The art town of Campli, with its Holy Staircase, offers the chance to explore Italic archaeological sites, as well as learning about the brigands and the Bourbons, in the setting of the Gemelli peaks and the Val Vibrata, dominated by the imposing Bourbon fortress of Civitella del Tronto.
Colonnella stands on a high spot with stunning views of sea and mountains, a stairway of distinctive charm leading to the old town. Outside the town hall a bronze image of Giordano Bruno stands guard. In Piazza del Popolo visitors will find the Santi Cipriano e Giustino parish church, built in the late 18th – early 19th century over a church dating to the 1500s. The interior offers an admirable 16th-century gilded wooden statue of the Madonna del Suffragio, and an organ built in 1833 by the Neapolitan Gennari. In Piazza Mazzini a 16th-century clock tower is all that remains of the church of San Leopoldo.
In the upper part of Controguerra, the Torrione or tower was built in 1370. The church of San Francesco vaunts interesting works of art, while the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is home to a stunning polychrome terracotta high-relief Madonna dating back to the 15th century. In the alley behind this church it is worth visiting the Cappellina della Icona, a chapel with a 1600s fresco. The church of San Benedetto is also lovely, with ceramic wall panels showing scenes from the life of St Benedict, and two 18th-century altarpieces. The San Giuseppe Lavoratore district is the location of a museum dedicated to rural life.
An unusual late Renaissance octagonal building is home to the Madonna Tonna church. It is still possible to observe the walls and gates of the old fortified town, and the Fonte di Monsignore, an ancient Roman spring, can be a cool stopover along this charming trail.
Sant’Egidio alla Vibrata
This valley town is known worldwide for its leather goods, clothing and knitwear industries, a go-to district for many big names in fashion. Sant’Egidio alla Vibrata, with its typical old centre, still has a Romanesque church with a 1500s portal and the remains of a Lombard settlement. The old town centre is striking and visitors should also take in the Nuova church and its venerable works of art.
Faraone Vecchio, the site of a fortified castle dating back to the 1200s, is on the road to Civitella.
Sant’Omero is also interesting, with its medieval Torrione or tower and the remains of a marquis’ castle. The stunning Romanesque church of Santa Maria a Vico is built on the remains of a temple dedicated to Hercules.
Torano is the capital of Val Vibrata wines, with production of Montepulciano red, Trebbiano white, Cerasuolo rosé, and some dry sparklers. In mid-August, the wine and local charcuterie are the focal point of a traditional festival. Worth visiting are the Romanesque church of San Massimo, San Martino alle Torri, in Poggio Varano, and the 17th-century Madonna delle Grazie church with its unique Madonna and Child statue, and a 1300s processional cross.
Another church dedicated to St Martin is found in Nereto, built in the 12th century, and with late-Roman monolithic columns. The façade features a bas relief depicting St Martin, also adopted by the town as its coat of arms. There is a fine fountain, dating to 1881 and recently restored.
A striking little town, with its acropolis and the great Santa Maria ad Majulanum abbey, built over the ruins of a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Flora. Also worth visiting are the church of Sant’Agnese and the 19th-century fountain in Piazza Piedicorte. Near Corropoli there is a prehistoric village, Ripoli, comprising huts dug into the ground 5,000 years ago.