The day we decided to take a few hours to explore the area south of Sulmona we chose as our destination one of the Abruzzo’s Borghi Piu Belli, Pettorano sul Gizio.
Pettorano sul Gizio was full of tourist. By that I mean we encountered exactly one person with a camera. He was taking this picture:
He might have been local.
This little village of nearly 1300 people, spread over a ridge with an imposing castle you can visit, was once full of carbonai, charcoal makers. The town is tied together with winding little lanes. It is indeed bella.
The carbonai ate polenta with herring. No kidding. According to the lit, “era colazione, pranzo e cena” meaning every meal you can think of was nothing but polenta with herring. On the last day of December you can celebrate the dish during the Sagra della Polenta.
You may never have heard of Pettorano. Someone more famous than you and I put together (no doubt) the famous mathematical etching wizard W. C. Escher spent some time in the remote bits of Abruzzo and fancied this view of the town:
To take this picture, avoid the yapping dog and head up the footpath toward “Belvedere Escher” where there is a sign in Italian and a bench to rest upon. Escher’s etching is shown in the sign. An explanation is also given in the English language. Escher worked here in 1929-30.
You can continue on up the slope if you wish. The area is laced with footpaths. The village, you see, is smack in the center of La Riserva Naturale Regionale Monte Genzana Alto Gizio. The reserve is full of animals. You might see 116 types of butterfly out of the 131 in the whole of central Italy. If you’re lucky (or not) you might see a bear, which is the symbol of the preserve.
But back to the village. You can visit the castle, called Castello Cantelmo. Going up in the tower gets you a view. Going down gets you a little display of how the charcoal was made in these parts.
If you head over to the Piazza Rosario Zannelli in the center of town, you can have a drink or even a panino in the cute little shop in the corner with the interesting overflow seating.
If you’re visiting Sulmona and have a car, take it out for some fresh air and visit Pettorano sul Gizio. It’s worth an afternoon for sure.
To check out some of what Escher did in the Abruzzo, see Escher e l’Abruzzo
If you would like to stay longer and take some of the longer trails, there are three places to consider in Pettorano: Pettorano Hotels
If you’d rather stay in the heart of Sulmona in an apartment we recommend highly, check out Gramsci 29