Hi everyone, I just wanted to share some of my experiences from our recent trip to Italy. My wife and I just returned from a month long trip. Our itinerary included stops in Rome, Florence, Assisi (Spello), the Abruzzo region, finally ending up in Puglia down in the heel.
Overall, it was a great trip. I won't touch too much upon Rome and Florence as so many of you have been there and what is not to like about those 2 places! It is always enjoyable returning to our favorite spots. This was our third time visiting those cities and we still managed to add new places to visit. In Rome we finally fit in the Borghese Gallery and the Catacombs of Priscilla. We stayed in the Piazza Navona neighborhood and loved it. For Florence, we downloaded an app called Hidden Florence, which allows you to take self-guided themed tours through different parts of the town, narrated by historical characters.
After 4 days in Rome followed by another 4 in Florence, our adventure really got started. We rented a car and and started to head south. We wanted to visit Assisi (in Umbria) in particular, but made a nearby town called Spello our home base. It is a lovely town with interesting shops and restaurants. We stayed just outside the town at a B&B that had parking and was an easy 10 minute walk into the town. We spent 3 days here, one day exploring Spello, and another day in Assisi (visiting the town itself, the Hermitage up in the hills called "Eremo delle Carceri, and also the massive Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in the lower town that was built over the original little church that St. Francis was associated with). I think our last day was spent lazing around our B&B, a big manor house built in 1780.
The next stop as we worked our way south was in the Abruzzo region. Planning for this part of our trip was a challenge. I had followed the travel forum here for quite a while trying to glean some information and tips. I also purchased the guidebook others have recommended published by Bradt, written by Luciano di Gregorio. I was looking forward to an "off the beaten track" experience, somewhere less touristy. Over the last 5-6 years or so I have been studying Italian as well, as my experience has been that if I can communicate with local people it tends to open up to greater experiences and encounters. Well ....... I have to say that was not the case for us in this region. I had decided on Chieti as our home base, located about 30 minutes from the coastal city of Pescara. It has an interesting historical area, and architecturally was a pleasant town. Oh, note to file: if you pick a hill-town as a home base expect to drive very twisty-turny roads up and down each time you go out exploring. I guess that is stating the obvious but that part must have slipped by me. I had allocated 4 days to this area overall. We spent one day exploring Chieti itself, another day driving down into Pescara and checking out some of the coastal areas (including Ortona and the Moro River Canadian War Cemetary), and also checked out Guardiagrele and the gorge in Fara San Martino. Pescara was actually a pleasant surprise. Most of the historical areas were destroyed in the war so it has been pretty well rebuilt. We had a pleasant half-day there exploring the shops and walking along the beach.