Rome > Santo Stefano di Sessanio
We meet at Fiumicino Airport or Rome Termini Train Station in Rome, board our comfortable minibus and enjoy the stunning countryside as we head into Abruzzo.
Our first stop is Santo Stefano di Sessanio, and it will be our base for the next two days. Spend time settling-in, rest from your journey, or explore this quaint medieval village, one of our favourite in Abruzzo. And don’t worry about getting lost, we will find you!
Santo Stefano di Sessanio has been voted as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and has drawn the attention of Lucio Dalla, the Italian singer/songwriter, and George Clooney, who starred in the movie “The American”, which was filmed here.
In the evening, we will make our way down through cobbled laneways and beneath ancient archways to the best restaurant in the village. In the dining room that has remained unchanged since primitive times, we will celebrate the beginning of our adventure together over local wine and meals re-created from original recipes.
This morning we leave Santo Stefano di Sessanio for the day and head into one of the highest pastures of Europe, the alpine meadow of Campo Imperatore, known fondly as Italy’s “Little Tibet”. Here, at 1800m above sea level, we can see the highest peak in the Apennines, The Corno Grande. Campo Imperatore is home to one of Italy’s oldest ski resorts and its hotel was once Benito Mussolini’s prison until he was found and freed by German commandos in 1943.
We will enjoy an alfresco lunch of Abruzzo’s most famous dish, arrosticini (sheep’s meat skewers). While they cook over the coals, we can gaze at the shepherds and their maremma sheep dogs tending to their flocks, at the wild horses and the beautiful array of wildflowers out over the plateau.
In the afternoon we will visit the spectacular Rocca Calascio, one of the highest mountain top forts in Italy at 1460m above sea level. From here the views out over the valleys and mountains are vast.
Enjoy coffee and cornetti for breakfast with the locals at the bar (cafe) in the piazza. We then have plenty of time to visit the local produce and craft stores, including a honey producer, a cheese, jam and salami producer, a handloom weaver’s store, where we can watch local women perform the ancient art of bobbin lace-making, and a local producer of wool, who spins and dyes their wool using ancient and natural techniques.
Seasons permitting we will visit a saffron farm during harvest time.
We leave Santo Stefano di Sessanio and make our way to our beautiful and charming accommodation in Roccamorice, which will be our base for the rest of the tour. From our accommodation we are able to see the mountains in one direction and the sea in the other. This is the romance of Abruzzo!
This evening, we will attend a festival where we will be able to enjoy mixing with the locals, sample the street food and listen and dance along to the live folk music.
Today we head into the foothills and an area that is all about the production of wine and olive oil. The scenery along the way is beautiful, with olive groves dominating as we get nearer to the lively towns of Penne and Loreto Aprutino. Penne, known as the ‘city of bricks’ is bustling with life. In the main piazza we will enjoy morning tea with friends and sit and watch the locals go about their everyday lives.
In Loreto Aprutino, we will visit an ancient olive oil museum and a museum of the renowned Castelli ceramics.
After lunch we will visit two local wineries that are well known in Abruzzo. We will learn about the production of the typical wines: Trebbiano D’Abruzzo, Peccorino and the renowned Montepulciano, and taste some exceptional examples of these varieties.
It’s market day in Sulmona, so practise your Italian on the locals if you like and look out for the local specialty, the aromatic purple garlic. We explore the town’s churches and museums, the Aqueduct, which has been supplying mountain water to the town since Roman times, and Piazza Garibaldi, where people come from all over Europe to see the jousting re-enactment festival which is held here every year.
We will also visit the Pelino factory in Sulmona, where the confetti (sugared almonds) are made. Confetti have been a gift-giving tradition since the end of the 15th century and Sulmona is famous for the sweets. The artistic design and arrangements are a fascinating age-old skill.
After lunch we explore two villages that, like Santo Stefano di Sessanio, have been voted amongst the most beautiful in Italy; Pacentro and Pettorano sul Gizio.
Pacentro has been a mountain retreat since Roman times and in these modern times it is famous for being the home town of Madonna’s grandparents. The majestic towers of Caldora Castle can be seen all the way from Sulmona as we wind our way up the mountain. We will visit Caldora Castle, a surprising church, and also a little house that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years and shows what it was like to live in a village like this before electricity and running water.
Take your time roaming the narrow alleys of Pettorano sul Gizio and enjoy a refreshment in the main piazza with a lovely view of the village below.
