Escape to Abruzzo
One of the best things about travelling within Italy is how quickly you can end up in a region with a completely different landscape, architectural style, and cuisine. Santo Stefano di Sessanio, a tiny village in Abruzzo’s Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, is a perfect example of this: in under two hours, you can be wandering the streets of a place so different from the busy streets of Rome that you’ll feel like you’ve travelled much, much farther (and back in time by a few hundred years).
Santo Stefano, unlike many otherwise similar villages in this region of Abruzzo, has been carefully restored over the past few years and you’ll find several boutiques (full of products and artisans representing the region’s rich traditions, naturally) scattered throughout its streets. The village is small enough that you can thoroughly explore it in a couple of hours – when you’re done wandering, head down the hill to “La Locanda sul Lago” and order a plate of pasta with wild boar ragù.
From there, drive on to Rocca Calascio (only fifteen minutes away), a tiny medieval village with an ancient fortress (dating back to the 10th century) overlooking it from a nearby hill. The walk through the village and up to the fortress is short and easy but full of stunning views of the surrounding mountains; once you reach the top, you can explore both inside and around the fortress. If you can, be sure to stay for sunset, when the entire scene is dramatically backlit as the sun sinks behind the hills.
Where to eat
La Locanda sul Lago
Address: Via del Lago snc
Where to stay
Sextantio Albergo Diffuso
Address: Via Principe Umberto
How to get there
Take the A24 to L’Aquila, then follow SS17 to Barisciano. From there, the Strada Provinciale 7 takes you to Santo Stefano di Sessanio. To get to Rocca Calascio from there, follow the Strada Provinciale 7 to the town of Calascio, then turn onto Via di Pizzo Falcone, which winds its way up to the old town.