Abruzzo Love

Abruzzo collage 2

If you follow my Instagram feed (see the rotating images on the right rail of this page) you may know that I spent the latter half of July in Abruzzo, Italy, tooling around the Maiella and Gran Sasso mountain ranges with my family. Italy may be a small country, but Abruzzo is vast, with a coastline that extends from Le Marche down to Puglia, and rocky mountains that hold centuries-old secrets: medieval villages, religious hermitages, and unique food and cultural traditions that persist to this day. These mountains were the backdrop to my mother’s life when she was growing up in Chieti, and the older I get the more I find myself wanting to return.

The trip was short ~ too short ~ but, as always, I came home filled with inspiration, nostalgia (I hate leaving Italy), ideas, new friends and a renewed sense of awe for this breathtaking region of mare e monti.

I ate way too much, but it was all for a good cause. I’ll be sharing more about the trip in the coming weeks, including new (and new to me) recipes. This post is more about people ~ people who love Abruzzo as much as I do, possibly more. These folks are working hard to spread the word about this spectacular region and all it has to offer. I’d like to introduce you to a few of them. If you’re thinking about traveling to Abruzzo (you should be), they are good people to know about.


Fabrizio Lucci of Italia Sweet Italia/Photo courtesy of Linda Prospero

Fabrizio Lucci runs Italia Sweet Italia Experience Breaks, a company offering small group tours that explore the food, art, history and culture of Abruzzo, with a particular focus on the area around the picturesque coastal town of Vasto. My family spent a day with Fabrizio, along with my friend Michelle Capobianco and her family, in which we were introduced to the trabocco, a spindly wooden fishing pier that is peculiar to the southern coast of Abruzzo.

The first trabocchi were devised some 300 years ago, not by fishermen, but by contadini (farmers) who were intimidated by the sea but wanted to be able to fish. These days there isn’t much seafood to be had so close to shore, certainly not enough to make a living. So the trabocchi that dot the coastline, jutting out over the water, have become educational and gastronomical attractions ~ places where you can learn the history of these strange structures and also enjoy a typical fish-centric meal.

We spent part of the day on Trabocco Punta Tufano, which is owned by Rinaldo and Maria Veri. Michelle and I helped Maria cook a traditional seafood pranzo that included marinated anchovies, stewed octopus, stuffed mussels, spaghetti with tiny clams and brodetto alla Vastese, a rich, regional fish stew (top center in the photo collage). For more details, read my friend Linda Prospero’s blog post about her day on the trabocco. To learn more about the ‘trabocchi coast,’ as the area is known, check out my friend Carmelita’s website Terre dei Trabocchi. Here’s the English version.


Rinaldo Veri’s family has owned a trabocco on this spot for more than three centuries. He built this one after a storm demolished the previous structure in 2007.

Fabrizio also brought us to Fontefico Winery, where brothers Emanuele and Nicola Altieri are producing a small selection of organic wines in the countryside near Vasto. It’s a beautiful location ~ with a view of the Maiella mountains on one side and a view of the Adriatic Sea on the other. The sea breezes and microclimate make it an ideal spot for growing the Pecorino and Montepulciano grapes that get turned into wine.

Fontefico property

The grounds of Fontefico Winery, near Vasto

Our day ended with a surprise pizza dinner at Fabrizio’s family’s house, and an impromptu lesson on how to make tarallucci olio e vino, or celli ripeni, tender crescent-shaped cookies filled with cocoa-spiked grape preserves. I have yet to master working with the extremely soft dough and perfecting that plump crescent shape (see photo at bottom right of the collage) but Fabrizio’s mother, Anna Maria, was kind enough to award me with a certificate anyway.

me and Anna Maria

Fabrizio Lucci’s mom, Anna Maria, cousin Rosa and me after an impromptu lesson on how to make jam-filled cookies known as tarallucci olio e vino. I’m working on mastering the recipe.

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Emiliana Dell’Arciprete is the founder of Abruzzo4Foodies. She organizes walking food tours and cooking classes in and around Guardiagrele, a medieval city in the foothills of the Maiella known for its iron and copper works. Guardiagrele is also known for a suggestively shaped, cream-filled sponge pastry called sise delle monache (nuns’ breasts), which we sampled at Pasticceria Emo Lullo on our walking tour with Emiliana (second row on the left in the photo collage). We stopped for a wine tasting at the cantina of Santoleri winery, and then ~ my favorite part ~ a tour and tasting at  CantinArte olive oil museum in nearby Bucchianico.

Francesca oil

Francesca di Nisio of CantinArte stands in front of an antique stone olive press in her family’s olive oil museum.

