Santo Stefano di Sessanio is a medieval hilltop village in the unspoilt region of Abruzzo, nestled on the rocky hills of Gran Sasso National Park. Each year in September the Lentils Festival takes place to celebrate the local legume, a special type you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Lentils (Lens Culinaris Medicus) is an ancient legume featuring healthy characteristics: it is normally cultivated in mountainous areas between 1000 – 1600 masl, due to the hard growing area its production is limited to a few annually tons. The biotype of Santo Stefano’s lentil is tiny and flat, the colour is between darkish purple and brown: its principal nutritional characteristic is the richness of iron (more than other types of lentil), in addition to proteins and vitamins, in fact it is known as “poor men’s meat”. This type of lentil has been cultivated in L’Aquila area since 998 BC, nowadays the largest production is grown in Barisciano, Castelvecchio, Castel del Monte, Calascio and Santo Stefano di Sessanio. A Slow Food district was created to support farmers and encourage them to produce lentils.
During the Lentils Festival, a variety of typical dishes made with local lentils is offered to visitors, the most popular is the delicious lentils soup served with sausages, fried pizza and cheese panzerotto. The soup is also well paired with a little piece of fried bread and sheep skewers (arrosticini). Lentils can be consumed daily, they are easy to cook and do not require soaking.
The Lentils Festival in Santo Stefano di Sessanio is a perfect opportunity to explore the area, here are a few useful tips to plan your break in Abruzzo:
- WHERE TO SLEEP
Design Hotel Sextantio (Santo Stefano di Sessanio) | This is an innovative hospitality approach with a beneficial impact on local economy, a true symbol of responsible and sustainable tourism. The rooms of the hotel are located all over the borgo, they were restored using native hand-crafts experts and locally sourced material, sleeping in one of those rooms is indeed a jump back to ancient times.
Residenza La Torre (Santo Stefano di Sessanio) | The Residenza is composed of comfortable mini-apartments, a perfect accommodation for families with children. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful.
Camping Gran Sasso (Santo Stefano di Sessanio) | If you prefer a closer contact with nature, this little campsite is the perfect choice. It is situated at 1238mt above sea level, at the foot of Santo Stefano. There are 13 pitches for camper or caravans and 40 pitches for tents. The campsite is equipped with toilets, showers, dishwasher, washing machine , Wi-Fi and a tiny library with Abruzzo guides. It is accessible to disabled tourists and dog friendly, a restaurant is available on premises serving delicious food.
Residence Villa Valsi (Santo Stefano di Sessanio) | An old grandparents’house turned into a lovely property with 5 apartments opening onto a beautiful garden. Each apartment was carefully restored and furnished with respect to the traditions of the mountains of Abruzzo.
- DINING OUT
Santo Stefano offers many good places for dining, these are my two favourite spots:
La Locanda sul Lago (Santo Stefano di Sessanio) | Near the little lake, this cosy locanda offers typical dishes and good local wine in a warm atmosphere. The recipes are a mix of traditional and nouveau cuisine. Good quality/price ratio!
La Bettola di Geppetto (Santo Stefano di Sessanio) | Located in the historical centre of Santo Stefano, the Bettola is a little family run tavern , with a small selection of dishes which are traditionally cooked . The staff is very kind and the atmosphere is familiar. Good quality/price ratio!
- HOW TO REACH SANTO STEFANO
BY PLANE | The closest airport to reach Santo Stefano di Sessanio is Liberi Airport (PSR) in Pescara, only 100 km away. The next closest alternative is Rome only 150 km away. After landing, you will need to hire a bus or a car via highway A24.
BY CAR | From Rome: motorway A24, exit L’Aquila Est, head towards Pescara – Popoli. SS17, exit Barisciano, turn left. 9 km till S.Stefano di Sessanio. From Pescara: motorway A25, exit Bussi sul Tirino – Popoli, head towards L’Aquila. SS17, exit Barisciano, turn right. Drive for 9 km until you reach Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
See you soon in Abruzzo!
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