Encounter a side of unseen Italy in the undisturbed region of Abruzzo. Medieval castles remain strong, overlooking a valley of lush vines. The Apennine Mountains form extraordinary backdrops to historic hillside towns. Fishermen continue using ancient fishing techniques along the coastline. Shepherds traverse the undulating landscape, faithfully following their flock. Farms produce an abundance of flavorful cheeses, and vineyards make inspiring wines. Your custom tailored Italy tour immerses you...
Ortona – Heart of Abruzzo
Abruzzo is dramatic in both scenery and culture. Mountains rise and fall, creating a rugged landscape leading to lush prairies. The turquoise water of the Adriatic Sea sparkles like a gem against the sandy shores of the region. Ancient forests hide medieval towers. Isolated hilltop towns overlook emerald vineyards. You arrive in Rome, where your private transfer greets you at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport. You venture into the countryside. The fragrant aroma of the soil is eminent in the breeze.
Olive trees bloom against the backdrop of Apennine Mountains. Sheep and cows graze on vast verdant farmland. In the town of Ortona, you settle into a lavish hotel overlooking the white sand of the Adriatic coast. The town’s origins date back to the 10th century BC as a Frentani settlement. The 15th-century Castle Aragonese towers over the sea, built on a cliff at an altitude of 236 feet. The promenade along the city’s coastline provides an exceptional view of the castle and the horizon beyond. Consider reading some of our travelers' Italy vacation reviews, and gain some insight as to how to further refine and perfect your own ideal Italy vacation.
Ortona – Grasping at Olives
In the morning, the sun rises over the Adriatic Sea and layers the horizon with multitudes of color. Light reflects off of the water. The honey colored stones of Castle Aragonese return. After breakfast, your guide leads you through the lush countryside. More than 400,000 olive trees grow in the region. The town of Loreto Aprutino has a pre-Roman history dating back to the 4th century BC. The medieval structures that remain were erected in the 11th century. The town rises along the hillside at an altitude of 964 feet, surrounding the protruding structures of Palazzo Chiola and the bell tower of San Pietro Apostolo Church.
A Gothic building with a hexagonal tower houses the contemporary Olive Oil Museum, dedicated to the production of the town’s most famous export. The structure was erected in the 19th century as an olive oil mill. The edifice resembles a castle taken from a storybook. Olive presses and stones used for production fill the galleries. The exhibits provide insight into the history of olive harvesting and olive oil making in the region. Cobblestone streets wind around the hillside beneath the terracotta rooftops of the surrounding buildings. Your guide escorts you to a nearby vineyard and olive grove.
Traverse the rows of vines and trees for an enriching experience through the soil of Abruzzo. You join the olive harvest for the day, helping pull the plump fruit from the tree. The groves stretch for acres. The aroma is slightly sweet and herbaceous. You use a large stick to strip the olives from the branches before grating the olives to rid them of any remaining stems. Your guide leads you to a tasting room where you have the chance to enjoy the creamy texture and rich flavor of the fresh olive oil produced on the property.
Pescara – Images of the Abruzzo People
Fishermen set out on their colorful boats in the morning. They cast their nets into the water and find the freshest seafood to bring back for locals to enjoy. In the afternoon, the streets fill with the aroma of freshly grilled calamari garnished with garlic and lemon juice. After breakfast, your guide escorts you to Pescara, the largest city in Abruzzo. The city hosts one of the largest marinas in the Adriatic Sea. The Museum of the Abruzzi People offers exhibits highlighting the rich history of the region, which spans more than 4,000 years.
You wander through 13 large rooms, tracing the lineage of Paleolithic hunters to the customs of Rome, exploring the details of how the past has shaped the region’s current customs, beliefs, and places of worship. There are even galleries dedicated to sheep sheering and cheese making, carnival masks and glinting silver saddle pommels. The town of Navelli was classified as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. The houses were constructed with golden stone linked by strong arches. Large wooden doors open up to the meandering cobbled streets. The town grew during the medieval and Renaissance periods. The 17th-century Palazzo Santucci crowns the village at the top of the hill, providing views over the village and valley floor.
