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Away from it all

8 Jul

People planning a visit to Italy often ask how to get away from it all: How to get off that proverbial beaten track, or through Rick Steves’ magical back door. They want to see places without so many tours and tour groups. We’ve found some less-visited spots in Rome (Beyond il Colosseo) but I daresay we really had a true escape in Abruzzo.

A rustic interior, furnished as it might have been hundreds of years ago.

A rustic interior, furnished as it might have been hundreds of years ago.

July 4 we headed out for Santo Stefano di Sessanio on the recommendation of Italian friends. “One night” they said. “You have to stay here one night.” The whole town is under renovation having been literally abandoned after WWII. The hotel is called Albergo Diffuso  because the rooms are scattered about in former residences. Peace reigns supreme with quaint streets, simple cuisine, and rustic but comfortable accommodations. As in much of Italy, building code is not what one might expect in North America. Case in point, the “stairway” to the bedroom portion of our suite was really more of a ladder, reminiscent of something one would find leading to the hayloft in a barn.  We loved the rustic simplicity combined with modern conveniences: candlelight, energy-saving switches, but a soaking tub and bath fixtures to rival many hotels. All surrounded by this charming, under-renovation village. Our rate included a suite, dinner, breakfast and a picnic basket to take away with us for lunch on the road the next day. English spoken? Some, yes, especially by the hotel staff; not so much in the shops or restaurants. Other guests were Italian. We met only one American couple passing through and a Canadian couple

currently living in Pescara. Here are a few more pictures from the hotel and town of Santo Stefano.

Deep soaking tub. Clearly not the type of plumbing one had 500 years ago.

Deep soaking tub. Clearly not the type of plumbing one had 500 years ago.

Ladder to our comfortable bedroom. one of many things I love about Italy. In North America building codes would never let this fly.

Ladder to our comfortable bedroom. One of many things I love about Italy: In North America building codes would never let this fly.

Ric in our rustic bedroom. A terrific night's sleep awaited us.

Ric in our rustic bedroom. A terrific night’s sleep awaited us.

One of the artigianale shops in Santo Stefano.

One of the artisanal shops in Santo Stefano.

What has been restored is picturesque. With all the work in progress, it will become even more lovely as it is restored.

What has been restored is picturesque. With all the work in progress, it will become even more lovely as it is restored.

For entertainment and exercise, we made our way to the rocca, or fortress, above Calascio, just down the road a piece. Situated at 1460m (4790 feet), we ascended on foot from the village of Calascio, about 820 feet of gain.  While much of the walk was on a paved road, the last bit was a scramble over rocks that afforded an unparalleled view of the castle, and just might have worked off the lunch Geppetto served us at his bettola (in English we’d say dive but it really was a cute little café).  We were virtually alone at the rocca. A few people came by car to the rifugio just below the rocca and walked up the last little bit, but we were the only ones who made the entire trek, which afforded us an ever-changing view of the landscape.

The rocca (fortress) above Calascio, as seen from about 820 feet below.

The rocca (fortress) above Calascio, as seen from about 820 feet below.

On our hike up to the rocca, the view from just above the village of Calascio.

On our hike up to the rocca, the view from just above the village of Calascio.

Getting closer as we climb, the size of the fortress is impressive.

Getting closer as we climb, the size of the fortress is impressive.

The last bit is a scramble over narrow trails and rocks.

The last bit is a scramble over narrow trails and rocks.

Of course such an outing demanded an Abruzzese dinner, which was served in what we Americans might call a tavern, reminiscent of pioneer days. Dining is hearty in this region: lamb, porchetta, roasted potatoes, strong cheeses. At night there was no noise, no light. We slept for 9 hours, something we never do in Rome.

Old fireplace in the "tavern" where one finds Abruzzese cuisine.

Old fireplace in the “tavern” where one finds Abruzzese cuisine.

Breakfast room, rustic and cozy.

Breakfast room, rustic and cozy.

Elegantly packed by the hotel, enjoyed along the roadside in Abruzzo.

Elegantly packed by the hotel, enjoyed along the roadside in Abruzzo.

We moved on to Castelli, but I’ll save that for a following post.

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11 Responses to “Away from it all”

  1. R. July 9, 2013 at 21:38 #

    Wow! just wow Laurel! The pics are so wonderful and the write up is great. I am ready to pack to up the kids today(!) and go see Abruzzo… now I just need to convince Allan– and maybe wait until Avik is out of diapers 🙂 Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!

    Like

  2. Carolyn July 9, 2013 at 16:31 #

    Hi! I’d say Abruzzo is definitely a keeper for a return visit. I love thinking about the calm and peace you found there. I love that it sounds like the reconstruction is going on at a calm and peaceful pace. Love ya, Carolyn

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 9, 2013 at 19:41 #

      Hi Carolyn. What’s really cool about this region, Abruzzo, is that it is normal, scenic, forest and mountains. Kind of like going to the Cascades. Not exotic, not a search for Renaissance art or Roman ruins (although we found some medieval ones!). It was a relaxing getaway that happened to be in Italy. And it is so nice to see that heritage preserved, too.

      Ti amo! Laurel

      *Laurel L. Barton* *Roma, Italia* http://www.GoodDayRome.com

      Like

  3. Anita HIlmoe July 9, 2013 at 05:34 #

    Yet another wonderful place to hear and see pics about.

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 10, 2013 at 04:40 #

      Thanks Anita. So many corners to explore. Abruzzo alone could take many return trips as it is full of tiny treasures ans magnificent scenery.

      Like

  4. Nicholas DiStefano July 9, 2013 at 03:27 #

    Beautiful!! Love getting to see your travels through Italy!! We hope to get to see you both next year!!

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 9, 2013 at 04:06 #

      So much to see and we’ve only scratched the surface, it seems. You guys need to get further north next time. We are off to the Dolomites in a couple of weeks, but Abruzzo is on the “must return” list.

      *Laurel L. Barton* *Roma, Italia* http://www.GoodDayRome.com

      Like

  5. Terah July 8, 2013 at 20:03 #

    Move over, Rick Steves! I’ll take Laurel’s travelogue any day!

    Like

    • gooddayrome July 8, 2013 at 20:06 #

      I doubt Abruzzo will be overrun any time soon! I’ll post more in a day or tow. Check out our new photo under “About,” though.

      *Laurel L. Barton* *Roma, Italia* http://www.GoodDayRome.com

      Like

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  1. The road less traveled in Austria | gooddayrome - February 23, 2016

    […] we also try to go places that are truly off the proverbial beaten path. Torino, the Val Gardena, Abruzzo, Porto Santo Stefano, and Procida are places unaccustomed to seeing very many North Americans and […]

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