex’ held in the town’s castle and learn a recipe with Vincenzo’s Plate
Day 7 – The Capestrano Warrior
There are many more ancient civilizations in Italy than just the Romans, one of them is the Piceni that flourished in the 6th century bc. Have a look at the superb video for a detailed look at this ancient Piceni warrior found by a farmer in Capestrano and read about him here.
Day 8 – The Parco Nazionale della Majella
The Mother of the Apennines’ contains the Majella, Morrone, Porrara, Pizzalto and Rotella peaks and inspired Abruzzo’s only pope, Celestine V to choose here to create his hermitages.
Day 9 – Christmas Markets (Mercatini di Natale)
A taster of what to expect, read more here
You can’t leave Abruzzo without a walk or cycle through this coastal nature reserve that is framed by vineyards and olive trees, expect to see wild flowers as early as February
❄️Day 11 Ski-ing!
With over 700 km of slopes available 🎿🏂🏾, Abruzzo is the region where Neapolitan & Romans head to at weekends to ski at Roccaraso, Rivisondoli, Campo Felice and Ovindoli. Ski at Passolanciano-Majelletta and you ski with a view of the Adriatic Sea view, inland, take advantage of some glorious cross-country skiing. Read our review of ski-ing with children👉 https://bit.ly/2EdZXfH or view the resorts.
Day 12 – Pecorino Cheese
To many who visit the region, this sublime sheep’s cheese comes as such a surprise. As they visit different localities, visitors begin to understand the impact of environmental diversity, how the seasonal herbs that grow wild at different altitudes in each range of mountains where the sheep graze help provide the wonderful difference in flavours of this cheese.
Watch this great video by Gran Sasso Laga Intangible Cultural Heritage of the shepherd’s ‘prince’ literally pull the cheese together after heating the sheep’s milk, adding rennet (from lamb, goat or artichoke) before she adds it into the fiscelle (baskets). Afterwards it is scalded in boiling whey, dried, salted, and left to mature on wooden boards from between a few months to more than a year . Read here the cheeses we tasted from up by Lago Campotosto https://bit.ly/2Cu0mqK & pairing suggestions https://bit.ly/2Lcsvrx
Day 13 – A Gentle Canoe Ride Down the Stunning Tirino River with Il Bosso
This is a inspiring slow travel journey every visitor to Abruzzo should make
Day 14 – Beautiful Small Towns
The region’s officially recognised ‘small pearls’ are mostly set in the mountains, but there are a few on the coast and are worth taking a day to explore. 23 feature on I Borghi Piu’ Belli D’Italia‘s official list, only Umbria has more! They are judged on their aesthetics, historical importance, art, culture and liveability. Read more 👉 http://borghipiubelliditalia.it/abruzzo/
Day 15 – Internationally Acclaimed wines!
Although Abruzzo can do plonk rather well, it’s now a star on the international circuit for its stunning award winning wines! 🍇Montepulciano d’Abruzzo celebrates its 50 dop anniversary this year, but do you know its other indigenous grapes – here are its most famous and the wines they create
Day 16 -“Rifugio”
A mountain hut or cabin; also a place of shelter (refuge) in conditions of adversity or hostility and word of the day from Robert Macfarlane. Abruzzo’s mountain-top rifugi are all incredibly different in their accessibility and the facilities they offer, but what they have in common is providing some of the most beautiful views of Abruzzo, space to think and a motivation to begin hiking . Do click thru and check out the panorama from Refugio Duca Degli Abruzzi which is closed this winter, but will re-open ready for the summer 2019.
Day 17 – The Transiberiana D’Italia
The Transiberiana D’Italia, so called because of the snow that often accompanies a trip aboard the Sulmona-Carpinone-Isernia railway that linked Abruzzo with Molise. This is the ideal way to take a stunning slow travel themed day-trip up into the mountains aboard this very special weekend & holiday time train that ranges from being a ‘polar express’ & visiting the Christmas markets & santa’s grotto, to truffle, wine and beer trains to name a few. Aboard expect local snacks, drinks folk music and a tour around some of Abruzzo’s less visited mountain towns. At each stop, expect a local farmer’s market put on especially for the train.
Day 18 – Taranta
This is the traditional 2-sided woollen blanket used as bedspreads, tablecovers, cushions, shawls, mats, carpets and throws that almost died a death this year, when the last surviving weaver to make them almost gave up. Thankfully he didn’t, and a positive social media campaign began to save this craft –#SavetheCopertaAbruzzese . The business was saved and a working website established. I’ve updated our post from 8 years with their latest pics and website details, they make great presents!
Day 19 – Castles & Towers
There are 23 castles and 8 towers to explore in the region, some are just ruins but their setting is always spectacular, here’s a taste with Torre di Cerrano, Roccascalegna, Rocca Calascio & Castel del Monte #LifeInAbruzzo
Day 20 -Truffles
Abruzzo is Italy’s largest producer of truffles 15% is white truffle, 1/3 is black truffle, whereas the rest is scorzone truffle, also known as “summer truffle. Click on the image for our recipe for a yummy baked pasta truffle primo for the holidays, details where to hunt & shave a truffle or buy truffle products to take home – 👉https://bit.ly/2zN3xcR& try out a festival 👉 https://bit.ly/2P6qFh0
Day 21 – Religious Art
Step inside abbeys and churches that feel that they are tucked away in the middle of nowhere and you can find fresco and sculptural masterpieces from between the 11th and 14th centuries that you won’t be able to stop gazing at. They may not be so famous or numerous as their Florentine cousins but they’re worth hunting out and a road trip to discover
Day 22 – Peperoncini 🌶️🌶️
Whether dolce or piccante, this protagonist in Abruzzese cuisine forever aligns Abruzzo to Italy’s beautiful south. Expect to find it in dishes, used within the oil that potatoes or an anchovy is fried and salami and cheeses too. In place of salt and pepper in restaurants grasp the scissors that sit in the middle of the table next to the fresh or dried chilies and snip to liberally embellish, read more https://bit.ly/2EJgedR
Day 23 – Pasta
Abruzzo’s famous biggest exporter is De Cecco, but if you visit the region, take a trip to the smaller family run pasta companies. They create incredible pasta made from a healthy diversity of wheat and grains like solina that are low in gluten.
Day 24 – Music
Perhaps you were never into folk music before you visited Abruzzo but you will leave with memories of how uplifting it can be and you how it got you on your feet dancing next to a Nonna. Buon Natale a tutti!