As the end of summer drew near Nathan and I took a trip to Italy for our summer holiday. We were lucky enough to be staying at my supervisor from works apartment in Vallelarga, Abruzzo which was awesome – comfy, clean and well-equipped with a real authentic Italian feel. We really enjoyed the use of the TV and stack of DVD’s when it was thunder storming!
The view from the bedroom where we slept was a highlight too – opening the traditional shutters each morning to the mountain view was amazing. We weren’t so keen on the chickens that lived next door though – they constantly clucked away all times of the day!
During our week in Italy we were able to achieve the right balance of relaxation and chilling with being a tourist and visiting some local sights. The highlight for me was definitely our ‘holiday from the holiday’ to Vasto and chilling on the beach. Closely followed by our day at Lago di San Domenico – simply stunning!
Here’s a list of the different places we visited and what we got up too. Click on the places below to find out more 🙂
We were so grateful and fortunate to be staying at my supervisors apartment for our holiday – it was rustic yet modern, homely and well equipped. It was a great place to explore different towns and places from with a sense of being among the locals at the same time. My supervisor has obviously stayed at her apartment with her family and friends many times and when telling me about the best places to visit Vasto came up. My supervisor told me this was a great town with a brilliant beach and she suggested we visited whilst on our holiday if we fancied it. She told me about times she had visited there and places she had stayed – I looked them up and was instantly sold. I suggested to Nathan that we take a trip there and plan a night of luxury for one night and after he saw the pictures he agreed within seconds.
Vasto, or Citta Del Vasto as it’s also known, is a town based on the Southern Adriatic Coast in Abruzzo. The drive to Vasto took us about an hour and a half from the apartment and we encountered fun trying to get through the barriers and tolls on the motorway! When you arrive in the town you have to park up in a car park as you are not permitted to drive into the centre of the town. This gives the town a nice, safe, pedestrian only feel which helps to add to its Italian authenticity I think. A lot of the town centre is Medieval and it’s brimming with historical churches and other architecturally beautiful buildings. When we arrived we couldn’t wait to explore, we felt as if the holiday had really begun!
We had chosen to stay the night at Residenza Amblingh which my supervisor had highly recommended. We had checked it out on TripAdvisor before booking (which I do for all accommodation) and were pleased to see it had 5 stars and brilliant reviews. We booked it through booking.com and I’m so glad we did – it was ace and we got such a good deal!
Despite our best scanning for signs and google map skills we still managed to get a bit lost finding the eighteenth century mansion – no surprise there really! We didn’t really mind getting a bit lost though as the sun was shining and we got to see our first peeks of the beach!
On arrival at Residenza Amblingh we were met by the host who was friendly and charming. He warmly welcomed us in and showed us around the residence including the lounge area, breakfast balcony and finally our stunning room. The host also showed us how to get in and out of the building using the access card. We were left to settle in and admire the room – which we did, for quite a long time, taking some lots of photos and exploring the mini bar!
We chilled out for a bit looking at the map and dinner recommendations the host had told us about. We decided to go out and have an early evening walk before getting some food. It was so lovely wandering around the town, again as it was pedestrian only meant you could wander around without fear of those crazy Italian drivers mowing you down! We went and had a look around the church and various gift type shops before deciding to go for aperitif – our first of the trip. We sat outside in the square and ordered some cocktails. We were quite surprised with the amount of free food they brought us – nuts, crisps and little sandwich type things. We demolished it all of course!
Time for Pizza!
After our drinks we went for another walk and stopped at another outside bar that overlooked the beach. We had a couple more cocktails here and chatted as the sun set. A little tipsy by now we wandered looking for somewhere to eat dinner. The Italians don’t seem to eat till 8pm onwards and many of the restaurants don’t open until this time. I think this is quite different from England where you could happily walk into a restaurant at 6pm and get a table and dinner. We walked for quite a while looking at menus outdoors and trying to find the right place (not somewhere that only served shell fish!) and ended up at a restaurant back really near to where we were staying for the night. Here we had pizza and wine and ate al fresco. I love doing this – it really makes you feel you are on holiday! We enjoyed laughing at the pizza Nathan ordered in hast when accosted by the Italian waitress who spoke no English!
We retired to the room a little worse for wear for baths, processco and bed – bliss!
