This is our selection of some of the most beautiful towns to visit in Abruzzo. Each has something special to offer: breath-taking views, rich history, charming old streets, a lively Sunday market, traditional festival or a magnificent medieval castle. Here we have only picked 10 towns, but there are many more to explore. Make sure you subscribe to our magazine for in-depth articles about the region’s history, culture, places to see and things to do.
A lively town with a rich history, Guardiagrele is often described as the “balcony of Abruzzo” for its sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, the Majella Mountains, and the sea stretching at the horizon.
Being one of Italy’s most beautiful towns (I borghi più belli d’Italia) Guardiagrele has an undeniable charm. The old part of the town tightly sits on the hill, while the newer neighbourhoods with modern villas sprawl among the olive groves below. Unlike in many other of Abruzzo’s towns, here the historical centre remains a vibrant residential area with a Sunday market, busy shops, bars, and restaurants. Walk along Via Roma, Via San Francesco, and Via Tripio, which run through the heart of the centro storico, to immerse yourself in the town’s atmosphere, chat with shopkeepers, people watch, and discover the many layers of history Guardiagrele still preserves.
Set in the mountains of the Majella National Park, Pacentro is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Abruzzo. According to legend, the town was founded by Trojan hero Pacinus. Historians say that Pacentro’s origins can be dated between the 8th and 9th centuries, but numerous archaeological finds suggest the human presence in the area well before that, in early prehistoric times. Pacentro is dominated by the spectacular Caldora Castle. First mentioned in a document dating back to 951, it is one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in Abruzzo.
Historical palaces, ancient churches, old ladies making bobbin lace outside their houses, tiny traditional pastry and goldsmith shops ticked away in narrow alleyways. Scanno is all these and much more. No wonder that in recent years, the town has become one of the region’s biggest tourist destinations. Local associations organise regular festivals celebrating Scanno’s rich history and culture and in summer months the town is abuzz with visitors from all over the world. The town is also renowned for its delicious mostaccioli biscuits, pan dell’orso sweet bread made with dried fruit and covered in chocolate and sheep milk cheeses from the Valle Scannese farm.
Just outside Scanno, lies the famous heart-shaped lake with well-equipped beaches and many hiking trails.
Famous for its painted majolica that has been made here for many centuries, Castelli is reached via windy mountain roads. Works by local masters can be found in such museums across the world as the Louvre, the Metropolitan, and the Hermitage. You can learn about local majolica tradition in the Museum of Ceramics which displays the splendid works of the masters from the past.
Not far from the town centre stands the 17th century Church of San Donato, built in the early known as “the Sistine Chapel of majolica” for its marvellous majolica ceiling, unique in Italy. Every year, on August 15, there is a fun competition that attracts many spectators: local teams throw plates from the top of the town which must land in a specific spot. For more details see the local tourism Facebook page. Castelli is located in the heart of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park and there is an extensive network of hiking trails in the area, so bring your walking shoes if you want to explore them.
Built around Ducal Castle, the picturesque town is perched on a hill above the Aventino River and boasts spectacular views of the Majella Mountains. One of the most beautiful towns to visit in Abruzzo, it has been recently added to the list of I borghi più belli d’Italia. Whereas, the Church of Santa Reparata, built in the mid-15th century, has been declared a National Monument thanks to its valuable coffered ceiling carved and painted in gold and Romanesque portals. Don’t miss the town’s cheerful three-day festival dedicated to Santa Reparata and San Gilberto that takes place the first week of October. For more about what to see and do in Casoli see our post here.
Caramanico Terme, one of Italy’s most beautiful towns, has a lot to offer: plenty of history, magnificent views, traditional festivals, and good food.
The ancient town of Caramanico Terme is flanked by the imposing massif of the north-western Majella — the green and reassuring “Mother Mountain” as it is often called here — and the spur of Monte Morrone. It is one of the most spectacular settings in Abruzzo’s landscape, with the town rising in perfect, natural harmony against the dramatic backdrop of the mountains. Narrow and elongated rows of old stone houses run from a summit where an ancient castle once stood to the bottom of the valley at the confluence of the Orta and Orfento rivers.
