Itineraries: Castles in Abruzzo

This 3-day tour will take us through a few of the most interesting of the hundreds of castles of this mountainous region, always fighting against invaders, as many other areas in Italy. Let's say we're coming from Rome and at the GRA (Gran Raccordo Anulare, a ring around the Italian capital with exits to all major motorways and roads).

Day One

Let's take motorway A25 for about 50 km and then exit at Celano, in the heart of Marsica (the Marsi were terrible enemies to the Romans), in the Fucino plain, a wide territory reclaimed in the XiX century from the waters of the second largest lake in central Italy, now a paradise for farmers. There it is: the wonderful Piccolomini castle welcomes us from above.

After lunch at one of the local restaurants, let us get back into A25 and take the opposite direction (through A24) to L'Aquila. In the regional capital itself it's easy to find the majestic Spanish fortress built in the XVI century, which was never actually used for military purposes, and now hosts the Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo, which is well worth a visit. Let's stop for the night at one of the beautiful hotels of the city - there will surely be a concert, theatrical performance, exhibition, or, if we have chosen the second weekend of the month, an antique fair. Alas, this article was written before the 2009 earthquake.... but the city is still worth a visit.

Calascio map

Day Two

Early the next morning we are on the move again, this time south-east out of L'Aquila, leaving from Porta Napoli through S.S. 17 as far as San Pio delle Camere; there we'll take a secondary road leading up to the Gran Sasso and reach (but not in wintertime!) the Rocca di Calascio. The last half mile is on foot, an a bit of a hard walk, but the sight up there is really worth the enterprise. Going down will be easier, We might as well have lunch here, at an agriturismo that's near the castle.

Ortona map After lunch, we might now just follow the road and drive through the wonderful mountain landscape towards the Adriatic sea, following then the directions towards Chieti (entering the A25 at Bussi) and going south through the A14 exiting at Ortona, where we can check in at one of the fine hotels along the seafront. In the afternoon, a nice walk to the impressive Aragonese fortress, built on a high rock guarding the territory from the Saracens and Vikings, and then the promenade or the beautiful beach before a nice dinner (based on fish of course) at a local restaurant.

Day Three

We leave Ortona, then following state road Sp44 12 km into the hinterland, we'll be able to have a look at the recently restored Castello Ducale di Crecchio. We might go back to the A14 and proceed in the direction of Bari, stopping for a quick lunch at an Autogrill, then exit at Val di Sangro and proceed west following the signs to Roccascalegna, where a mysterious castle built in an impossible location will remain in your mind forever... After this, returning east will bring us back to the A14 and wherever our next destination is.

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