Travel Italy

The Other Italy, Abruzzo Revisited

Have you ever visited a destination time and time again, never getting enough? I’ve been fortunate to travel to some of the most awe inspiring locations of the world, cruised on small gulets in Turkey, yachts in Australia and on some of the most glamorous ships at sea. What then is it that attracts me over and over again to the little nondescript village of Castilenti in Abruzzo, Italy?

Perhaps it’s because it’s a well kept secret, tucked away in the foothills with million dollar views of the Gran Sasso Mountains. Maybe it’s because very few of the local residents speak English. But words have little importance when genuine smiles and gestures of hospitality speak volumes. It’s a place you’ll never find mentioned in travel brochures and that’s a good thing. You won’t find many tourists here and that makes it even better.

Abruzzo | Photo: Steve Leland

I stumbled upon this little village while looking for a house to buy in Italy. I wanted a place to escape the tourist trail, somewhere with character and potential to feed my hunger for Italian culture. Casa Anatra in Castilenti was exactly what I was looking for, an experience and adventure of a lifetime. I’ve written previously about it in social media posts and full articles here on Porthole Cruise and Travel. 

RELATED: An Introduction to Abruzzo

At the risk of sounding like a one man tourist board, here are some things that explain the attraction and why Abruzzo truly is the other Italy. It’s a three hour drive from Rome, two hours of autostrada and one hour of country roads that twist through villages and some of the most scenic vistas you’ll ever experience.

Tuscany may lay claim to great landscaping vistas made by man but this stuff is nature’s handiwork. The historical sites of Rome may evoke the wow factor but here it is the awe factor. Tiny medieval hamlets perched on cliffs reach out for Instagram attention and the region’s  beaches on the Adriatic Sea easily compete with those of the Mediterranean, minus the crowds. 

Travel southward along the coast to nearby Vasto and view the coastal trabocchi, fragile looking wood stilt structures that serve as fishing mechanisms and double up as intimate seafood restaurants. If you prefer a more robust lifestyle, the city of Pescara only 15 minutes away summons up an image as a typical Italian beach venue with small hotels and cafes lining the coast.

Like anywhere in Italy you can indulge on pasta, pizza and wine, especially the local Montepulciano de Abruzzo and delicious arrosticini and savory porchetta fill plates of passion. A day trip to Campo Imperatore, will lead you to a wide open plateau set in the high altitude of the Gran Sasso Mountains with two butcher shops selling assorted lamb, beef and pork cuts that you can grill over hot coals on dozens provided grills.                                    

RELATED: Enticed by the Flavors of Abruzzo


Casa Anatra | Photo: Steve Leland

Five star hotels?  Not here and that’s another good thing. Small hotels, guest houses, agriturismo homes and B&B’s add authentic character to a stay here. Which brings us back to our beloved Casa Anatra, that project of reimagination that even after seven years continues to stoke our fanaticism and Italian wanderlust. After our renovation adventure was completed, our hectic travel schedule for Porthole restricted the amount of time we could spend in our little paradise. Regretfully, (not thankfully) we sold the property to others that have the same passion for the house and they have added amazing improvements that escaped our vision.

However, that has not stopped us from returning at every opportunity and each visit is even more enjoyable than the last.

It’s a fact that’s this place is not for everyone and that’s another great thing. It’s for you!  Artistic designer LaRue Agressi and her husband continue to offer the house on a weekly basis to visitors that seek a relaxing and authentic La Dolce Vita on their own terms, a total retreat from everyday life at home.  For more information contact LaRue at

Just leave a week open for us.


As a former Cruise Director, Steve has been cruising the world for the past forty years. Bringing a new dimension to cruise journalism, he continues to spin the globe searching for off the grid cruise adventures and unplugged destinations to share with Porthole Cruise Magazine readers.