Francesca di Nisio, whose family owns CantinArte, gave an excellent tutorial on how to choose and taste olive oil. I’ve written a bit about olive oil before, but stay tuned for some new information, tips and advice from Francesca in a future post.

Emiliana also introduced me to Giulia Scappaticcio, who owns Casale Centurione, a country house with lodging and a restaurant that serves traditional Abruzzese cuisine ~ homemade pasta, farm-fresh cheeses and vegetables grown in the family’s organic orto. Giulia’s mission is to give visitors to her restaurant an authentic taste of Abruzzo.

* * * *

I met Nancy and Michael Morizio thanks to…Nancy Morizio. She and her husband run Abruzzo Presto!, which conducts private custom tours of the region’s countryside. Nancy had emailed me last year to tell me she was a fan of my books. So of course I liked her immediately ~ even before we met.

Nancy and Michael Morizio

Nancy calls herself a “joyful adopted daughter of Abruzzo” and her description is spot-on. Her husband, Michael, has the roots. His family comes from San Tommaso, a tiny village in the province of Pescara, where he still has relatives. He and Nancy became so enamored of Michael’s ancestral home that a few years ago they moved there and immersed themselves in local life. They are as knowledgeable as any native about the region, with boundless enthusiasm to boot.

My family and I spent a memorable day with them, driving around the Maiella, exploring temples and churches and abbeys and ~ the highlight ~ a tour of the incredible Santo Spirito Hermitage, a structure carved into the mountain that dates back to the 11th Century. According to Michael’s cousin Adolfo, who led the tour of Santo Spirito, there are as many as 50 such hermitages tucked into the mountains of Abruzzo. The region’s remoteness, its near-impenetrability in centuries past, must have made it ideal.

Santo Spirito collage

Even my teenagers were smitten with Santo Spirito hermitage, where Pope Celestino V (a.k.a. Pietro da Morrone) spent many years in contemplation.

Abruzzo isn’t quite so remote anymore, though (with the exception of its beaches in summer) it is still refreshingly free of the throngs that flock to other parts of Italy. The Huffington Post recently named Abruzzo one of the best places in the world to retire. Some of us feel it’s a pretty great place to be at any time.

 * * * *

Here are a few more Abruzzo links. If you know of any others, please feel free to share them in the comments section below:

Paesaggi d’Abruzzo: a Facebook group dedicated to showcasing Abruzzo through images.

Love Abruzzo: a blog by an Abruzzo native who shares her love for her region.

Hang On to the Vine: an occasional blog by Helen Free, co-founder of Let’s Blog Abruzzo, about exploring her Abruzzo roots.

Life in Abruzzo: a blog about art, culture, food and travel in Abruzzo by Sammy Dunham, co-founder of Let’s Blog Abruzzo.

Visit Abruzzo: the region’s official tourism site.



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30 Responses to Abruzzo Love

  1. Adri August 5, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    What a glorious time you have had. I am looking forward to hearing more about your travels, the people you met and the wines and food you enjoyed. I’m an armchair traveler now, so I will look forward to every installment!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:10 am #

      Thanks for reading, my friend. I hope you are on the mend. Un abbraccio.

  2. Beth (OMG! Yummy) August 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    After a heart-warming and unbelievably yummy week in the south of Italy (that I haven’t even had time to write about yet), there really isn’t a part of Italy that isn’t on my list to visit. And this list will be stored away in my Evernote file for when the next planning session starts! Thanks for sharing your experience Domenica.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:14 am #

      Beth, I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip. I agree ~ all of Italy is worth visiting. Every region is so different. I wish more people would venture beyond Tuscany ~ but then again, one of the appeals of Abruzzo is that it isn’t nearly as crowded.

  3. Laura (Tutti Dolci) August 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I haven’t explored Abruzzo yet but it’s on my list; loved following along via IG!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:14 am #

      Thanks for putting up with my IG addiction Laura!

  4. jamielifesafeast August 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Oh, Domenica, this is marvelous! What a fabulous time you had! And happy teens to have had this great experience! This is a region that I have never visited but because of you and your stories and images it is at the top of my must-see list. Thanks for sharing all of the addresses of people who give tours and organize cooking classes. A must! And yay for the certificate…I love it! Beautiful images. Thanks for sharing your family vacation 🙂

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:15 am #

      Aw, thank you for reading, Jamie. BTW, I enjoyed your Nantes series on IG. Beautiful. If (when) I get back to France I’ll be knocking on your door, you know it.

  5. elisa August 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    What a wonderful trip!!!! I am sending you a link you might like.


    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:18 am #

      Thank you for the link, Elisa. I didn’t know about this one. I’ll check it out.

