Surprise #1: Sulmona is easy to reach by train or by car–about two or three hours east of Rome in the central Appenines. It’s off the beaten path for tourists, but is gradually being discovered, as evidenced by dozens of reviews on TripAdvisor for lodgings, restaurants, and things to do.
Surprise #2: Confetti! Not the bits of colored paper, but bits of colored candy coated almonds and chocolate, attached to wire stems and shaped into butterflies, flowers, swans, and other beautiful creations. Bouquets of confetti line the shop fronts along the Corso Ovidio, brilliant color drawing you along to find the next candy fantasy.
Surprise #3: History galore! I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise anywhere in Italy, but there are Roman ruins beneath the city, visible in a couple of museums attached to churches: S.S. Annunziata and San Gaetano. The city is surrounded by medieval walls, and a medieval aqueduct forms one side of the large Piazza Garibaldi.
Surprise #4: World class events! In addition to annual jousting competitions held in late July and early August, an international Latin competition celebrates the Roman poet Ovid who was born in Sulmona, nearby towns have festivals celebrating cherries, red garlic, and wine, and in Pacentro the annual Corsa degli Zingari (Race of the Gypsies) in early September has been celebrated for more than 500 years. On one visit to Sulmona we were surprised to see the Piazza Garibaldi transformed into a skating track for the International Speedskating Championships.
Surprise #5: Great food! We enjoyed meals at the Hostaria del Arco and Cantina di Biffi–rated number one and two among restaurants in Sulmona on TripAdvisor. Like most Italian cities, coffee shops abound, along with pizzerias and a variety of restaurants.
Surprise #6: The great outdoors! Sulmona’s valley is surrounded by national parks with lots of hiking opportunity. The mountains have remnants of ancient shepherds’ huts, along with several hermitages which are popular hiking destinations. There are also about a dozen ski areas within 60 to 90 minutes’ drive of Sulmona. The beaches along the Adriatic coast are about an hour away.
I hope you’ll try Sulmona when you plan a trip to Italy!