Abruzzo is a region of Italy I’ve wanted to visit long before we moved to Italy. I read the book Italian Lessons by Peter Pezzelli years ago and part of the book is set in the mountains of Abruzzo. Pezzelli’s descriptions about this beautiful region lured me in and I definitely wasn’t disappointed on our recent visit – Abruzzo was as picturesque as I imagined it would be. The Abruzzo region is mainly mountainous and wild land, dotted with ancient hilltop villages. We only had a long weekend to explore – too short, really – and we called Castello Chiola, perched atop arguably one of the most beautiful villages of Abruzzo, home during our stay.
Abruzzo is located in central Italy, just 50 kilometers from Rome, and our drive there had taken along the Adriatic Coast through Emilia Romanga and Marche before finally entering Abruzzo. As we drove inland from the sea, a Medieval village rose up before us on the winding road. Colorful houses seemed to tumble down one side of the hill, olive groves down the other, and a castle was the crowning jewel. We stopped to take some photos and then realized a few minutes later that the hilltop castle was our final destination.
Castello Chiola sits on the highest hill of Loreto Aprutino with enchanting 360° panoramic views. From our hilltop vantage point, we could see all the way to the sea on one side and the Apennine Mountains on the other.
Now a 4 start hotel, Castello Chiola has a long and somewhat mysterious history. The castle was rebuilt atop another ancient castle dating from around 864. The current castle is believed to have been erected sometime in the 11th century and to have belonged to Lombard and Frederick II. It was an aristocratic residence under D’Aquino, Gamba, Casamarte and D’Avalos families throughout the 13th century. Castello Chiola has been a haven for warriors, nobles, and emperors and it even suffered an aerial bombardment on the 13th and 14th of January 1944. It came into the hands of the Chiola family in 1870 and they themselves lived there until 1995.
The castle has 36 guest rooms and our room was extremely spacious with high ceilings. A lovely breakfast is set up each morning with a variety of pastries, fresh fruit, and meats and cheeses. The castle also has a restaurant, though a wedding was taking place during our stay, so we didn’t get to experience dinner in the castle. But what a gorgeous setting for a wedding! There is also a seasonal pool with a fantastic view overlooking the town and hills below. Best of all, the castle is dog friendly!
Loreto Aprutino itself is lovely. We loved strolling the winding Medieval streets in the evening time. The town is world famous for its olive oil production and there is an Olive Oil Museum set in a renovated old oil mill from the 1880s. There are also several other municipal museums to visit.
We recommend a meal at Convivio Girasole. The restaurant is just a few minutes walk from Castello Chiola and you’ll be served with a variety of olive oils with chilis to spread on bread. The menu features homemade pastas with fresh local ingredients, like the mushrooms that were in season during our visit. Be sure to pair your meal with a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red wine.
Castello Chiola and Loreto Aprutino were a fantastic base for our stay in the Abruzzo region. We were easily able to visit both the beaches of Pescara and the beautiful lakes in the mountains. We’ll definitely be back because those mountains are calling to us for some hiking and perhaps a visit to Europe’s southernmost glacier.
Know Before You Go
- Castello Chiola offers very affordable luxury with double rooms starting at $125 per night and suites starting at $175 per night. Breakfast is included and there is free parking on site.
- The Olive Oil Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday in summer from June 16 – September 15 from 9:30am – 12:30pm and 5 – 7pm; open the rest of the year Saturdays and Sundays only from 9:30am – 12:30pm and 3:30 – 5:30pm. Entrance is €6 for adults and €3 for children 8 – 14 years of age. Children under 8 are free.
Thank you to Castello Chiola for hosting us during our stay in Loreto Aprutino. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.