Rocca Calascio in Abruzzo Will Take Your Breath Away

Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo, Italywise

A window to the drama of the Apennines

I’ve returned recently from my second trip to Abruzzo. If you read my previous post on Sulmona, you’ll know that I’ve been chomping at the bit to return and explore further. Tops on my list was a visit to Rocca Calascio.

Rocca Calascio, which sits at 4,790 ft, is the highest fortress in the Apennines.

I made the journey with my friend David, who was kind enough to play tour guide and navigator. Having him along was a real treat because he clearly loves these mountains and the treasures they contain. As we departed Sulmona early in the morning David lamented the overcast and rainy weather that seemed to have rolled in overnight. I, too, was feeling like the day would be a bust. After all, I’d been told Rocca Calascio is one of the most stunning places in all of Italy. Why else would the movies Lady Hawke and The Name of the Rose have featured it so prominently?

Surprising beauty on a rainy day.

The universe seems to be asking me, more and more, to let go of my expectations of how things are supposed to turn out – in spite of things playing out in opposition to my expectations, So, I resisted any temptation to scrap the trip. “Let’s see what presents itself,” I thought to myself.

By the time we reached the little village below Rocca Calascio, the skies still were ominous. We stopped for a coffee (I had my usual doppio machiatto) hoping that the drizzle that had just started would pass. When we did leave the sweet little cafe/bar/restaurant, the proprietor followed us out the door and insisted we take his umbrella. The was just one of many acts of kindness and selflessness we experienced that day.

So we trudged up the hill. I was holding my camera protectively under my cotton sweater. We lamented, again, the weather conditions, and David remarked about just how spectacular the views could be in better weather. I commented that stormy skies often add a drama not achievable on clear days – but I’m not sure I really believed this was going to be the case. As we came up to the lonely, but beautiful octagonal church of Santa Maria della Pietà, the clouds literally parted and illuminated the facade of the church. I was trying to stay calm at this unexpected good fortune and readied my camera. David held an umbrella for me since we still were under a fine, but steady, drizzle. I hoped I had captured something dramatic. I tried, in vain, to wipe away the mist and get a sense of the results on the digital screen on the camera back. Fortunately, later my hopes had been realized.


I literally had about ten minutes of the most spectacular heavenly light – just enough to head up to the fortress, while snapping away at every turn. And then the skies closed ranks, and we were left in a flat gloom. Still, I was grateful for this brief light show – like it was teasing me to come back when I had more time.

I won’t attempt to give you a history lesson on Rocca Calascio. Wikipedia does a much better job.

I will, however, attempt to tell you that the feeling of standing on this mountaintop was incredible. The profound sense of space and silence made me want to choose a rock, plant myself there, and stare out into space. My mind literally was stunned into silence. And, believe me, that is a rare thing! I’m not one to sit still and meditate, but I plan to go back to Rocca Calascio and do just that.

Sulmona, Italywise

Sulmona’s finest ambassador, Novelia Giannantonio

I hope this story about Rocca Calascio is yet another temptation to make the journey to Sulmona, and dive into the spectacular beauty of Abruzzo. My heartfelt thanks to the indomitable and passionate Novelia Giannantonio for being my guardian angel and for making arrangements and paving the way for my incredible adventures there (be sure to stay tuned for an upcoming story about my trek into the mountains with local shepherds – Novelia orchestrated it all!). When you come to Sulmona, be sure to consider renting Novelia’s lovely spacious two-bedroom Casa di Cuore. But, be sure to book early (I can provide her contact info, just send me a note through my contact link), or it might not be available. Novelia, and her wonderful husband Peppe, also will help get you pointed in the right directions to make the most out of your time in Sulmona.Welcome to Sulmona

Another wonderful resource, which covers so many things about Sulmona is It’s the best English language resource guide to Sulmona.

In closing, I include a YouTube Video (from Adriano Rotondo – he does amazing videos) with breathtaking aerial views of Rocca Calascio. I promise you, when you visit this magical place you will feel your soul expand and your spirit soar!

