I’ve already written about one of my favorite winter weekend get-aways from Rome in Skiing in Ovindoli.

But for those who love outdoor sports, the town in the Apennine Mountains is also an ideal summer destination.

Ovindoli is about a one and a half hour drive east from Rome. It’s located in the region of Abruzzo, within the borders of the Sirente-Velino Regional Park.

Abruzzo is the green heart of Italy, home to three national parks: Gran Sasso National Park, the Abruzzo National Park, and the Majella National Park. All are within easy reach and are well worth a visit.

A mass on the town square, decorated with flower petals

Ovindoli is what is called a borgo, a town that built up within the walls of a castle. Sadly, little is left of the castle now, but there is a panoramic viewpoint from the castle’s belvedere at the highest point in town.

The town serves as a good base for lots of hiking in the area. There’s a 5 kilometer loop in the Val d’Arano for hiking, jogging, mountain bike riding or horseback riding.

From that loop you can branch off to the more challenging hikes of the Gole di Celano(Celano Canyon) or Monte Sirente. All are well marked.

With my favorite hikers

Bike rentals and guided or unguided horseback excursions can be easily arranged.

Italy’s summers are qute hot and humid, particularly in Rome. This is why Abruzzo is such a popular weekend destination. At 1400 meters, the days are warm but not humid and summer evenings are cool. It’s ideal weather for hiking or biking – two activites I’d never attempt during Roman summers, but can’t wait to do out in the cooler mountain air.

Chitarra pasta – typically from Abruzzo

This is Italy, where you can’t discuss a region to visit without touching on the food and wine. Food in Abruzzo is simple, but excellent. Regional specialties include the chitarra pasta, fresh egg pasta – thicker than linguine, but narrower, and cut with a stringed instrument that resembles a guitar, hence the name – served with the local saffron cream sauce, delicious gnocchi (especially good in this potato-producing region) with ragù (tomato sauce with meat), sausages, scamorza (melted cheese) or arrosticini (lamb skewers).

Great restaurants in town include my favorites: La Baracca, over by the ski slopes (this is a winter favorite, too); Il Pozzo, in Ovindoli’s old town; and La Pinetina, where there is outdoor dining in the summer months.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the region’s most famous wine. The Montepulciano grape is indigenous to this region and produces a strong red wine, with low acidity, ideal for the region’s meat-based specialties. The Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is the region’s most well-known white wine, but I’m a fan of Abruzzo’s white Pecorino wine. The wine, which has a quite high alcohol level for a white wine (13%), comes by its name because it so perfectly accompanies the region’s pecorino (sheep cheese).

So, what are you waiting for? Pack up your hiking boots and a sweater for the cool evenings, and enjoy the nature of Italy’s Abruzzo region in Ovindoli.

P.S. – Just a note of thanks to talented writer and blogger Julia Hones, who also happens to be a wonderful critique partner. Julia was kind enough to blog this week about the book I’m preparing to pitch. The reason I mention it here is that my fictional town of Marsicano is, in fact, based on the very real  town of  Ovindoli. The landscapes and descriptions are mostly accurate. I fictionalized it to make the town more isolated in the winter months. Therefore, I ‘eliminated’  its bustling ski resort so that my character’s isolation, once the town shuns her, would be more believable.