24 Hours in Scanno: A Local’s Guide

Scanno, Pete Austin

Scanno is beloved & iconised by the world’s most famous photographers, but what about today, where should you visit when you head up high, to the town’s 1,050 metres above sea level location within the Abruzzo, Molise & Abruzzo National Park? Here’s a handy local’s guide of what to do in Scanno if you are visiting for the day. compiled by Michael di Genova.  He works for the town’s most famous cheesemaker, Gregorio Rotolo at Valle Scannese and returned to Abruzzo after a career in the music industry.

Scanno Lake1. Scanno in 5 words or less

Scanno, the place to discover inner magic!

2. What to visit, Churches, Museums, etc?

No matter whether you are looking for a place to feel serene and calm, at peace with nature, to be yourself and be counted as part of a community all of these and more remain possible in Scanno. Far from the chaos of the cities, Scanno still has much to help stir one’s emotions,  beauty and its views,  traditional events and the ability to endow its visitors with moments of incredible relaxation. Getting lost in its historic tumble of streets is an unmissable lifetime’s experience! The name Scanno derives from its original stool shape, scamnum“.  The houses all sit close to one another in very narrow streets, many with dead ends and you use steep external stairways to access the historic centre.   Do not use a map, let yourself be guided by intuition or advice from a Scannese or two.  Perhaps you will be lucky and it will be a lady wearing the traditional dress of the town who will guide you where to go! Scanno Streets Once you arrive in the main piazza, you should visit the Church of Santa Maria della Valle, I love its permanent nativity scene and the time and care with which Don Carmelo and all the parishioners dedicate to maintaining its beauty. Further down, on Via Abrami you will find the Sarracco Fountain which you can safely drink from, the water is very good (it’s free,  courtesy of the Mayor!).   Each of the four drinking spouts is contained within a sculpted, enchanting mask and historically your social class decided which of these that you drank from! Sarracco FountainThe Church of Constantinople with its beautiful fresco is also a place to visit and don’t forget to pop into the Museo della Lana (Wool Museum).  It is the fulcrum of the herding culture that made Scanno such a place of irresistible charm for famous photographers like  H.C. Bresson, Giacomelli as well as numerous painters and writers.   Outside the town, the small church of the Madonna del Lago is located near the lake and should not be missed. The small hermitage of Sant’Egidio can be found on the ( Path of the Heart), and La Chiesetta degli Alpini is located on the mountain and can be reached by chairlift for some panoramic views!

3. Best Scenic Spots

The Path of the Heart (Sentiero del Cuore ) is without a doubt the best! From here it is possible to see the heart-shaped lake. Oh yes, that’s right, it was created via a landslip over 1000 years ago! Otherwise, take the car to the village of Frattura,  and from there you will see the whole lake and the whole valley. From the Aia di Sant’Angelo, on the other hand, you can see the whole town.

4. Typical Dishes to Try

It is a difficult task to suggest where to eat good things, everything is good here!  Among the dishes to try, I would say the Cazzellitt ‘(typical Scannese shaped dumplings)  that are made with Solina flour, try them with a trip to the Lo Sgabello restaurant. For fish try La Foce, here you will find excellent crayfish. If you want something truly that keeps to “grandma’s recipe” in its style and flavours, then I recommend the raviolone with ricotta and grilled lamb at the Bio Agriturismo Valle Scannese.

5. Beautiful Trails to do and Bike Routes

The Sentiero del Cuore is accessible to everyone, a walk in the valleys of Monte Godi is a panacea. For the more experienced walker try Campitello, Tre Ciminiere, Valico del carapale. If you love cycling, you’ll love that you can follow the same paths of the XTerra Race cyclists, do ask Mtb Scanno for suggestions, they know a lot! For those on horseback, Alessia is the woman for you! Her horses at Il Ranch will take you to places that will take your breath away.

6. Where to have an aperitif (based on a beautiful view, quality and atmosphere?

Pan dell’Orso is a great classic! Set the scales, they have some spectacular desserts and Angelo Di Masso is one of the best pastry chefs in Italy. A cafe on the veranda with some sweets will restore you back in the world.  The Caff’e Santa Maria (next to the Santa Maria della Valle church) looks like something out of a Woody Allen film. You can have an aperitif with a view of the mountains and, if you happen to be in the dining room, look out the window. For a glass of wine with friends in the piazza, try L’orso Brillo.