I’d love for you to become a direct subscriber to It’s easy. Just enter your email in the upper right column. You’ll receive a confirmation email, and then future blog posts will land directly in your in-box!

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By |2018-06-13T17:22:21+02:00September 26th, 2016|Abruzzo|16 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Gloria October 1, 2016 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    Lovely shots and I think the serendipitous “moment of Light” gives the reader more appreciation of the time and place. I like the candid shot of Novelia and Peppe as well. Aren’t they the best ever? Novelia gave me a sneak preview of some of your B+W’s which I’ll keep under my hat. Definitely exhibit material…..sheep, goats, dogs, shepards. The real deal. Fantastico!

    • Jed October 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      Grazie Gloria! Thanks for writing, and I’m happy you like the shots – including the sneak peek at the day with the shepherds! Stay tuned for a post on that experience coming soon. Best, Jed

  2. Dale Henslee-Smith September 28, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    Incredibly stunning! Wish I could have been with you my dear brother. Miss you so much!

    • Jed September 29, 2016 at 11:34 am - Reply

      Miss you too Doodlebug! Glad you like the photos. You would have loved this place – felt almost sacred! Love you dear sister! Jed

  3. David collins September 28, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    Jed, you have captured the unique environment and atmosphere of Roccacalascio so beautifully. We were so fortunate nature smiled on us briefly ….. was one of those moments to treasure.

    • Jed September 29, 2016 at 11:36 am - Reply

      David, thanks for being MY shepherd for the day! I received so much great feedback. We were indeed blessed to have that brief, but amazing, light show!

  4. Linda Dini Jenkins September 28, 2016 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    So nice to finally get to meet you in our mutual adopted second home! Roccacalascio is a miracle and our network of friends in Sulmona are angels. We discovered Roccascalenga yesterday and I highly recommend it on your return trip. These photos, as always, are stunning. Ci vediamo in Sulmona!

    • Jed September 28, 2016 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Same here, Linda! So nice to meet you and Tim. Glad you like the images. I look forward to staying in touch! Jed

  5. Novelia September 27, 2016 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    My brother I love that you loved Rocca Calascio, it is a magic place and puts a spell on the people that are lucky to visit it. What I am happy about is that I was able,with the passion that I have towards my Region , to pass it to you and many other friends. Your enthusiasm towards Abruzzo keeps on bulding more and more I think that all your readers feel it, and I am sure after this article they will have the desire to come and make themselves this unique experience. Peppe and I want to tank you, you have written so many nice things about us. I am proud to say that people from Abruzzo not only are STRONG AND GENTLE but give their Heart unconditionally like me. A big embrace like all Abruzzo Novelia Peppe

    • Jed September 27, 2016 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      Grazia mia sorella! You and Beppe have made me fall in love with Sulmona and Abruzzo. I know I will have so many more stories to tell. Thanks again for all you have done for me. I miss you terribly! Baci, Jed

  6. Robin Fink September 27, 2016 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous, Jed!!

    We also hope one day to take your advice and visit Sulmona.

    Miss you- see you soon???

    Markus and Robin

    • Jed September 27, 2016 at 10:56 pm - Reply

      Ciao Robin, Glad you like! Hope to see you soon! If you go to Sulmona, let me know. I’ll get you hooked up with some wonderful people! xoxox Jed

  7. elizabeth wholey September 27, 2016 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    Absolutely STUNNING!!!

    • Jed September 27, 2016 at 5:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks, as always Elizabeth. I sure do miss you! Hope to see you soon. xoxox jed

  8. Katy Gorman September 27, 2016 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I’m glad you got at least a few superb pics from Rocca Calascio. Thanks also for the mention and for helping us all to spread the word. We’ll share this ourselves tomorrow.

    • Jed September 27, 2016 at 5:24 pm - Reply

      Grazie Katy! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

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