  6. Leonardo August 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Welcome back in Italy, Domenica! Bentornata!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      Grazie Leonardo! Purtroppo il soggiorno e’ già’ finita e mi trovo di nuovo a casa in Virginia. Ma spero di tornare presto.

  7. bettyannq @Mango_Queen August 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    What a great write up on Abruzzo. I feel like packing my bags and just go on a great exploration of these wonderful sites. Good to know there are tours available. I will bookmark this for my next trip to Italy. Thanks for sharing, Domenica. Missed you at BSP4, though!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      Thanks Betty Ann. I’ll get to BSP one of these years. I hope our paths will cross again soon. xo

  8. amelia from z tasty life August 5, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Che viaggio meraviglioso! …e che nostalgia ritornare, vero?

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:22 am #

      Hai proprio ragione Amelia. Non vedo l’ora di tornare. Un abbraccio.

  9. ciaochowlinda August 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Domenica – Thanks for the shout-out friend. You hit so many wonderful places and had so many varied and interesting experiences in Abruzzo. I have had the honor and privilege of meeting almost everyone you mentioned, with the exception of Fabrizio’s charismatic mother – something I hope to remedy in the future. What fun to have learned to make those taralucci from a master. You have enticed your readers with a small taste of the fabulous sights, sounds and tastes that Abruzzo offers. I miss it too.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2013 at 7:24 am #

      Such a great group of people, aren’t they Linda? I hope one day we find ourselves over there at the same time. Magari l’anno prossimo!

    • Fabrizio - Italia Sweet Italia August 9, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      Ciao Linda, thanks a lot for your nice words! You know, my mother and my family were busy for my cousin’s wedding during your visit:-) It will be a pleasutre to let you know my mother during your next visit!

  10. Majella Home Cooking August 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Ciao Domenica, Our days together in Vasto and Guardiagrele were truly made memorable by the fabulous people you mentioned in this post. I’m currently in Vasto and looking forward to a good night’s sleep after a full day at the pristine beach and a leisurely pranzo of of brodetto Vastese (btw, the version we prepared with Maria at Punta Tufano was far surperior 😉 that culminated in what might possibly have been the most stunning sunset I have ever witnessed at Punta Aderci. I can hardly think about leaving this spectacular region next week without a lump forming in my throat. Una meraviglia. Un abbraccio, Michelle

    • Domenica Marchetti August 7, 2013 at 8:00 am #

      Sounds like a perfect day, Michelle. Your boys must be loving the beach. Enjoy the rest of your stay and take lots of pictures.

  11. Chiara August 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    che bei posti hai visitato Domenica , ho letto con molto interesse il tuo post ! Spesso noi italiani pur avendo queste cose meravigliose così vicino non le conosciamo, è un peccato !Un abbraccio…

    • Domenica Marchetti August 9, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

      Grazie tanto, Chiara. Penso che tutti noi facciamo la stessa cosa ~ non sempre apprezziamo tutte le bellezze che ci sono in torno a noi. Ho visto al tuo blog che anche tu stai viaggiando quest’estate. Foto bellissime. Ti auguro buone vacanze! xo

  12. Fabrizio - Italia Sweet Italia August 9, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Grazie mille for this great post Domenica! It was a pleasure and an honor for us to let you discover our area of Abruzzo and our people! A presto! Fabrizio

    • Domenica Marchetti August 9, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

      Grazie a te, Fabrizio. E’ stato un grande piacere passare la giornata con te e la serata con la tua famiglia. Sto ancora sognando tutte le pizze! You are the best of Abruzzo!
      A presto, D

  13. paninigirl August 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I’ve yet to visit Abruzzo and it is definitely on my list. Thank you for sharing your vacation with us. It’s almost like being there!

  14. Frank Fariello August 13, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    My good friend Susan just came back from a family visit Abruzzo, too. She had a blast. Her family lives in the mountains but apparently only a few minutes from the beach. Mare e monti, indeed! I have to get there one day.

  15. Tracy August 13, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Wow, this is the first time since returning from Italy in May that I’ve actually wanted to go back. We’ve vowed that our next trip over will be the road less travelled. I will put Abruzzo on the list.

  16. Love Abruzzo (@Love_Abruzzo) January 26, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    What a wonderful little tour you had, Domenica! I know most of these people and agree with you, they are doing an amazing job at sharing the beauty and history (and deliciousness) of our little region with the world….thanks for mentioning the blog, my plan for 2014 is to give it more time 🙂 baci from Singapore, Serena

    • Domenica Marchetti January 27, 2014 at 8:02 am #

      Many thanks for stopping by Serena. Looking forward to your posts. Cheers, D

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