Breakfast with a View
We awoke after a really good and comfy nights sleep in the huge bed. We hadn’t set an alarm and needed to quickly get ready so we wouldn’t miss breakfast. This meant I didn’t have time to try out the shower which was a shame as it huge shower head looked amazing. We were the only ones having breakfast and there was quite the selection to help yourselves too. There was a waitress there to serve you drinks and she told us what all the cakes, pastries and meat offerings were. The selection was vast – the usual yoghurt, fruit and cereal along with meats, cheese, rolls and a variety of pastries and cakes. We enjoyed the cakes the most, although it did feel rather odd and very naughty to be having cake for breakfast! The breakfast room itself is lovely – on the balcony of the building – it is covered over head but there are no windows so you can look out over the beach and feel the fresh air from the sea. Lovely!
After filling our stomachs and packing up our stuff we reluctantly said goodbye to Residenza Amblingh. It was so nice and I would love to stay there again sometime. Our two-floored suite was very grand and luxurious and I would have happily stayed there for longer (should we have been able to afford to!).
Panoramic Views of The Adriatic
We got the car and made our way to the beach. It was only about a 10 minute drive and it was easy to find – just follow the signs for Vasto Beach! We were easily able to park up beachside (we didn’t have to pay as they don’t charge after the end of August). It was super hot and we made our way onto the sand. We found some lounge deckchairs to sit on and we both ended up falling asleep listening to the waves. Needless to say, despite the suncream we had plastered on, there was a little bit of sunburn! The beach was pretty quiet, it felt like it was only a locals around and I enjoyed watching three older ladies sunbath and play cards in the sun.
After our nap we went for a walk along the beach and a paddle in the sea – it was glorious and we kicked ourselves for having forgotten our swimsuits. It was lunchtime by now and hunger was kicking in, yet we couldn’t seem to find anywhere open that was selling food (this old story again!). After trying a few places we decided just to head back to the apartment where we knew we had lots of food waiting for us. I think Nathan was quite keen to get out of the sun by this time!
I really loved Vasto! It had such a relaxed and historic feel to it and I loved how we were able to have a few cocktails and eat pizza al fresco. It felt quite different from cooking ourselves in the apartment and nice to be around others eating out and enjoying themselves. We couldn’t fault our stay at Residenza Amblingh either and would definitely recommend and visit again should the option arise.
Have you ever visited Vasto? What did you think? Any other beach locations you would recommend in Italy?
After exploring Lago di San Domenico and Scanno we made our way to Pettorano. My supervisor had advised we go here as her and her family love the authentic Italian feel of the place and enjoyed many trips there in the summer.
Pettorano sul Gizio
Pettorano is a town of the Provonce of L’Aquila and is located on the southern edge of the Peligna Valley. It’s reported to have a population of just over 1300 people and gets very busy in the school holidays and summer months.
We managed to sat nav our way to Pettorano but got a bit stuck knowing where to park and where we wanted to be. The first place we parked was fine but we spent some time walking around and we couldn’t find the centre of Pettorano we were aiming for. There were lots of back streets lined with Italian apartments and some lovely views but we just couldn’t find what my supervisor said we should be seeing. Again there was no one about apart from a trio of women sitting outside a house chatting away in fast Italian. We decided to head back to the car and try again to find what we were looking for.
Cobbled Streets and Fizzy Pop
Eventually after driving around for a while we found somewhere else to park and followed the newly found signs to the centre. It was quite a steep walk up on the cobbled pathways to the centre but we made it and the view was great when we reached the centre. There were a couple of shops / cafes and a tourist information centre, which surprise surprise was closed! We went into the only cafe that had seats outside and with difficulty ordered ourselves some fizzy pop. We sat outside in the square and admired the views. Whilst it was lovely and very peaceful (almost too peaceful- we stood out like sore English thumbs) I couldn’t imagine it busy and bustling like it apparently had been only a matter of days earlier when my supervisor had been here with her family and sending me pictures.
After finishing our drinks we made our way back through the streets and back to the car. I decided I was going to try and drive the hire car and luckily I got us back to the apartment safely!
Ever visited here before? What were your experiences of this quaint town?
The beautiful city of Sulmona is located roughly a 20 minute drive from where we were staying. The drive was nice and easy and we reached the city without any dramas. We had been advised by my supervisor not to drive into the heart of the city as apparently it’s a pedestrian only zone and so if you drive into certain parts you receive a fine. We didn’t want this which added to our parking stresses a little! Anyhow we parked up relatively easily and went to explore.
A Slice of Sulmona
It was pretty hot when we first walked around and we seemed to have quite a bit of difficulty working out where abouts on the map we were. We decided to follow signs to the Confetti Pelino as I had read something about it being a confetti factory earlier and thought this might be interesting. We made our way to the factory, following the tourist signs to the factory, only to find it was closed for lunch and wouldn’t be opening till later in the afternoon. We walked back up to the centre a bit more, finding some gecko friends on the way. Here, I think we took a wrong turn and instead of heading through the main streets of Sulmona we took a long walk round the outside of the city. Never mind, there were some nice views along the way and we ended up at the Cathedral which was a nice place to stop.
