John Bensalhia takes you on a tour of some the key experiences and events to enjoy in Abruzzo and Molise...
Two enthusiastic foodie travellers will be your guides for the ultimate guide to Abruzzo. Alessia and Fabrizio have certainly done their fair share of travelling in order to sample top Italian cuisine – from the Alpine peaks to the Adriatic Sea, they have learned how to cook traditional Abruzzo dishes and are experts in the local foods.
Alessia and Fabrizio also have great knowledge of the region, and this makes them the ideal choice to take guests through the wonders of Abruzzo. They will escort you through the medieval towns and sights and will also provide you with a taste of the local cuisine and wine.
These are all-inclusive private tours. Everything is included from the hotel accommodation to meals, transport and admission fees. Nothing is overlooked, and if you want to see Abruzzo in style with two informative, entertaining guides, then you won't go wrong with Alessia and Fabrizio's unique insights into the local area, sights, sounds and tastes!
The top chefs of tomorrow are waiting in the wings, and if you're one of those with such aspirations then the week-long cooking tour is a must.
The Abruzzo seasonal cooking experiences allow you the best of both worlds. Not only do you get to learn about effective cooking techniques, you also get to sample the natural beauty of the region. Best of all, the experience isn't one of those faceless package deals – guests are treated as part of the family with a warm, friendly welcome. In fact, no sooner have you touched down at Rome Airport, you will then be picked up and taken to the lovely Hotel San Marco.
Of course, pasta is on the menu where you will discover the many varieties of pasta and techniques with Mamma's traditional recipes as well as some of the best sauces to accompany the pasta dishes. Following this, in the afternoon, you will pay a visit to see the charms of Vasto's historic centre.
Sea the next day in where the emphasis is on seafood. The locally caught fish will be put to good use in a number of creative and tasty dish ideas and you will also be able to catch your own fish.
After a day in which you are free to sample the local wonders by yourself, then it's on to learning all about the marvels of sheep's ricotta cheese at a local artisan farm. In addition to learning how the cheese is prepared, you can then sample some ricotta-influenced dishes with lunch. This day also includes a visit to Roccascalegna Medieval Castle. Meanwhile, the last proper day of cooking school concentrates on some of Italy's most iconic foods and drinks: Olive oil tasting, wine-tasting, pizza cooking class & tiramisù. Among the destinations on the day's itinerary are La Selvotta Olive Grove and the award-winning Fontefico Winery. For the ultimate in Abruzzo food, this is an experience to be savoured.
A popular idea in Italian regions such as Abruzzo and Molise is to welcome foreign tourists into their home for a bite to eat or to take part in a cooking school.
This notion is possible thanks to the network of home restaurants and cooking schools, which can be found at www.myitalianfriends.com. If you're looking to experience a genuine slice of Abruzzo and Molise life, then they don't come much more authentic by meeting the locals and either learning from or eating and drinking with them.
You may want to discover how to make pasta or pizza or rustle up a limoncello. Or you may want to enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals who will not only make good dinner companions but also useful advisors on the best places and sights to visit and see. The recipes handed down from generation to generation and the good-humoured camaraderie and welcome make this kind of experience very special indeed.
The rolling hills of Scotland have reverberated to the sound of bagpipes.
But from Scotland to Italy, and in particular, the town of Scapoli. The unique sound and appearance of this musical instrument is very much kept alive today, due in no small part to the town's very own bagpipes museum.
The Museum of the Bagpipe spans three floors and if you're a fan of this instrument, then it's got pretty much everything you want to know about it. First and foremost are the displays of bagpipes from around the world and from various points in history. There are also documents and pieces of literature relating to bagpipes as well as photos and a special reproduction of an old bagpipe workshop.
The one-and-only sound of bagpipes can be heard throughout, and there is also a special video that shows you the marvels, origins and different types of bagpipe from around the globe.
Talk about growth. When Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise was first introduced in 1923, it started out life as an area that spanned five square kilometres. These days, the protected area is 440 square kilometres.
This wide outside area is one of the oldest (the second) and most impressive in the whole of Italy. It's said to attract about two million people coming to explore every year, and with such a reputation, this is a must-visit experience if you come to the area.
One of the most prominent aspects of the park is its conservation campaigns. The park has managed with success to become the home of wild animals such as the Marsican Bear, the Apennine Wolf and the Abruzzo Chamois. These species can be seen in the park which spreads over three regions. Along with the animals, the park is known for its deep beech forest which accounts for more than half of the area. It's a place to get back to nature, and if you're wanting a breather from car fumes and shopping precincts, this is just the place to come to.
So what is the biggest national park in Italy? That honour belongs to the 150,000 hectare Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park which was established in 1991. For the ultimate park experience in the Abruzzo region, it feels like a day out may not be enough to see what it has to offer.
The park combines a mix of man-made and natural wonders. The park is the home to a number of archaeological sites and ruins that have been found throughout history. In addition to the ruins, the park contains a varied and wide-ranging choice of castles, churches, monasteries, abbeys and palaces.
But there are also the mountains to marvel at. No less than three mountain groups can be found here: Laga, Gran Sasso and Gemelli Mountains – not to mention the highest peak within the Apennines, Como Grande (the Calderone glacier of the Apennines is also here). Factor in the museums and tourist spots, and there is plenty to enjoy here in a very packed and fun-filled day out.
While Spring's in full bloom at the time of writing, don't forget – this is a list of experiences that you can enjoy the whole year round. And since Molise is the home of some notable ski resorts, the biggest, Campitello Matese, is worthy of mention.
The brilliant thing about Campitello Matese is that it's a ski resort for everyone. The 40km of trails are open to both advanced and beginner skiers. On that note, there are three schools available in which beginners can be taught by a selection of fully qualified and experienced ski instructors. Lessons for skiing and snowboarding are available, by the end of which, pupils can have a stronger grasp on the sport.
The resort boasts plenty of facilities and attractions. You can rent out the equipment if you so wish – maybe you're coming here for a holiday and you don't want to lug all that gear around on the plane. There are a good number of slopes including two blue ones for beginners and eight red for the more advanced.
There are also three hotels on the slopes. These are modern with a good choice of facilities such as hot pools and a wellness/beauty farm for those wanting a bit of pampering after a day on the slopes. There's plenty to do in the evenings, with pubs, bars and restaurants in the nearby vicinity.
The highest fortress in Italy, Rocca Calascio is located in Abruzzo. If it's a historical experience you want, then this impressive bit of the past is well worth a glimpse.
Because of its location on the top of a hill over 1460 metres above sea level, these ruins rank as the highest fortress of its kind in the country. It's also one of the oldest, dating back to the 10th century, when it was devised as something of a vantage point. The original construction was that of a lone tower from which adequate warning could be given in the event of intruders coming to the village. As time went on, by the 13th century, the sole tower had been augmented by more further building work, with four towers surrounding it.
Today, alas, only ruins of the actual fortress remain, although the walls and towers are still intact. To sample a bit of history, it's actually free of charge, and visitors can come and visit whenever they like during the day.
Make a splash! Fun for all the family is guaranteed at Onda Blu Aqua Park, which will be open to the public again in the Summer season (from June 2017).
This aqua park is located just outside Tortoreto and boasts a good number of facilities that all the family can enjoy. There are facilities for all ages, including a general swimming pool and also a slide for babies and younger ones. The older ones and the braver of swimmers can, meanwhile, have a go on the 'Kamikaze' or 'Crazy Kamikaze' water slides, both of which offer greater height and also a greater speed for you to whizz down into the water! The Boa and the Twist water slides also provide a lot of fun as you make your way down these tunnels to the pool below.