The Orfento River Valley is one of the most spectacular places in the entire Apennines. Over thousands and thousands of years, the river has chiselled a canyon with vertical walls that today are covered with thick vegetation. The area is crisscrossed with easy and well-marked hiking trails. You can set off along the river independently, after registering at the Visitor Center, or with an organised group.
Castel del Monte
In the heart of the Gran Sasso mountain range stands the medieval village of Castel del Monte. It boasts spectacular views of the Gran Sasso mountains, rich history, ancient traditions, and hearty cuisine. Due to its strategic position, it played an important role in the so-called Land of the Barony, which included such villages as Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Calascio, Castelvecchio Calvisio, Carapelle, and Barisciano. Located only a few kilometers from the famous plateau of Campo Imperatore, in the view line of the magnificent castle of Rocca di Calascio and an easy drive from the city of L’Aquila, it is becoming a popular destination among both Italian and foreign tourists.
For such a small place, home to fewer than 500 people, Castel del Monte packs a punch: there are things to see and do for nature lovers, foodies, history, and art buffs. A day trip here can include a leisurely walk in the part of the village under the ancient sporti (arches); a tour in the Museum of Traditions; sampling pecorino canestrato di Castel del Monte — a traditional unpasteurised sheep milk cheese made by local shepherds; and sipping craft beer made with local ingredients, while admiring incredible vistas over the surrounding mountains. For more read our article about Castel del Monte available in this archive bundle.
It takes strong legs to climb up from the first house to the top of Pretoro, as there are more than 1,407 steep steps but it is certainly worth the effort.
Located in an ancient beech forest, the town has always had some of the region’s best masters of woodworking. They made spindles, kitchen utensils, and chairs. Only a few of them continue their work today (read our story about a chitarra maker from Pretoro in the December 2021 issue of ABRUZZISSIMO available here).
Walking through the narrow streets flanked by medieval stone houses, you can glimpse beautiful views of the distant sea and stone lions observing you from the balconies. Many of the 875 town’s inhabitants play at least one musical instrument and some of them are members the famous local marching band, so the sounds of music can be often heard as you walk in Pretoro. There are many events and festivals throughout the year (when the current restrictions are lifted): Notti di San Lorenzo in August (traditional crafts, food, music), Maiella Uttobeer Fest (a beer festival) in October and a nativity scene contest in December. For further information, check the local tourism office page.
Forbes magazine listed Città Sant’Angelo among the 10 best destinations in the world to both visit and live in, calling it “a corner of paradise” and “Italy’s best-kept secret.” Spend a day walking along the town’s ancient streets and discover its rich history, spanning over centuries and visit its magnificent churches.
The old part of the town, originating from the 8-9th century, sits on a hilltop. Its position played an important part in coastal defense and land trade routes which guaranteed commercial and cultural exchanges for centuries. The town’s historic center still retains many architectural gems, such as ancient gates, Romanesque churches, and noble palaces which stand along the picturesque streets called rue in the local dialect. Around 900 people live in the historic part of Città Sant’Angelo, but the majority of its 15,000-strong population is spread out across the surrounding picturesque hills.
In February, the town celebrates the Carnival with colourful parades that attract thousands of visitors. For more about it see our article here.
Crecchio is a beautiful village nestled on a hill near the Arielli river in the province of Chieti, with a formidable medieval castle. Inside the castello is the Museum of Byzantine and Early Medieval Abruzzo, where it is possible to admire archaeological finds from the area. The town’s glorious past is celebrated during the hugely popular festival A Cena Con I Bizantini (Dinner with the Byzantines) at the end of July. The town is also famous for its quality extra virgin olive oil and excellent wines.
Featured image: Pacentro, by Getty Images