Chieti – Abruzzo Like a Local
The turquoise hues of the Adriatic contrast the gold sand shores of Abruzzo. At breakfast, you savor the aroma of a bittersweet cappuccino, accompanied by a freshly baked brioche. After your meal, you make your way to Chieti, one of the oldest towns in Italy. Chieti Alto is the upper level of the city located on the hilltop. Chieti Scalo rests in the valley along the banks of Aterno-Pescara River. According to an ancient legend, Achilles founded the city in the 12th century BC. The Gothic Cathedral was erected in the 11th century AD and maintains a Romanesque crypt.
The foundations of the original structure remain, but the church was rebuilt in a Baroque style in the late 17th century. The National Archeological Museum of Abruzzo in Chieti is located in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Substructures constructed in the 1st century AD adjoin the houses of the church. The brickwork shows the remains of large reservoirs and an ancient theater. The mountains of Maiella and Gran Sasso make a splendid backdrop to the cityscape.
You continue to the coastline, where soft golden sand creates idyllic beaches for miles along the Adriatic. The Trabocchi Coast in the province of Chieti reaches a length of 43 miles. Coves, reefs, and a historic fishing machine known as a Trabucco fill the shores. The wooden machine rests on a platform anchored by a large rock. Long arms support a meshed net. The nets sink into the deep water near the rocky coast and successfully retrieve ample amounts of fish.
Chieti – A Taste of Culture
In the morning, you venture out to a nearby gorge for a stunning walk along the landscape. The soft grass leads to the edges of rugged cliffs in the Spirito Sancto Gorge located in Fara San Martino. A small café near the entrance fills with the aroma of espresso. When you step into the gorge, you find steep, craggy walls, and an otherworldly array of boulders, grass, trees, and mountaintops. Cascading water from the melting snow along the mountains shaped the curiously shaped holes around the basin. The path is crafted out of pebbles and maintains easily located signs. Your path ends at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin. The entrance courtyard leads to the chapel carved directly into the rock.
A monumental portico adorns the façade beneath the towering cliff. The chapel was erected in the Middle Ages and maintains an element of inspiration due to its isolated location and excavated frame. In the afternoon, you meet an instructor eager to take you on a journey through the cuisine of Abruzzo during a private cooking lesson, in the town of Fara San Martino. The cuisine has married the traditions of pastoral and mountainous areas, consisting mainly of pasta, meat, cheese, and wine. The flavors maintain a gorgeous richness. The ingredients are fresh and vibrant. You follow the guidance of your instructor, creating handmade noodles and a well-spiced tomato sauce. The simple recipe culminates in an immense flavor. The finished dish is Maccheroni all Chitarra al Pomodoro, guitar pasta with a spicy tomato sauce.
Guardiagrele – Into the Hills
Sheep graze on the lush grass spreading across the valleys. Today you venture to the rocky slopes along the Maiella leading to the Avella River. The highest peaks of the Apennines climb above the Tre Grotte Valley to a height of 8,858 feet above sea level. The town of Pennapiedimonte was carved into the terraced mountainside. Norman settlements gave way to the 15th-century fiefdom of the Orsini and Colonna families. The settlement was renowned for its stone carvers, exemplified in the location of Pennapiedimonte and the stunning artistry of the architecture. Images of fruit, animals, and faces frame windows, doors, and balconies across the medieval structures of the town.
You can feel the alpine air sweeping across the cobblestone streets. The mountains encircle the town. Vineyards and forests drape the valley below with emerald leaves. You continue to the town of Guardiagrele, located at an elevation of 1,890 feet. The town contains celebrated jewelers and retains the title of “capital of copper and wrought-iron.” The Maiella Mountains frame the town on the horizon. Historic walls have protected the town since the Middle Ages. A 3,000-year-old bronze sword and decorated sheath were discovered in 1999 in the Comino necropolis.
Roccascalegna – A Cheesy Encounter
In the autumn, the vines of Abruzzo fill with grapes. Harvesters traverse the acres and collect the juicy clusters, snipping the stems away and leaving the grape behind. After breakfast, your guide leads you to the farmlands of Abruzzo, near the town of L’Aquila. The farm location provides ample space for the herds of sheep to roam the grasslands. The farm was established in the 1970s and covers 2,718 acres. The mountain terrain has a scent of wild mint, rosemary, and fennel. Your guide leads you around the vibrant farm where more than 1,300 sheep graze. More than 125 wild herbs and flowers grow along the edges of the farmland.
