How to spend an Abruzzo summer ? OK. Get up late. Spend the day by the pool at your Abruzzo villa for two. Each night, you’re spoiled for choice. This is anything but mainstream Abruzzo tourism. This is what Italians do on their holidays. Here are just a couple of snapshots to give you a taste…
Notti di San Lorenzo. Pretoro
Pretoro is a lovely old medieval village clinging to an almost vertical hillside at the gateway to the Majella National Park. Its 3-day ‘Notti di San Lorenzo’ festival is one of the biggest and best of the summer.
Park the car at the local football ground at the bottom of the hill. Then join the queue for the €1.50 bus-ride up to the village, (but not all the way to the top…), or start walking. It starts steep and gets steeper – but it’s not that far and there are plenty of places to stop for a breather.
At the entrance to the village, you’ll pick up a little pamphlet. Inside, you’ll find a map of the village. At first sight, it looks like some quaint local boardgame, but it’s actually your indispensible guide to what lies ahead, because the map not only shows you where all the food stalls are – but also (and much more importantly !) tells you what local specialities they’re selling and what they cost.
Flip the map over. There’s the evening’s menu. Snack your way around town. At some places you’ll queue; at others you won’t. But you can always recharge those flagging energy levels with a paper cone of chips topped with a dollop of mayo or ketchup. Italians like chips too !
Work your way upwards through the ever-narrowing candle-lit streets past the bars; past the little groups of musicians who’ve annexed the tiny piazzas in front of even tinier churches; past the little hole-in-the-wall shops open for the festival only and selling all manner of locally-made bits and pieces.
Eventually you’ll emerge at Pretoro’s summit. More bars, more music, more food, more people. Thousands come to each night of the festival. In the UK – and I daresay other places you can think of too – this’d perhaps be a recipe for trouble. Here, the local carabinieri were more engaged in selling porchetta than keeping the peace. Busy ? Yes – very. But intimidating ? Oppressive ? No. People are too busy enjoying themselves.
You don’t need a ticket to get in – aside from your food and drink it’s all free. Best to get there when it’s starting to get dark around 8pm. Have fun !
Elvis in Casoli
Pretoro’s big festival draws people from all over the region. When Elvis played a free concert just down the road from your Abruzzo villa for two in Casoli on Friday, it was strictly for locals only, with just a few discreet posters stuck up in a few bars announcing that The King was in town.
But you can’t keep big news like this to yourself. There must’ve been at least 150 people in the Piazza del Popolo and easily the same number in the assorted bars and gelaterias of the Corso Umberto – which is a pretty good turn-out for a tribute band.
Me and Pauline and our friends Paul and Kate and Michelle and Nick grabbed a table outside the ‘Caffe del Piano’ for the nostalgia-fest. The band came on at 10.30 and played a crisp, slick 90-minute set.
‘Elvis’ had lost quite a lot of weight since I last saw him and he’s toned down the sequins, stunts and sex-appeal, but the voice – well…unmistakable. Aside from the click of the roulette wheel, if you’d closed your eyes, you could’ve been in Las Vegas. Especially after a couple of beers. Elvis in Casoli ? You won’t find that on any Abruzzo tourism website !
The party broke up a little after midnight. Which was OK, because by then we’d had the news: Elvis e’ partuto da fabbricato.