Basilica Cattedrale di San Panfilo
Sulmona Cathedral, otherwise known as Duomo di Sulmona or Basilica Cattedrale di San Panfilo, is a Roman Catholic Cathedral and situated at one end of the city. It’s quite a grand white / beige coloured building with big brown wooden doors. Apparently the Cathedral was originally built in 1075 (ages ago!) but was badly damaged as a result of an earthquake in 1706 which led to it being rebuilt in more of a Baroque style. Later renovations and buildings works have been added too. I did walk all the way round the Cathedral and tried the doors but it seemed like it wasn’t open for us to take a look inside. I didn’t see any touristy type information anywhere nearby so can only assume it’s not open to the public, or at least wasn’t at the time we were there (this would start to be a recurring theme in Sulmona).
There were some a nice gardens next to the Cathedral which we decided to take a stroll through to see what else we could find. We came across some fountains and saw a family having a picnic which looked rather yummy.
The Hunt for Gelato
After walking through the park are we came to the shops. Here we knew we had to look for the ice cream place recommended by my supervisor. We decided we would try and look it up in google maps. As we were messing around doing this I looked up to try and find what road we were on and happened to notice we were standing right across from the gelateria we were looking for! We entered Di Silvio’s and were greeted by a vast range of scrummy looking luscious ice creams and sorbets. It took us quite a while to decide which cones and tubs to get let alone ice cream flavours to try! Luckily it didn’t matter as we appeared to be the only tourists in the shop, let alone Sulmona. I only wish we had places like this in England where they are so may different flavours of rich creamy gelato (then again maybe it wouldn’t be so much of treat that way). I settled for a tub with two scoops – one of coconut and another scoop of kinder bueno cereal – it tasted so damn good! We went back to the park and ate the ice creams there.
After devouring our ice creams we made our way through the city’s streets. The streets were lined with confetti shops, many of which had stalls full of flower bunches made from confetti outside. Confetti is the name for sugared almonds which originate from Sulmona (more about that when we visit the factory). I was amazed at the colourful displays of flowers and animals made from the sugared almond arrangements and couldn’t resist buying a couple for myself to take home – they were pretty cheap at a euro or so each after all.
With my confetti flowers in hand we wandered further into the heart of the city. We made it to the Tourist Information Centre, which looked like a really grand architectural building. It said it opened at 3pm and as it wasn’t far off that we decided to take a seat on the steps and hang around until it opened. It started to rain as we waited for 3pm and we couldn’t help notice that everything seemed to be shut – a lot of the shops and restaurants / cafes. It didn’t quite have the feel of the sunny busy photos my supervisor had sent me when she had been here a few weeks earlier. We ended up waiting till about 3.20pm and the tourist information didn’t open so we decided to move on, it was raining and we were getting pretty wet after all.
We passed through various squares and stumbled across lots of beautiful buildings and some stunning architecture. It had a real Italian feel to it and despite the rain and thunder that had now started, it was still quite a sight. After snapping quite a few photos (no one was around which was nice) we decided to hot foot it back to the Confetti Factory as we knew it would have re-opened for the day.
So What is Confetti?
The Confetti Pelino Factory is free to enter and definitely a good place to take shelter from the rain. There is a car park too with room for a considerable amount of cars. You enter into the shop and walk through lines of cabinets full of confetti models and gifts before you reach the museum part of the factory. Here, there are walls upon walls of information about the factory and production of sugared almonds and lots of pictures of the Pelino family. The Pelino Company was founded in 1783 and has since made and produced confetti. As you walk up the stairs you can observe staff working in the factory making the confetti – we stood for ages watching the ladies transfer the almonds into big copper heaters and adding the sugar and colours – it was quite mesmerising really, although a little odd when one of the ladies would look up at catch you staring at them!
After the viewing window we carried on looking at various cabinets of information and objects relating to the Pelino family and Company. There were typewriters, statues, pictures of the confetti making process and examples of different flavoured confetti.
