When I think of castles in Abruzzo I’m naturally drawn to old ruined structures that sit majestically on a hill and dominate the landscape. I think of watchtowers and fortifications, of battles won and lost and of knights on horseback defending the territory with skill and determination.
These are the thoughts I associate with Rocca Calascio, Bominaco, Capestrano and Roccascalegna. If there was a league table for castles these would be in the Premiership or Serie A. Perched high up, towering over the landscape, keeping check on everything that happens – these castles are special.
I’ve seen others of course, great fortifications like Il Castello Spagnolo (L’Aquila) and Il Castello Aragonese (Ortona) but these don’t excite my imagination as much.
It’s arguable which of them is the most impressive. In the mid 80’s filmmakers favoured Rocca Calascio for Ladyhawke and The Name of the Rose and I admit that when I first looked through guide books on Abruzzo I found the thought of visiting Rocca Calascio thrilling. But having visited the other three, wandered around them and touched their ancient walls, I’d find it hard to pick one over any of the others.
Loreto Aprutino has a castle. It may not be in the same league but it does have one significant advantage – you can stay there!
Il Castello Chiola dates back to 864 AD, that’s almost 1200 years old! From 1843 to 1995 it was in the hands the Chiola family and recently it was refurbished with the cooperation of the Italian Fine Arts Office and the European Community and turned into a fine hotel.
We’ve never stayed there. We almost did on our very first trip to Abruzzo but in the end we stayed in a B&B just a few doors away. I can’t remember why but it made sense at the time.
However Castello Chiola must take some responsibility for P and me finding and falling in love with Loreto Aprutino because on seeing a photograph of the hotel looking stunning in the snow we decided that we had to visit the town.
Many friends have stayed there and although they have said that it can sometimes feel a wee bit formal, they’ve all enjoyed the experience. Looking at the hotel’s website the prices don’t seem too bad either.
The hotel can be seen clearly from the town’s main square and sometimes on very hot days, doing my best to stay cool by having a cold beer under the shade of an umbrella, I look up and feel envious of the guests who can avail of the small but very inviting outdoor swimming pool!
In true castle tradition it sits high up competing for supremacy with the Church of St. Peter (San Pietro Apostolo) as they each mark one end of Via del Baio, probably Loreto Aprutino’s most illustrious street.
If you decide to visit and are feeling a little peckish I recommend the restaurant Locanda del Baio, only a few steps away, where you can get their wonderful Mugnaia della Locanda, long thick pasta in a very tasty sauce. When I go there I find it hard not to order their patatine which I think are the best chips I’ve ever tasted in Italy. Not very traditional I know, but they’re really very good.