A campervan tour in the heart of Abruzzo: Scanno.


Located in the province of L’Aquila, at an altitude of just over 1,000 metres, Scanno is listed among the Borghi più belli d’Italia, i.e. the most beautiful villages in Italy. We set off in a campervan and head towards the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo National Park) to discover this small Italian gem.



In Scanno


Scanno is an amazing place, literally nestled in the upper Valle del Sagittario (Sagittarius Valley), where there is a natural steep-sided canyon surrounded by a lush and verdant scenery. You only need to take a stroll through the town centre while admiring the richly decorated stone gates to understand why this village has been photographed so much in the last century. The intricate web of alleys and its inhabitants, especially women dressed in black, have been captured by the greatest photographers of all time, from Henri Cartier Bresson to Ferdinando Scianna and Mario Giacomelli.

The attractions of the village, which seems to have frozen in time, are still intact: the courtyard of 17th century Palazzo Tanturri de Horatio and the fresco depicting the Madonna Enthroned with Child in the small Church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli. Today, only one of the four gates of the ancient city walls still stands: Porta della Croce, which dates back to the 15th century. The architectural style of the buildings is unusually harmonious, with a distinctive urban layout, featuring leaning houses, alleys and stairways that merge to form elegant steps, and the old entrance gateway. There are many noble buildings and middle-class residences such as Palazzo Mosca, with its magnificent Baroque gate and cornice adorned with cherubs that bear witness to its 16th century origin, as well as Palazzo di Rienzo and Palazzo de Angelis.

There is always something in the maze of alleys that will attract your attention: a Baroque-style fountain, a mascaron, a rose window, a coat of arms or an inscription. The art of embroidery and bobbin lace-making has also flourished in the village; in fact, the lace shops are a major tourist attraction.

Scanno, the ancient settlement of the Samnites, was already known to the Romans, especially by the wealthiest who were drawn to the wonders of this area, as we can see from a Latin tombstone at the local Museo della Lana (Wool Museum). Due to its geographical location, well sheltered by the mountains, it was long protected from barbarian invasions. However, it was invaded by the Saracens and Ottomans, and it was during this period that Scanno absorbed Oriental elements that can still be found in the traditional clothing of the local women: the hat resembles a turban and the drapery of the clothing features oriental patterns.

The traditional women’s costume of Scanno, now worn only on special occasions, is also interesting for its embellishments: the local jewellery, such as “presentosa” and “l’amorino,” is made with special crafting techniques and gold and silver filigree processing.


From Scanno to Val Fondillo, heading towards Grotta delle Fate


While gazing through the woods and taking in the landscape surrounding the village, we leave Scanno and head towards the Val Fondillo (Fondillo Valley), near Opi. We leave the campervan and start walking along the F2 path, which, in less than two hours, takes us to the Grotta delle Fate (Fairy Cave): it is certainly one of the most enjoyable excursions.

This is where one of the springs that feed the Fondillo stream originates: with its crystal clear waters flowing into the Sangro river, the stream has banks covered in lush vegetation with magnificent willows and beautiful beech woods, now included in UNESCO’s list of ancient forests. The lush vegetation abounds here, with very rare species such as Cypripedium calceolus (a lady’s slipper orchid) and Epipogium aphyllum (ghost orchid), whereas the valley’s wildlife includes the Marsican brown bear.

The route to the caves is easy and very pleasant, and you might be lucky enough to encounter the roe deer and deer that inhabit this area. We then depart from the car park opposite a tourist information point, which can be accessed by taking a signposted detour along the road connecting Opi to Villetta Barrea. After a first stretch of dirt road, which goes deep into the woods along the stream, the path leads to a fork where we then take a left turn, following the signs to the cave.

It is not uncommon to spot wild horses in this area, reminding us that nature and human beings can live together in perfect harmony.

At some point, the path forks out: by deviating from the main one and descending to the left – where there is a sign showing the entire route – we then get to the spring and the natural cavity formed by the erosion of water. Grotta delle Fate is a fascinating place and a cool spot to take a break and contemplate for a while.


Towards Villetta Barrea


On the road that leads to Villetta Barrea, in an area of outstanding natural beauty where wolves, lynxes, squirrels and birds such as the royal kite and the peregrine falcon take refuge, there is a visitor centre, the Centro Visita Daini, created with the aim to repopulate the Abruzzo National Park with fallow deer: it is a favourite destination for children, who will enjoy learning all about these cute animals.


Campervan travellers will find a campervan area in Civitella Alfedena (in the car park near the lake in Ponte Nuovo) and at the Le Foci di Opi campsite (www.lefoci.it), which offers the delicious typical dishes of Abruzzo in a rustic, welcoming environment. In Pescasseroli you will find the Sant’Andrea campsite (www.campingsantandrea.com) and the La Panoramica campsite www.campinglapanoramica.it.

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