Our 24-hour guide to Penne is written by local Dianne Drew, who runs the boutique style b&b and guestroom rental, ‘Terracielo Ramona‘ with incredible terrace vistas of Penne. She is part of the local arts co-operative and can guide you on some of the fantastic artisans to pay a visit to. For visitors to Penne that would like to take a new skill back home, Dianne provides candle-making and soap-making classes for individuals and groups.
Penne in 5 Words
Architecture, nature, history, gastronomy, recreation
Perfectly situated between the Gran Sasso mountain range and the Adriatic Sea in Pescara province, and 2.5km from Lago di Penne (Lake Penne) and its nature reserve, Penne and its fascinating historical centre are a testament to an ancient, glorious past. Positioned on the crest of a mountain and divided into four ‘hills,’ here you will discover friendly locals, its stunning architecture and ample fresh air!
Where nature, history and culture merge, Penne’s lush landscapes and wooded areas surround its medieval centre of ancient architecture featuring a charming maze of steep and narrow cobblestone lanes surrounded by ancient walls.
What to Visit, Churches, Museums, Galleries etcOriginally named ‘Pinna Vestinorum,’ dating as far back as 300BC (pre-Roman) and inhabited by the ancient Vestini tribe, Penne is one of the oldest towns in the Abruzzo region with its main access, past and present, the beautiful Porta San Francesco. Dated 1780, it was designed by the architect Francesco Di Sio and was restored and transformed in 1870. It is a symbol of the town and a perfect place to begin exploring! On one of its four hills and a short walk from Porta San Francesco stands the Duomo (Cathedral) The terracotta facade was rebuilt after the war, but only the crypt, the portal, the rose window (13th century) and the 15th-century bell tower belong to the original Romanesque Gothic phase. Its ancient diocese and adjoining museum ‘Museo Archeologico Civico e Diocesano,’ at Piazza Duomo 8, preserve fascinating pieces of art and archaeology from the area, worth seeing. A short distance away on foot is Penne’s Modern Art Museum: MAMEC, Museo d’arte Moderna, containing collections by renown artists such as Remo Brindisi and Enrico Galluppi. Open from Thursday to Sunday. As ancient architecture dating back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is not scarce here, as you meander through the streets seek out any of the following local gems. Maps are posted throughout the city and include a QR code which can help you navigate your way around!
- Palazzo Picchetto-Pansa
- Palazzo del Bono
- Palazzo Castiglione
- Roman Cloister
- Palazzo Gaudiosi
- Palazzo Aliprandi
© Amedeo Pomponi
Best Places to get a View
Here in Penne you’ll not only find medieval architecture, palaces, ancient churches and cobblestone alleys everywhere you look, the lushness of the Penne Lake Nature Reserve, is the ideal gateway to exploring the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park and even more epic views. It’s a hiker’s dream and daytrips from Penne to these vast open spaces await and just 45 minutes to an hour’s drive away. (Wikiloc and Alltrails are great apps to download and with free memberships versions available to help you navigate.)
Locally, from various high vantage points throughout town (on any of the four hills) or if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a church bell tower, you can also see the Adriatic Sea and stunning views of Gran Sasso. A favourite vantage point is at Penne’s Duomo, also known as Piazza Vescoville (Episcopal Palace) which houses the Archealolgical Museum. Outside the palace the stone sculpture of the Vestino Bulls by Pietro Cascella frames perfectly an unrivalled majestic mountain scene.
Great Walks & Cycle Rides
Within close proximity to the Conad supermarket and bus station, is a nature trail which descends to the lake. Look for the large sign at the bottom of the road. It’s about a 2,5km walk down but can be very challenging and slippery after and during a rainy period. It’s also a popular area with mountain bikers. Alternatively, you can go via a paved road from SS81- on foot or by car, turn at Lu Gallucio Pizzeria and follow the road. The descent is less forested and great views are plenty. Either way you will arrive at the lake’s nature reserve where there will be signs for trails you can follow on-foot.
Have a look at trail maps here:
Find more details about this area here:
There are a few bicycle rental outlets in Penne which are ideal for city or country excursions:
At Pon Cafe at Piazza San Francesco there are electric city-bikes.
Electric fat-bikes are available for rent directly, besides the newsagent at Piazza San Franceso and also at the restaurant Vecchia Hosteria del Lago, near the lake. According to the owner, it’s best to make a reservation first, just in case.
Guided nature tours are also available to book with the local tour company WolfTour, a specialist in active and sustainable tourism. They offer visitors a wide range of activities such as hiking, cycling, canoeing and trekking. During excursions, it’s also possible to taste typical products of this region. Excursions include Lake Penne in a Canadian canoe, and nearby Farindola with an electric mountain bike, among others. Their equipment rentals include bicycles, mountain bikes, fatbikes, ebikes, motorbikes ‘snow rackets’ (snow- shoes) , cross country skis and Nordic walking poles.
Where to have an Aperitif
‘Aperitivi’ can be enjoyed 7 days-a-week at Bar Centrale, on the corner at Piazza Luca da Penne (the city’s bustling hub), where friendly, smiling staff serve up fresh and delicious deli meats, tasty cheeses and mini bruschetta. If looking to fill up a little more, they have a satisfying aubergine ‘parmigiana’ and vegetarian lasagne perfect to curb hunger pangs and fill a grumbling mid-afternoon belly. Thereafter (or instead), if looking to appease a sweet tooth, their pastries and gelato offerings are a treat not to be forsaken.