7. Local Shops Where you can Discover the Local Culture

You can’t leave Scanno without visiting its extraordinary goldsmiths, their pieces of jewellery are works of art and interwoven with the pastoral traditions – visit Mancini , Fronterotta, Di Rienzo and Rotolo.

Everything: Gregorio Rotolo’s Cheese Shop, Pan dell’Orso, Pasquale Notarmuzi’s extra fruit organic jams made with a little brown sugar,  coconut artisan biscuits are superb and 0 km.

8. Recommended Restaurants in Scanno

If you want to experience a truly high-class gastronomic experience in Scanno, then your place is Alla Fonte that sits on the main piazza. Daniela and Orazio will guide you in choosing exceptional dishes and wines with a unique local flavour. (€35-40 per person).

9. Scanno’s Sagre and Feste

Sant’Antonio (13th Jan), Sant’Eustachio (20th September) Le Glorie (10th November), Ju Catenacc ‘(Il Catenaccio – 16th August), Le chezette (le calzette – 5th January)

The Feast day of Sant’Antonio of Padua (June 13)

Traditionally this day marked the return of the shepherds on their homeward leg of the transumanza from Puglia.  In the past, the streets would be filled with the happiest of children, seeing their father for the first time in more than 6 months!   Today in Scanno you will see a colourful procession of animals with wooden trunks and firewood is gifted to local nuns to help them face the approaching winter and give thanks for the shepherds safe return. Sant’Eustacchio is the patron saint of Scanno and his feast day is celebrated on September 20th and it traditionally marked the departure of the town’s shepherds on the transumanza back down to Puglia.  The women were traditionally serenaded under the windows (“La spartenza”) by their loved ones before they left.

Ju Catenacc ‘(Il Catenaccio – 16 August)

This festival consists of a wedding procession in traditional Scanno clothes. Now only women wear the traditional dress and the presentosa (a famous Abruzzo jewel of entwined hearts).  Only 1 couple will really get married in this re-enactment is i. The others who participate are all relatives who parade strictly as couples, one male, one female. After the parade, the party ends in the main square of the town, Piazza della Madonna della Valle ), and, after various ceremonies, they dance the quadrille, while the organiser’s gift all the spectators sweets from Scanno!

The annual u Catenacc ceremony that still continues today!

The annual Ju Catenacc ceremony that still continues today!

Le Glorie (November 10 – the peasants New Year 7 San Martin’s Day)

This is an initiation rite, where children entered the world of adults through wood and fire, fire being seen as a symbol of purification and novelty and an ancient ritual to remove the dark and underground forces that endanger newly planted seeds and fertilise the soil. The 3 districts of the town (Cardella, La Playa and San Martino) which are named after the surrounding mountains, build wooden towers 15-18 meters high. At dusk, first the towers that the children build are lit, followed by the adults.  Expect much sharing of Vino Novello (new wine), grilled meats, laughter and merriment!

SACRED FIRE – The Glories of Scanno from Giancarlo Malandra on Vimeo.

Le Chezette (January 5)

La Serenade delle Chezette is busking Scanno style. Through a simple serenade, your reward is a meal and company in the deep dark winter. It takes place on the eve of Epiphany (5th Jan), villagers sing this traditional folk song under the windows of the girls & women of the town & beg for food until they receive a promise of a delicious dish or ingredients tomorrow. The next day the singers go and collect the fruits of their serenade and two days later the donors and the singers go to a local restaurant and with much love eat together! 

10. The Best Thing to do for the Under 12s

Horseback riding at Il Ranch , playing in the streets of the town, and a pedaò ride on the lake (accompanied by parents!).


Michael Di Genova: Born in Anversa degli Abruzzi to a Luxembourger mother and an Abruzzese father, I left Abruzzo as a tour manager of famous artists and the production manager of some of the country’s most important festivals.  However, the call of the mountains is strong and it has led me to work back in Abruzzo with Gregorio.  At the base of everything, there is ‘Nature’ and it is from that I take inspiration.  Follow Michael on Instagram

Scanno – A Portrait by the LifeInAbruzzo Group

Photos by Pete Austin Enzo Gentile Sam Dunham Ingrid Paardekooper Christina Yocca

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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