Abruzzo, known as the greenest region in Europe, lies 80 kilometres from Rome in central Italy. Abruzzo has set aside almost half of its land to green space and is renowned for its lush national parks and nature reserves. Immersed among the greenery are hidden gems. The ruins of mediaeval castles and military fortresses have become a must-see for historians, scholars and now, tourists.
Atop the rocky cliffs of the L’Aquila province sits the 13th-century fort, Rocca Calascio. Once used for military purposes, the decaying fortress stands at an elevation of 1,460 metres. From this vantage point, Rocca Calascio provides a panoramic view of the Navelli Plain and Tirino Valley. The all-consuming beauty has made this a hotspot for the filming of medieval movies; including Lady Hawke, The Name of the Rose and The Journey of the Bride. From the village of Calascio, drive up or follow the twists and turns of the narrow footpath up to the fort. After exploring Rocca Calascio, return to the village to relax in several of the bars scattered around town.
Stationed between the Rio Secco and Sangro Valleys, in the Chieti province of Abruzzo, is the mediaeval village of Roccascalegna. Towering above the town, in its domineering position, sits the Castello Roccascalegna. The fifth-century castle once belonged to the Lombards, who then passed their ownership of the massive fortress to the Swabians. After several years and several different owners, Castello Roccascalegna slowly acquired a more extravagant look. However, that changed. When the fortress was abandoned in the 18th century, it lay deserted for three centuries. Without protection from the elements and thieves, the castles structure began to deteriorate. A recent restoration in 1996 brought Castello Roccascalegna back to its former glory.
Built into the hillsides of the L’Aquila province is the oldest castle in the Abruzzo region. With three dignified towers overlooking the Peligna Valley, Castello Caldora was once part of an extensive military defense system. A system that included six other castles, including Anversa and Roccascale. After a recent restoration, different parts of the castle have been opened up for tours. Plans to open up one of the three turrets to the public are being discussed. Once accessible, the turret will offer visitors a view of the town and surrounding valley. Only a short distance from the Pacentro town square, this historic site sits next to the several hotels and shops.
Civitella del Tronto
Set on top of the rolling hills in the Teramo province lies Civitella del Tronto. Once belong to Philip II of Habsburg, King of Spain, this fort is considered the most strategic use of military engineering and positioning in Europe. Civitella del Tronto looks over the Kingdom of the Holy See, as well as the Kingdom of Naples. Tours of the fortress take visitors along three covered pathways deep inside of the massive 25,000-sqm structure. Accessible areas of the fort include the arms square, the soldiers’ barracks, the Church of San Giacomo, what remains of the Governor’s palace and one of the many cisterns. After the tour, enjoy a taste testing of Sassi d’Abruzzo. A product that can only be found in this region of Abruzzo, and in all of Italy.
Positioned at the bottom of the Peligna Valley in the L’Aquila province of Abruzzo is Castello Cantelmo. Located in the mediaeval town of Pettorano sul Gizio, the military fort was built on an irregular layout with four towers looming over the compound’s walls. After decades of lying in abandonment, the once bolstered military fortress was left to ruins. Recent renovations made in the 1990s have allowed Castello Cantelmo to open to the public. The former home to military troops now houses several exhibitions, including “The Men and the Mountain,” “Exhibition of Charcoal Burners” and “Archaeological Finds from the Roman Age.”