Recommendation of a Local Vineyard to Visit or Go For a Tasting
Located on Corso Alessandrini, Cantinetta WineBar Mava’ is a wine-drinkers’ hub for evening ambiance and enjoying some of Italy’s best, including excellent locally-made wines by the establishment’s proprietor, Aldo Antonacci. Aldo, an Penne native, also a sommelier and former New-Yorker, speaks excellent English and he is only too happy to talk shop and make recommendations while you sit back, relax and observe local life from his small front patio.
A popular winemaker with locals is Tenuta De Melis at C.da San Pellegrino, just a few minute’s drive from Penne. The family carries on their winemaking traditions passed down from generations and their vineyard’s on-site shop is a treasure trove for wine drinkers. Take a seat at their salon’s large wood table they’ll be happy to oblige visitors with tasters of wines on offer.
Recommendation of Budget and High-end Restaurants
There are a number of locales in Penne and slightly afoot, where you can enjoy an excellent feast, a slice of Pizza or just a light snack, and most are centrally located. Just a bit of advice, if planning a meal at a restaurant on a weekend or in the peak summer months, making a reservation is advised.
For dining in the heart of the historical centre we find ‘Tattobe’ on Corso Emilio Alessandrini, 371. An ample population of locals and ‘stranieri’ alike can be found at weekends seated outdoors, lining the street ‘al fresco.’ That said, it’s a perfect spot to enjoy a meal and observe local life! Some nice food to be consumed here and definitely worth it’s moderate pricing. Notably, a favourite select is the ‘seasonal special’ of a pizza topped with fresh fava bean pesto and prosciutto. It really is one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten, albeit it’s as heavy as a Margherita. Then again one can always opt to eat half!
The local restauranteurs of Alle Volte at Via Trasmundi 1 / Incrocio Via Di Cesaris, know good food and drink. The owners of ‘Tibo’, the hip library/bookstore cafe, bring to Penne their latest gastronomic venture along with an extensive wine selection in a great ambience set in a modern rustic atmosphere. The menu is predominately meat-based and if you enjoy lamb, you’ll find it’s one of their best dishes. Vegetarians may find it a slight challenge but opting for one of their handmade pasta dishes is definitely not a bad thing.
Ideal and guaranteed a hearty lunch after a hike at the lake, or simply a tasty low to mid-priced dinner to fill your empty belly is Vecchia Hosteria del Lago at Contrada Colle Formica – 18. It’s one of the few places in the area serving arrosticini at lunch and along with a fresh Caprese salad that is ample for 2 or even a dish of fresh pasta, what more do you need?
Finally, pit stops on the cheap for quick eats include centrally located L’Altra Pizza (via D Alghieri 4) for freshly made take-away slices – but get there before 12:30 or they’ll be gone! Alternately the tasty small pizzas made in the evenings at Cretarola Progetto Pizza, near the piazza San Franceso city gates, can be eaten in or taken away.
Sagre and Feste
A July evening in Penne brings quality time and an ideal combination of ‘Jazz and Wine’, directly outside the Archaeological Museum/ Duomo at via G. B. Leopardi. Grab a table and enjoy a glass of red or white accompanied by some great jazz music.
The ancient Easter traditions of the holy week include the Good Friday procession which has been held in Penne since 1570 and is the second oldest in Abruzzo. The lavishly embellished, ancient cloth or ‘tire’ that wraps the body of the Christ statue was embroidered in 1860 and adorned with colourful gold, silver and silk threads applied on an enormous black velvet base. One of the peculiarities of Penne’s procession is that the statue of the deceased Christ is accompanied by a procession of ‘hooded’ attendants, while the faithful onlookers recite prayers and sing songs.
The Best Things to do Locally for the Under 12s
As mentioned, outdoor recreation activities for singles or families alike, are ample. While exploring near the lake seek out (The Nicola de Leone Nature Museum) for a look into this biodiverse and protected area.
A dip in a pool is the perfect way for families with youngsters to stay cool! On Penne’s outskirts, a short distance away from the centre is Agriturismo Mazzatenta at the end of via Sant’Agostino. Kids can spend the day splashing while parents can relax under an umbrella poolside. Conveniently, excellent meals at reasonable prices are also served. It’s best to check their schedule and make a reservation for both if visiting during peak summer months.
A glimpse of Penne back in time in the 20th-century by our group moderator, Pete Austin (you can see more of these in the group or on our Instagram feed with the hashtag #abruzzophotobypeet)
The photographers are Marcella Pedone and Pepe Merisio’s shots of Penne and what caught our group members eyes on a visit!
© Pete Austin, Graham Beresford, Jennifer Petko Roark, Dagmar Gua, Tammy Martin
A Big Thank You
To Amedeo Pomponi for his drone shots, follow his superb Penne feed on Instagram.
And the biggest thank you to the author of our Penne local guide, Dianne Drew! Do check out her lovely, eclectic Penne B&B and of course, take a soap and candle lesson! The candles may come in handy this winter!