On the way back to Roccamorice we will visit the large and prominent Zaccaninni winery.
Today you will have a truly unique experience! We will accompany the shepherds as they graze their sheep on the fields of the national park, breathe in the pristine alpine air and enjoy the splendid views of the mountains all around. These areas are rich in truffles and we will have a demonstration of how dogs are used to find them hidden beneath the ground, and hopefully we will find some to enjoy with our lunch.
Back at the farm is where the sheep and goats are milked to make first class ricotta and pecorino cheese. It’s quality is so revered, that it is used in the best restaurants in New York and even served at the Whitehouse! We will each get to make our own cheese, learning at the hands of these masters.
We will enjoy lunch in the farm’s own restaurant onsite, where they use only their own or local produce. We will sample the farm’s array of salamis and cheeses. Our favourite is the ricotta lightly smoked with juniper berries. The gnocchi made with wild boar and melted pecorino cheese is an experience in itself!
Relax in our luxury minibus as we drive you through stunning scenery through the national park to the beautiful villages of Scanno, Barrea and Pescocostanzo.
In Scanno we explore the medieval village and its unique stores and learn about the trade that it is famous for, handmade filigree jewellery. Learn about the presentosa and watch a demonstration using age-old tools. You might find a special piece just for yourself!
Enjoy an aperativo overlooking Lake Barrea before driving back through the beautiful ski-resort village of Pescocostanzo.
We make a late start of things and enjoy a lazy morning before taking a leisurely walk to find the hidden hermitages, the Hermitage of San Bartolomeo, and The hermitage of Santo Spirito a Majella, near Roccamorice. In amongst the hills and wildflowers we will come across the hermitages built into the side of rocky cliff-faces and enjoy a picnic lunch.
In the afternoon our hosts will teach us how to cook some regional specialty dishes using seasonal produce, while sipping on a glass of montepulciano or prosecco of course!
Today we leave the mountains and foothills behind and head to the coast. The seaside village of Vasto sits high above the beach and offers fabulous views over the Adriatic Sea. The 15 km of pebbled coastline between Vasto and Ortona is known as the Costa dei Trabocchi (Trabocchi Coast). All along the coastline are the traditional fishing houses that sit out over the water, called Trabocchi. After a demonstration of how the trabocchi are used to catch fish and seafood, we will enjoy traditional dishes such as Brodetto di Pesce (light seafood stew) for lunch on deck, made with the morning’s catch.
In the afternoon we will stop at the hilltop village of Bucchianico for olive oil tastings and a lesson in olive oil production with a local producer in her family’s own olive oil pressing museum. A little way down the narrow alley and around the corner we will descend the stairs into an ancient cellar that has been turned into an enoteca (wine bar). Here we will enjoy an educational wine tasting with the enoteca’s own charismatic host.
On our last day out and about in Abruzzo, we will visit the capital, the coastal city of Pescara.
In the morning, we will meet fishermen as they dock their boats near the mouth of the Pescara-Aterno River. They will lay out their catch for us, and we will select our favourite frutti di mare (fruits of the sea) for our lunch.
We will then go to Marco’s family’s beach establishment where lunch will be prepared and you may wish to take part in the preparation later on. But for now, we can enjoy a swim, a stroll along the lively beach, or just relax beneath an umbrella, Italian style! Nearby, the famous De Cecco family, of pasta fame, have their own beach establishment.
Keep a look out on the beach for the young man with the traditional granita cart!
In the late afternoon when the families and friends come out to socialise, we will head into the main square where we can enjoy some shopping and people watching and finish with an aperitivo along the Pescara Riviera.
This morning we will have an easy start to the day and share a coffee and breakfast as we say goodbye to the friends we’ve made and to Abruzzo.
If we are sharing a tour of Sicily together, we will make our way to the train station in Pescara and we are bound for Catania and Mount Etna!
If we are parting today, we will board our minibus for the last time and head back to Fiumicino Airport or Rome Termini Train Station in Rome.
This is an example itinerary, the composition of your tour is unique and may vary.
11 Day Tour Pricing
from $6,600 AUD per person twin share
from $4,950 USD per person twin share
from €4,400 EUR per person twin share
from $660 AUD
from $550 USD
from €440 EUR
Commences and departs at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport or Rome Termini Train Station.
Airport or train station transfers, transport, accommodation, meals and drinks with meals including table wine, entry fees and activities are all included.
Prices exclude airfares. Land cost only from Rome.