Give the Gift of Confetti
There is also lots of information on what confetti is. Confetti, as mentioned previously, are small, almond sweets with a crisp sugar coated – sugared almonds as we call them in the UK. Apparently confetti would traditionally be given at Italian celebrations such as baptisms, weddings and other important family events. Confetti can be presented in various ways which include, packaged in boxes or gift bags, loose in large dishes or bowls or made into shapes which are normally flowers and insects. There were loads of different examples on display in the museum and the shops for you to purchase. There a lots of different colours of the sugared almonds too and some were wrapped in bright coloured paper which helped to make the flower arrangements look particularly striking. Apparently different coloured confetti would traditionally be associated with different types of events:
Pastel pinks or blues for babies baptisms
White or ivory for weddings
Confetti covered in silver or gold for anniversary celebrations
Red for graduations
We saw quite a few people in the shop buying different types of confetti- some flower arrangements and some loose choosing different colours and sizes of the almonds. These people all appeared to be speaking Italian and appeared like they were locals buying them as gifts for people. Confetti appears to be a popular thing to give to someone as a gift – a bit like real flowers and chocolates here in England I guess. We did treat ourselves to a small bag of the mixed size and coloured confetti, although I have to admit we haven’t tried them yet! They don’t grab my fancy like a bar of dairy milk does!
I feel we spend at least 45 minutes walking around the museum part of the factory and visiting the shop. It was good to get out of the rain and I think a good sight to see in Sulmona. We certainly learnt a new meaning of the word confetti and it dispelled my original thoughts that we might be going to factory where they made small bits of tissue paper for guests to throw at weddings! Although I have later read that this type of confetti does have origins relating back to Italian traditions!
Have you ever been to Sulmona and visited the Confetti Factory for yourself? Have you ever tried sugared almonds and what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below.
As part of our Italian Abruzzo Adventure we visited the stunning spot of Il Lago di San Domenico and I think it was probably my favourite place we visited whilst we were away. It was nice to see some proper sunshine after the thunderstorms and rain previously in Sulmona.
The drive to the lake took us about 45 minutes and it was a stunning drive. We drove across bridges and through tunnels underneath the mountains. As we got closer to the lake the roads became more windy and narrow and we were glad for the safety barriers lining the roads – just in case!
The Most Gorgeous Lake
We arrived at the lake which looked stunning in the midday sunshine. There was a large lay-by in which you could park in which we did and walked towards the shore of the lake where we could see some picnic benches waiting for us.
We took a seat on the picnic benches which are nicely nestled on the shore of the lake. There were a few other families and groups of people having their lunch and there was a group of what I assume were geese and some ducks which appeared very interested in our Italian ciabatta and meats! It was a lovely spot to eat lunch and admire the view.
After finishing our lunch and rapidly walking away from the following gaggle of birds we walked around the lake and got some even better views. We walked to viewing platform where we could take a few selfies. There was another couple there admitting the view and we took it in turns to take photos of each other – this was quite amusing as they didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak whatever language they were communicating with either!
Lago di San Domenico is a lake situated in the Province of L’Aquila, Abruzzo and is apparently a man-made lake. It was constructed for electricity supply but is now a wonderful place to relax and soak up the sun in the summertime. I can imagine if we had been there a few weeks before in August time the lake would have been full with sunbathers and swimmers.
A Hidden Grotto
After walking back around the lake we decided to explore further. On the way back we passed the Church which overlooks the lake. We ventured in and followed the sign entitled “Grotto di S.Domenico”. This led us to a small grotto / ave area at the back of the church. We found it a little creepy so quickly retreated and made our way back to the car.
Next we decided to carry on and drive to the next lake along – Il Lago di Scanno.
Hace you ever been here? Did you find the hidden grotto?
After visiting and having lunch at Il Lago di San Domenico we decided to drive a little further to the town of Scanno. It has another beautiful lake with stunning landscape views.
We parked up at a parking place near to the lake – it didn’t seem to charge now the main summer season had passed so that was good. There was barely anyone else around and so we had the lake to ourselves to explore.
A Walk with a View
We walked around admiring the views and sat on a bench reflecting on how gorgeous a sight it was. We thought it was funny that it was such a nice day but it was so quite – no one was about. This meant that the rows of pedalos lined up on the shore weren’t going to be used today – none of the kiosks were open which we were quite disappointed with as we would have loved to have got out on the water for a bit.
On our way back to the car we stumbled across a wooden hut selling touristy gifts and postcards. This was the most touristy thing we had seen since being in Italy and so I couldn’t resist getting a few postcards. Here we saw another older British couple who were also getting some postcards of Scanno – yay we weren’t the only tourists in the village! They soon disappeared though and after purchasing a rather charming owl shaped pot rest for Nathan’s Gran we did too.
We made our way up through the village and admired the views and houses stacked on the Italian hillside – it felt really authentic and picture perfect. We were quite hungry but couldn’t find any open cafes or restaurants that appeared to be open – another reoccurring theme of the week!
Have you ever been to Scanno? Did you make it onto a pedalo?