What’s your association with Abruzzo?
i.e. where do you live and why, for how long? Where did your family come from and when/ where did they emigrate to?
My grandparents are from Collefracido and Sant’Andrea, both near L’Aquila, Abruzzo. My father and his brothers spent their summers there as children (they grew up in Rome). I grew up in America but visited my great aunts there every summer until they passed away. In my family, we were taught that Abruzzo was the heart of Italy.
What’s the best thing about Abruzzo?
“Forte e Gentile” (Strong and kind). The food and lifestyle, but mostly the people, represent this axiom best. Though it’s often known for its simplicity, Abruzzo is a large and diverse region. It’s also relatively free from hoards of tourists. If I say too much maybe that won’t be true for much longer.
What’s the worst thing about Abruzzo?
It’s far away from Los Angeles.
What’s the most underrated thing about Abruzzo?
The food and its architecture — both overshadowed by its more famous neighbours, but truly remarkable. I think people are usually surprised at how splendid the churches and piazzas are, and beyond that, there are truly incredible ruins and towns embedded in the mountains. Some are reminiscent of the Hopi dwellings in the American South West, and yet are only a drive from the vibrant towns and cities. It’s truly unique.
Where would be your favourite place to live in Abruzzo?
In Sant’Andrea on Vico Vannicelli, where my great-grandfather’s house overlooks a fig orchard.
Where would you not live in Abruzzo?
Any urban center, whether in Pescara or L’Aquila — I have enough of that in my life already.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in Abruzzo?
Spending time in nature, walking until your feet are sore, cooking yourself a delicious meal with some delicious wine, and then looking up at the stars. The silence is restorative.
What’s your favourite Abruzzo vineyard and why?
Any table wine you can buy in a jug without a label.
Where’s the best place to eat? What would you do for a special occasion?
Every town has its own wonderful place to eat. In Pescara, as the name implies, the freshness of the seafood is truly incredible — and still available for a good price. It’s vastly overlooked on the culinary map of Italy.
What would be your favourite Abruzzo dish?
Is it cheating to say my grandmother’s ravioli? Her cooking was heavier than much of what I eat with my family in Rome, but everything was made from scratch and kept me growing as a boy. I would give anything to eat some of it right now.
What outdoor activities or sports would you recommend in Abruzzo and why?
Walking — I’m worried I’m going to repeat myself on this… I’m not much of a skier, but I know those who are won’t be disappointed. The Maiella mountainside is incredible, but so are the small towns and the larger towns. It may require a drive to go between the towns, but they are best seen on foot.
What’s your favourite Abruzzo village and why?
Collefracido, though I’m biased. This is the town where my grandmother was born and lived until she married my grandfather, who was from the nearby town of Sant’Andrea. Half of the town still has her name. She raised her children in Rome but never truly left — as much as they could afford to, they would spend summers and holidays in her family home.
Have you a favourite Abruzzo walk?
The Spiritual Trail in the Maiella mountainside.
What piece of advice you would give to someone new to Abruzzo?
Learn Italian and be courteous.
Which ‘must see’ event or activity best sums up Abruzzo?
Wandering. There is a sense of freedom in Abruzzo that is incredibly rare and is best appreciated without a strict itinerary.
Which book would you recommend people to read to understand Abruzzo?
This may not be the most exciting answer, but D’Annunzio is worth reading, whether or not one is interested in Abruzzo, but especially if they are. It captures the essence of something profound and makes the words I’m writing seem awfully clunky… Better to just read him!
What attitude best sums up the Abruzzesi?
I’m named after my great-grandfather who is famous for saying, “Tutto in moderation” (everything in moderation). Abruzzo is an incredibly rich place, but those riches aren’t flashy or hollow. I try to remind myself of that daily (I live in Los Angeles).
What can you discover about yourself if you get off the beaten track in Abruzzo?
This is a difficult question since it’s different for everyone. For me, my roots are here, so exploring and discovering has been a profound experience in my life. It’s hard to see the region through the eyes of people without that connection, but I would imagine that its rare combination of nature, history and its people would mean something to everyone. There is a profound simplicity that exists in Abruzzo (not that it means the people or its culture are simple) that is incredibly compelling.
If you lived outside Abruzzo what would you take to remind you of Abruzzo?
I have two items from the small castle my grandmother grew up in that destroyed during the earthquake: a piece of the roof and a sheet of prominent figures from Italian history (Cicero, D’Annunzio, etc) from an old school book. I keep them above my desk to remind me what matters in life and how grateful I am for my lineage.
I am also in pre-production on a feature-length film set in Abruzzo. It is very much about the history I have with the region and will be a low-budget and very creative comedy that highlights Abruzzo itself. It will be a challenge to capture what makes Abruzzo what it is — its soul and character — but if I can successfully I know there is nowhere else I would rather shoot. The uniqueness of its locations and its spirit are truly inspiring.
If you are interested in finding out more about Laurence’s film please visit lacerta-film.com, if you would like to help kickstart the film being made you can donate a few dollars on the La Certa kickstarter site