“From the farthest point of the right-hand promontory, over a group of rocks, stretched a trabocco, a strange fishing machine made entirely of planks and beams, resembling a colossal spider…” “The trabocco, that great whitish structure looming over the cliff…. a recalcitrant and insidious shape that was constantly waiting, often seemed at odds with the goodness of solitude. In the fiery mornings and at sunset it sometimes took on a frightful appearance,” “…poles were driven into the far rock faces to support the bracing ropes; countless tiles were nailed to the logs to comfort their weak points. The long struggle against the fury of the flood seemed to be written on the great carcass by means of these knots, these nails, these devices. The machine seemed to have a life of its own, it had the appearance and form of an animated body” (Gabriele D’Annunzio, Il Trionfo della Morte, 1894)
About 40 km from Silvi begins the picturesque Costa dei Trabocchi – old fishing machines on stilts – which territorially corresponds to the stretch of coast in the province of Chieti. The numerous beaches – almost all of them awarded the blue flag – the peaks and inlets that characterise it have a varied nature of the seabed, sometimes sandy, sometimes gravelly, sometimes rocky. There are 23 trabocchi scattered along the 40 km of coastline, and many of them are home to characteristic little restaurants where you can enjoy local specialities, especially fish, while being lulled by the waves: Given the limited availability of places, it is advisable to book well in advance.
The recently inaugurated Via Verde della Costa dei Trabocchi connects the entire coastline with a cycle and pedestrian path built on the former Adriatic railway line for breathtaking walks overlooking the sea. For those who want to explore the area in a ‘green’ way, there are already numerous bicycle rentals in the area, often near the stations of the municipalities served by frequent regional trains. The area is also a destination for boating and canoeing.
To illustrate some of the region’s other attractions, let us briefly review the individual municipalities from north to south:
One of the largest municipalities on the coast, Ortona has a historic centre of ancient origin, with elegant avenues and squares, towers and medieval quarters, churches, including the Basilica of St Thomas the Apostle, where his relics have been kept since 1258, and the magnificent Aragonese Castle, which dominates the port, one of the most important in Abruzzo, and the beach. Part of its heritage was unfortunately lost during the devastating Battle of Ortona at Christmas 1943, earning it the nickname ‘Stalingrad of Italy’. The wide area is characterised by numerous vineyards that extend almost to the coast, being in an area of ancient and rich wine production.
The beaches are varied and diverse: from the wide, sandy and well-equipped Lido Riccio and Lido dei Saraceni, to the cove of Ripari di Giobbe, characterised by gravel and rocks and equipped with a lido, to the uncontaminated Punta Ferruccio and Punta dell’Acquabella. The latter is located in the nature reserve of the same name, also characterised by the pine forest above it, the Canadian military cemetery and a breathtaking viewpoint. Access to the pebble beach is through a small, picturesque fishing village, almost completely uninhabited but under development. A few metres from this point, on Via Verde, is Trabocco Mucchiola, the first in the series.
San Vito Chietino
Described by D’Annunzio as the ‘town of brooms’, it has a pretty old town centre perched on a rocky promontory 122 metres above sea level. The maze of alleys, ancient churches and the remains of the medieval castle lead to the main street with its historic buildings and the beautiful Belvedere balcony overlooking the sea.
The more urban part of the port is characterised by the lively promenade with ice-cream parlours, pastry shops and historic restaurants where you can enjoy fish specialities such as the local Adriatic brodetto, as well as the well-equipped beaches.
Further south, along the Adriatic road, in the Portelle area, you can see some Art Nouveau houses until you reach the promontory and the hermitage of D’Annunzio: it was here that the Vate, during his long sojourn with his lover Barbara Leoni, wrote the Triumph of Death, also immortalising the pebbly beach and the trabocco in front of the promontory: the Trabocco Turchino, one of six in the San Vito area.
Rocca San Giovanni
The historic centre, 155 metres above sea level, dominates a hillside rich in vegetation, citrus groves, hazelnut trees and vineyards, and is a medieval village in the club of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. It owes its name to its foundation, wanted for the defence of the nearby Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere: remains of the walls and the Torrione dei Filippini are still well preserved.
The heart of the village is Piazza degli Eroi, overlooked by the Town Hall, the Romanesque Church of San Matteo Apostolo and the imposing bell tower.
Descending towards the marina, you come to the picturesque Vallevò district, between the hills and the sea, with its low houses, vegetable gardens, a small harbour of small boats, fritter shops and seafood trattorias and, of course, some trabocchi (fishing huts). In the municipality of Rocca you will find eight of them: Punta Cavalluccio, Punta Torre, Spezzacatena, La Foce, Punta Isolata, Valle Grotte, Punta Tufano, Sasso della Cajana, all surrounded by pebbly beaches.
The area also hosts, on the border with San Vito, the Grotta delle Farfalle Regional Nature Reserve.
The historic centre of Fossacesia, characterised by noble palazzos, is about 2 km from the coast and lies on a hill overlooking the Sangro River and a hilly territory with rich crops.
