Perched on a rocky spur, the village of Barrea is set amid the natural beauty of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, surrounded by mountains, beech forests and pristine creeks.
It is in fact an ideal starting point for walks and hikes into the park as numerous trails depart from Barrea, leading to the area’s main attractions, such as Lake Vivo, Lake Pantaniello, Lake Barrea, and the Resuni mountain hut.
Barrea was founded around the year 1000 by a group of monks to give the inhabitants of the valley a safer place to live. Only 700 people live in Barrea today; traces of its past are still preserved in its historic center, which has the structure of a fortified village, and is filled with stone houses, cobblestone streets and ancient churches, such as the parish church of San Tommaso Apostolo with 18th century paintings and the 14th century Church of Madonna delle Grazie.
Through the centuries, Barrea has undergone periods of growth and periods of great poverty. The 17th century was plagued by earthquakes and famine, while the 19th century saw banditry and migration.Today Barrea thrives on tourism thanks to its position in the park.
Just outside the village is the so-called Studio, a unique convent-fortress erected by Benedictine monks; an 11th century castle, with towers connected by fortified walls, now home to cultural events; and an ancient necropolis dating from the 6th-7th century BC.
But perhaps the most fascinating sight in Barrea lies just a few kilometers from the village itself: on the shores of the nearby lake, you will find a small settlement of deer, which you will easily spot grazing on the grass by the lake, led by the ‘pioneer deer’ that the locals call Oreste.