You have a hands-on tutorial of the cheese-making process on the farm, learning how the cheesemakers boil the water, cook the curds, and shape the wide varieties of cheeses produced on the farm. After you help mix the cheese, your guide brings out an array of aged products produced in-house, including a ricotta peperoncino, a sheep’s milk cheese with a rind of spicy chili. The curd is heated to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. The cheesemaker waits for the proteins to float to the top before adding milk. Soft flakes of ricotta are gently collected and combined. The cheese is aged for up to three months. The indulgent creamy texture alleviates the spicy flavor. You continue to the preserved medieval village of Roccascalegna located on a rocky outcrop.
Rome – Shepherd’s Way
The traditional shepherd’s path around Abruzzo winds through the mountains and overlooks the Adriatic Sea. Sheep have wandered through the hills and valleys, following the best grazing land. Medieval towns continue to decorate the landscape, demarcating trade routes and small stops along the historic country roads. At breakfast, you indulge in the view of the Adriatic shoreline, undulating from relaxing beaches to magnificent boulders. Fishermen continue to operate the trabocchi (old fishing machines), casting the empty nets into the water and pulling up a bundled catch. After breakfast, your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you the airport in Rome for your flight home.
- Relish the chance to interact with local farmers of Abruzzo, with a cheese-making tutorial followed by a cheese tasting
- Indulge in the specific tastes of Abruzzo with a private cooking session taught by a local chef using only regional ingredients and traditional flavors
- Experience the process of winemaking during a harvesting tour of a traditional Abruzzo vineyard, where you can participate in the harvest
- Explore the ravine basin en route to the preserved remains of a medieval monastery situated along the layers of the bordering cliffs
- Discover the traditional methods of producing olive oil during your visit to a celebrated olive grove farm
- Relish the white sand beaches and clear turquoise water of the Adriatic Sea along the Trabocchi Coast
In autumn, the emerald leaves of the Abruzzo forest turn auburn. The olives in the groves grow plump. The grapes on the vines turn ripe. Your 8-day Italy tour of Abruzzo is best experienced during the harvest season. The hot sunshine over the Adriatic and the cool mountain air of the Apennines provide the best combination of coastal beauty and alpine allure. Your immersion into the culture of Abruzzo begins with your arrival at Rome Fiumicino airport. Your private transfer escorts you from the airport to your tranquil, lavish accommodation in the heart of Ortona, a town set alongside the Adriatic Sea.
The following morning, you enjoy a scenic drive through the countryside en route to Loreto Aprutino. Visit the Olive Oil Museum before embarking on the first of many tours of Italy, beginning with a tour of a local olive grove where you can help harvest and press the olives into the celebrated oil. Visit the medieval church and relish the local artistry. Then, you venture to Pescara, the largest town in Abruzzo. Explore the fabulous Museum of the Abruzzi People and stroll through the historic artisan town of Navelli.
Enjoy the chance to visit a local winery to participate in the harvest experience. You travel to the town of Chieti, located on a hilltop. Tour the elegant medieval streets. Your day continues with a discovery of the Trabocchi Coast, a long stretch of the Adriatic coastline filled with stunning culture and historic charm. Then, you trek through a marvelous gorge, making your way to a 9th-century monastery. In the afternoon, you indulge in the flavors of Abruzzo with a private cooking tour instructed by a local chef. The following day takes you into Pennapiedimonte, a town carved into the cliffs.
Continue to explore the majesty of the landscape from the antique streets of Guardiagrele. The next day takes you along the edges of Maiella National Park to visit a cheese farm. Learn how the locals make their cheese with a hands-on tutorial and a delicious sampling. Following your cheese tour, you make your way to extraordinary Roccascalegna, a town perched on a cliff with the Apennines in the background. On your final day, your private transfer meets you at the hotel after breakfast and escorts you to Rome Fiumicino Airport for your flight home.
$2,195 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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