Are you wondering where these lovely views are from?? From the tiny, charming historic medieval village 110 miles east of Rome, called Pacentro! Pacentro is a gem that can be found in the province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo, Italy….the next largest town is Sulmona. Very near and dear to my heart, Pacentro is the village where my family came from! My entire life I saw photos of this lovely village, I spent HOURS on google maps virtually admiring this charming village, filled with curiosity and a deep desire to visit! Oh, how I wished I could go someday! I always felt in my heart, that I would! In 2015 my dream came true! My husband joined me on this amazing adventure! And I did LOTS of prep work beforehand to ensure a successful trip!
The people of this village were so generous! Welcoming me in for meals, coffee and even limoncello (haha, for real) by people I hadn’t met before! Above all, a special thank you to a very kind person named Anna, a local who basically took me in as her own and took care of us! I’m pretty sure she was heaven sent…she showed me everything…and never seemed to mind, as I took over 1,000 photos or asked a million questions!! Lolol
We located my paternal Grandma’s house from the black & white photos she had. As I sat on her stoop, exactly where she sat in these photos in 1965…it was just surreal. Absolutely surreal. Although I could have sat there forever…ohhh how I wished she was still with me, so that I could ask her about ALL of the thoughts and questions I had racing through my mind! Sitting on her stoop at least 4 or 5 times in my short 2 day stay there, I truly felt her presence! An overwhelming feeling of peace and a deep connection in my heart for this lovely town!
A Charming Town
I walked all over the village, photographing it from every angle…a thousand photos– I never wanted to forget a single alley, arch, fountain, church, etc. A photo truly speaks 1,000 words! And because I will never forget this special, special trip…I felt the need to document it. The entire town…every piece of it…SO charming!
This was almost 4 years ago…back in July of 2015…better late than never, right? ha! Well, as you can see, it was full-glaring sun and the heat was intense! I’m pretty sure we were the only ones out during the daytime…everyone came out to socialize in the evening once it cooled off. The highlights of my trip included finding my Grandmother’s home, my Grandfather’s home, visiting the church where they married, the castle that I’ve heard stories about passed down all the way from my Great-Grandmother and the cemetery to visit my Great-Grandfather!
If you are ever in Rome, looking for an excursion to a non-touristy city…because you want to see what a real medieval Italian village is like…I’m going to outline a list of things for you to do/see while you are here! First I’ll charm you with some photos! Have you ever seen so many beautiful flowers in your life?!
Finding My Grandmother’s House– this was the main objective of my trip to Pacentro! My paternal Grandmother, Fragolina (Lalama) Roncone, marked with red X’s the door and windows that belonged to her family. This is where she grew up! The top says “Vico San Marco” (her street name) and “la casa mia” is simply “My House”. The bottom says “Casa di Marco Lalama” which is “House of Marco Lalama”, her father’s name (my Great-Grandpa). Although there was no house number on the photo, I was able to identify the house immediately! Here is a her photo in comparison to how the house looks now! I’m standing in front, holding the b&W photo. Surreal, huh?!
Fun fact: Madonna’s grandparents are also from this same little town of Pacentro!
Grandma went back to her hometown of Pacentro in 1965…she is the beautiful woman in the green dress, sitting on the stoop! And here is the stoop now…and me holding her photo there! I met and chatted with some of the neighbors, it was such a fantastic feeling! They told me my face was from Pacentro. It made me laugh, I can understand that! 3 out of 4 of my grandparents are actually from this same small town! My maternal Grandpa’s side came from Rotondella in the in the province of Matera, in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata. That’s next on my list of places to visit!
2. Espresso from Caffe De Martinis– those of you who follow me, know all about my love of coffee! So of course, it was THE next thing we did! A coffee break time at Caffee De Martinis…where I sat outside and enjoyed the lovely view in this piazza which is called Piazza ‘Iaringhi’ by the townees or officially Piazza Umberto on the map, Lolol. In other words, espresso breaks are something I look forward to while traveling in Italy!! And I take MANY of them, haha.
