The landscape photographer Michael Kenna tells us about the region he discovered whilst photographing his book ‘Abruzzo’.
What’s your association with Abruzzo, when did you first visit, where have you made your base?
My first visit to Abruzzo was in November, 2015. I had earlier been invited to visit by Vincenzo de Pompeis from the Fondazione dei Musei Civici di Loreto Aprutino. He was proposing to put together an exhibition of photographs of Abruzzo and wished to see if I was interested to photograph Abruzzo and be included. I based myself in Pescara where Vincenzo lives and together we explored Abruzzo by car and foot from there.
What’s the best thing about Abruzzo?
Abruzzo seems to be relatively unknown compared to many other places I have visited in Italy. It is not packed with tourists – which greatly helps me with the sort of unpopulated photographs that I prefer to make. Abruzzo’s landscape is incredibly diverse. In some places, the land is exceedingly wild and mountainous, whereas in others, it is domestic and pastoral. Hill towns, castles and churches proliferate. Vineyards and olive groves are ubiquitous. Eighty miles of Adriatic shoreline provide endless points of view. In my humble opinion, the most difficult part of photographing Abruzzo is choosing from its vast abundance of rich and diverse subject matter.
What’s the most difficult thing about Abruzzo?
Getting there! The few direct flights between London and Pescara fly very early or very late.
Which is your favourite season in Abruzzo?
Spring, Autumn and Winter are all fabulous. I have yet to visit in the Summer, but will be doing so next week. Maybe I will be adding Summer, or maybe not. Watch this space!
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in Abruzzo?
Hiking and photographing in the mountains. Exploring hill towns. Sitting in quiet village churches. Tasting wine. Meeting trees. Wandering along the beach.
Eating good food and drinking fine local wines.
What’s your favourite Abruzzese wine, do you have a preferred winery?
I drank Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines well before I even knew where Abruzzo was. I was introduced to Pecorino wines when I was there. I photographed in the lovely Pietrantonj vineyard and wine cellars. I think my favorite Abruzzo wine will be the next one I drink – which will be very soon.
Which have been your favourite places to eat in and why?
Often Vincenzo and I would start our day hours before sunrise in order to reach a location and photograph in the exquisite dawn light. I absolutely loved the first coffee and pastry of the day, in whichever small local bar we came across. Lunch was normally a sandwich on the run, but occasionally we were photographing along the coast and the fresh fried fish was absolutely delicious. Late night seafood dinners were probably my favourite meals, along with chilled white wine. The restaurants were many and varied, depending on where we ended up after photographing.
What’s your favourite village in Abruzzo?
There was something magical about most of the villages I explored, but I particularly enjoyed Pescocostanzo in the winter when it was covered in snow.
Have you a favourite walk in Abruzzo?
One could walk forever in Abruzzo and never be disappointed. High in the mountains at Campo Imperatore, through mist shrouded trees at Rigopiano, along the coast at Montesilvano… There are so many options that is is not possible to even consider a favourite.
What piece of advice would you give to someone new to Abruzzo?
I think it is important to allow a good amount of time to become acquainted with this beautiful region of Italy. I have only visited four times, each for about a week. Based on this limited experience, I fully understand that I am still just a fortunate tourist. There are highlights of course, but it is in the space between these highlights where Abruzzo fully reveals itself. Primo Levi has aptly described the region as “forte e gentile” (strong and gentle). One has to be patient to best enjoy the many facets of this splendid place.
If you only had 24 hours in Abruzzo which 2 vistas should you try to visit?
For me, they would be Rocca Calascio Castle and Campo Imperatore. Both locations are stunning. Fortunately, to get to them, you will also see many other beautiful scenes
What piece of advice would you give to budding photographers shooting early morning mists in the mountains?
Get up very early!
Buy the Book
Michael Kenna’s book Abruzzo is published by Nazraeli Press