Abruzzo has some of the most evocative castles and Roman ruins in Italy. A favorite is ***Rocca di Calascio, considered to be one of the finest castles in the Apennines. Often the setting for historical films, the watchtower perched on a hill has some of the best views of the region and is a must for history buffs interested in Renaissance architecture. 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.

This was awesome, must do. Allow 2-3 hours, there’s a lot to see and you’ll waste a lot of time waiting for the shuttle to/from the town below.

Castel del Monte 

Not far from Calascio is “one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.” An interesting counterpoint to Santo Stefano, bigger, more restored (and expensively so), more of a place that people actually live. It was extremely quiet during siesta time, everyone literally shuts their doors. It does have more restaurants, more culture, and is near skiing. Perhaps a good winter destination. It’s hard to get a good view of it from inside (very narrow streets) but it’s still charming. Not a must-do.

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