A must-see is the Romanesque Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere, one of the largest and most important in Abruzzo, dominating a promontory overlooking the sea, originally built in the 7th century on a temple dedicated to Venus. Nearby springs the Fonte di Venere (Spring of Venus), in ancient times considered a source of fertility by local women.
The charming hamlet of Fossacesia Marina, on the other hand, develops around the bay of the Gulf of Venus and its pebbly beaches. In the area, the Trabocchi Punta Cavalluccio, Palombo, Punta Punciosa and Punta Rocciosa.
Torino di Sangro
The coastline is dominated by the 175 hectares of the Lecceta di Torino di Sangro Nature Reserve, on the south bank of the Sangro River, characterised by the presence of holm oaks, downy oaks, turkey oaks, liquorice, lentisk and fauna represented by the Hermann’s Tortoise, and a particular ornithological wealth. Inside, there are trekking and mountain bike trails, picnic areas and chalets.
Not far from the reserve is the British Military Cemetery, where the fallen of the Commowealth in the Battle of Sangro, fought along the adjacent ‘Gustav Line’, rest.
In the part near the coast there are holiday homes, campsites, small restaurants and kiosks. It is divided between the Le Morge beach, with its namesake Trabocco, and the pebbly beach of Borgata Marina and Costa Verde, a destination for underwater fishing. In the historical centre, at 164 metres above sea level, you can find low-medieval remains, such as the Church of San Salvatore and the Church of the Madonna di Loreto.
The historical centre is located 200 metres above sea level and preserves part of the old medieval fortified village, and is characterised by stately palaces, churches, and an important 20th-century tower that serves as the bell tower of the parish church. In Santo Stefano, towards the sea, are the ruins of the Benedictine abbey of Santo Stefano in Rivomaris, destroyed by Saracen attacks.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Miracoli (Our Lady of Miracles), on the north-eastern outskirts, consecrated in 1962, commemorates a Marian apparition in 1576; it is a pilgrimage destination as well as the protagonist of a heartfelt and popular festival on 10-11 June each year. Adjacent to the Sanctuary is a rich Benedictine Library.
The Lido di Casalbordino is characterised by an equipped and wide sandy beach, with bathing establishments, hotels, camping sites and clubs.
Overlooking the Golfo D’Oro (Golden Gulf), the beautiful town of Vasto, the ancient Roman Histonium, traces its origins back to the 12th century BC. The historical and artistic heritage of the historic centre, 144 metres above sea level. is very rich: we find the Roman amphitheatre, the ancient thermal baths, the medieval Caldoresco Castle, the Renaissance Palazzo d’Avalos and its beautiful Neapolitan gardens overlooking the sea, which houses the Civic Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Picture Gallery and the Museum of Ancient Costume; the Arch of Porta Santa Maria; the Teatro Rossetti, one of the first in Abruzzo; the 14th-century Cathedral of San Giuseppe; the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Church of San Michele Arcangelo, the city’s patron saint; the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Santissima Incoronata; the scenic Loggia Ambligh, numerous stately palaces, towers and squares.
There are numerous summer events, including international music festivals such as the Siren Festival. Gastronomic specialities include Ventricina Vastese and fish brodetto.
There is a water amusement park outside the centre, Acqualand.
The Marina di Vasto is in the central part characterised by wide sandy beaches, served by well-equipped lidos and the inevitable trabocchi, in this stretch all equipped with restaurants. Here you will also find, on a small rock, called ‘Scaramuzza’, the sculpture ‘Monument to the Bather’.
The northern area, on the other hand, is characterised by the Punta Penna beach, whose promontory overlooks the port area and features a characteristic 16th-century octagonal lighthouse and a small 15th-century church; and by the Punta Aderci Regional Nature Reserve, which alternates beaches of fine golden sand and pebbles with high coastal dunes with dense grassy and floral vegetation. Its promontory and the outlet of the same name represent one of the symbols of the coast.
The southern area is characterised by the Vasto Regional Marine Reserve, which ends in the municipality of San Salvo.
The southernmost municipality on the coast, on the border with Molise, is San Salvo. The historical centre stands on a hill 128 metres above sea level. The Archaeological Park of the quadrilateral bears witness to the Roman origins of the town, on which the medieval village was later built. The heart of the town is Piazza San Vitale and the Church of San Giuseppe, which houses the relics of San Vitale, the former Benedictine abbey of Saints Vito and Salvo. The quadrangle also includes: the Museo Civico Porta della Terra, with precious objects dedicated to the cult of the deceased of the Frentano people; the Abbey Museum, which reconstructs its ancient structure and preserves numerous artefacts and precious testimonies of Benedictine life; the Isola del Chiostro, with the remains of the abbey cloister and a Roman domus; the archaeological Roman Mosaic Island, the Roman Hypogeum Aqueduct.
San Salvo Marina, on the other hand, is characterised, after the northern part of the aforementioned Vasto Regional Marine Reserve, with the coastal dunes of the beautiful Mediterranean Botanical Garden, by wide, well-equipped beaches of fine sand, and has developed in recent decades a strong dedication to tourist accommodation, with numerous hotels and holiday homes. It also has a marina: ‘Le Marinelle’. Its historic overflow, the last one in Abruzzo, is ‘Zi’Nicola’.