Being a travel agent has its perks.
Every now and then I try to remember how many cities I visited, restaurants I ate at and hotels I slept in, a hard task that I like to document with photographs, posts on social media, souvenirs and business cards, that I admittedly collect with painstaking care. I keep them in a tin box named Travel Memories, whenever I open it apparently forgotten places, people and flavors suddenly relive, as if they had a life of their own.
I was born in Northern Italy, in a small city on the shores of Maggiore Lake, a lovely place where I used to spend my summer vacations as a child. My first travel occurred when I was only 1-month-old, a long journey from Northern to Southern Italy: my parents returned to Abruzzo and definitely settled down after realizing that their experience as young emigrants was over. That fact perhaps accounts for the wanderlust I developed at a later stage of life.
After visiting the major European cities for business, in the recent year I devoted myself to exploring Abruzzo, my native region. I love to visit little villages I never heard of, very often I find myself surfing the web or reading travel books to get inspiration. I love to organize picnics in the countryside or short weekend breaks to chill out with my family.
Last summer we promised the kids to live a camping experience, they were totally thrilled at the thought of sleeping in a tent: after some researcheswe decided to visit the area around the Scanno Lake. We packed the car with our Quechua Tent and drove to Scanno on a hot summer day. We were positively puzzled by the things we were able to do without any advanced planning and would like to share the experience with you, along with our recommended to-do list.
1. TAKE IT SLOWLY, YOU ARE ENTERING THE SAGITTARIO VALLEY
With spectacular gorges and beautiful water springs rolling between limestone cliffs carved by the river, the Sagittario Valley is a regional WWF Nature Reserve located around the village of Anversa degli Abruzzi (in the province of L’Aquila). The area covers approximately 400 hectares and is an unspoilt natural treasure. A deep canyon also provides a shelter for bears, threatened by the fragmentation of forests .
2. MIX WITH THE LOCALS IN CASTROVALVA
Castrovalva is tucked away high in the Abruzzo mountains and boasts a permanent population of 19. It saw its heyday in the Middle Ages when it was on a sheep transhumance route that wound through the Abruzzo mountains. In 1930 it was drawn by the Dutch artist Escher, today the village’s population swells to over 200 in summer. To attract more tourism an unorthodox video was filmed a few years ago: a group of pensioners lining up on benches in a remote, mountain village in Italy have decided to stop watching the world go by and lure visitors with a video in which they dance to Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff. The video went viral on Youtube with over 33.600 views.
3. HAVE A PICNIC WITH A VIEW
It is said that San Domenico from Sora lived in the late 10th century, founding various monasteries and making such an impact with his actions that the local people became deeply devoted to him. One of the hermitages was built in Abruzzo, in a scenic Alpine valley surrounded by great mountains: the water that poured on the plane in 1929, when the dam of a new hydroelectric plant was built, was named after the ancient hermitage thus becoming San Domenico Lake. A pretty little church had already been built in a cave near the hermitage when the lake formed, thus, its façade is reflected in the water, doubling the beauty of the view over the wonders made by nature and man. This enchanted landscape is a perfect spot to chill out on summer days.
4. MEET THE ELEGANT LADIES OF SCANNO
One of Abruzzo top destinations is the charming village of Scanno: it is the most photographed medieval village in Italy and owes its international fame to the art of the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. A feature that makes this village unique is its beautiful women, showing off dressed in traditional costumes: they wear a long black pleated skirts and bodices which weigh around 12kg, embroidered aprons and a coiled fez -like hat they used on ancient times to balance the baskets of fleeces they carried on their heads.
5. TASTE LOCAL FLAVORS
When visiting Scanno, you can’t miss to taste Pan dell’Orso, an incredible local delicacy. One autumn day, many years ago, shepherds were ready to leave Scanno and lead their flocks to warmer lands. Each of them had a knapsack filled with bread and cakes made with chocolate, almonds and honey of incomparable fragrance. It is said that a large bear attackedthe shepherds and devoured their cakes, since then the delicious sweet was called Pan dell’Orso (bear’s bread). Best recommended local producer: Di Masso pastry company.
6. RELAX ON THE WATER
Scanno Lake offers several sports opportunities, like biking, swimming, trekking, nordic walking, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, canoeing. We went for a relaxing water pedaló, basically a small pedal-operated pleasure boat that you can use to circumnavigate the area. When opting for water sports in Abruzzo remember to always bring a sun-protection cream, dark sunglasses and a large sun hat, especially in spring and autumn when the sun heat is masked by a gentle breeze.
7. TAKE A RIDE ON RICKSHAWS
If you love cicling with family and friends, this is a very nice option: in Scanno it is possible to hire cycle rickshaws, small-scale local means of trasnsportation, 100% human-powered, environment-friendly and fun. A 30-minutes rickshaw ride up to 4 people costs approximately 15 euro.
8. CAMP COMFORTABLY (OR NOT)
Settled in a very enviable position overlooking the lake, we stopped at Camping I Lupi in Scanno. The property features 5 bungalows, 350 tent pitches, caravans and camper areas, we chose a very quiet spot under some pine trees, the view from there was simply amazing. What I appreciated most was the numerous BBQ corners available in the camping lot, most guests used them to cook meat skewers and sausages. If you prefer a rustic retreat in the village I would recommend La Casa dei Nonni B&B.
9. STOP IN VILLALAGO
Villalago is a nearby village listed in the club of the most beautiful boroughs of Italy: the first mentioning is traced back to the very beginning of the 11th century, the village has only 632 inhabitants living in an enchanted historical center arranged like an amphitheater, with picturesque spots, staircases, alleys and little squares creating a magical atmosphere, especially at night.
10. EXPLORE THE BEAUTIFUL ANVERSA DEGLI ABRUZZI
Anversa degli Abruzzi</strong> was built on a rocky spur overlooking the gorge of Sagittario river, it was a wealthy town due to the raising and commerce of sheep. Wealthy inhabitants used to spend money on decorating their houses and carved stone features that can be seen when walking through the village. At the top of the village lie the ruins of a Norman castle dating back to the 12th century but devastated by the earthquake in 1706. We loved the unique limestone portal of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, dating back to 1540. Best recommended place to eat out Agriturismo La Porta dei Parchi!
For more tourist information on Abruzzo download the Tourist Board free guide to the region.
See you soon!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.