3. Finding my Grandfather’s House- my Grandma also had a photo of ‘Casa di Roncone’…the ‘Roncone House’! It was right inside of the other square called Piazza del Popolo! And wow, was it spectacular! So not only was finding her house completely surreal…but there I stood! In front of the Roncone House now! This is where my new, sweet friend Anna, helped me out by showing the new home owner my black and white photo. And then…what happened next was amazing! He invited us in and gave us a tour of the inside!! Talk about even more surreal! I stood on the same balcony they stood…and photographed the entire piazza! I didn’t want to leave! Lolol What a special moment! The Piazza has this amazingly beautiful fountain too! I drank the mountain water from it and it was so refreshing!
Photos taken from the Balcony of ‘Casa di Roncone’!
4. A drive up the Mountain for some aerial views is a must! We stopped at this statue of St. Anthony overlooking Pacentro! This is one of my favorite photos!
5. The Caldora Castle- yes!! That’s right! No medieval town would be complete without a castle right?! Above the medieval part of the town, on the Colle Castello (Castle Hill,) rests the Caldora Castle of Pacentro! This is no ordinary castle, my friends! It’s STILL standing!! And its from the 14th or 15th century! Though 3 of the 4 towers remain standing…it can clearly be seen by anyone from a distance as you approach Pacentro and is iconic of the town! At the time, it was being restored and is now open to the public so it can safely be visited by tourists!
I was always told my maternal Great Grandmother lived on “the street with the castle at the top of the hill”! As a kid, I always thought, oh wow! To live on the same street as a castle! After a visit to the Pacentro town hall, I was able to find records of the location of the homes of my maternal great-Grandma and great-Grandpa! I was able to trace my family back SO far! I was surprised to see their streets actually intersected each other! (Via del Colle and Via Guardiola).
6. B&B A centro a Pacentro– the bed and breakfast with the most breathtaking view!! We sat right here and enjoyed our tasty Pacentro breakfast with THIS as our scenery! The owners literally cooked our delicious breakfast fresh, right then! Life doesn’t seem to get any better than this! After breakfast, it was onto our next adventure!
7. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Misericordia– Pacentro’s amazingly beautiful church, which I’m told is also from the 15 century! My grandparents were married here and I stood in front, just in disbelief at how lovely it was…I thought about all of the special events that likely took place here for my family…probably many beautiful moments such as marriage, baptism…!
The only problem was…the church was closed while I was there! My heart sank, I traveled so far and I wanted to see everything there! I only had this ONE chance. Just like my Grandma, I’m not one who gives up very easily! I was determined to get inside!! Apparently, when you carry a gigantic camera with a telescopic zoom lens…and stand outside long enough…in front of windows trying to photograph the inside of the church from the outside…people notice that! Especially the security cameras, Lolol. Well out came the Priest to check in on me.
After my explanation of my intent…he happily welcomed me inside to photograph the church! He unlocked the door for me and Ohhh Wow! I was in awe of the ornate ceiling, the tall columns aligning the aisle, the marble floors and I had never seen such a decorated pulpit like that before!
Me…praying for forgiveness for my embarrassing episode with the Priest…..and because I went into church without my shoulders AND my knees covered…(a big no-no for anyone who’s going to a church in Italy)! But it was brutally HOT people! And said a million prayers of thanks for allowing me inside!
My last stop was the cemetery! Where I was determined to put silk flowers I had packed in my suitcase and had been carefully carrying for the past 2 weeks! My trip wouldn’t have felt complete unless I put them on my Grandma’s Father’s grave site! I know she would have wanted that and that my Grandma would have been so proud of me and this trip! I climbed all the way up an old shaky ladder…and placed the flowers there.
After saying a prayer, I turned to leave…I took one last photo and noticed two white birds fly over! Can you see them in the photo below…just to the right of the statue? I got goosebumps…what a perfect end to my day! Thank you to my Grandma, who I absolutely have no doubt was alongside me in spirit!
A Pacentro Sunset
And as a photographer, did you think I’d travel all the way to Pacentro and not capture a sunset shot?! haha! Here you go!
Pacentro at Night
The people come out at night, once its cooled off! I was wondering where everyone was hiding! Lolol I was in heaven! We walked up and down the streets, people were talking and laughing and kids were playing soccer in the square! I love meeting new people and chatting with them– I could have stayed out all night talking to the locals!
A few Personal Photos
God bless you Anna! I can never put into words how meaningful this trip was to me, we couldn’t have done it without you! You were heaven sent! Wishing you many blessings!