Our handy 24 hours in Vasto guide, written by local Riley Bianchi, an American who settled with her husband just within touching distance of the precious historic centre.
Vasto is an ancient Roman town located in the southernmost part of the Abruzzo region along the Costa dei Trabbochi. The hilltop town overlooks the Adriatic Sea with views of the entire gulf all the way to the Molise Region (Termoli) and even Gargano and the Tremiti Islands in the Puglia Region on clear days. Here, we have something for everyone: art, sea, history, community, architecture, events, shopping, sports, and excellent food & drink!
1. Vasto in 5 words!
Tranquility, Sea, Culture, Taste, Hospitality
2. What to Visit, Churches, Museums, Galleries etc
You could spend an entire day wandering around Vasto just admiring the churches here, but there are three must-see churches in my book. Santa Maria Maggiore is famous for the Relic of the Sacred Thorn and the bell tower, San Giuseppe which is the co-cathedral (pictured above during the Infiorata), and San Michele Arcangelo which is a tiny but beautiful church for the patron saint of the town.
Palazzo d’Avalos houses the civic museums which include the archaeological museum, the Pinacoteca, the contemporary art gallery, and the ancient costume museum. The Neapolitan gardens are part of the museum which alone are worth it to admire the plants and relax with the sea view.
Visit the Santa Chiara Market if you are here on a Saturday as this indoor market is full of local vendors selling produce, meat, cheese, fish, and bread. They also have a smaller market open during the week, and have an additional large market day during the summer. Take a walk around the exterior of the market as well to admire the handpainted tiles to learn some local gastronomic specialties and learn some Vastese dialect.
3. Best Places to get a View
The Belvedere San Michele is a great place to see the Gulf of Vasto. On clear days you can see Termoli (in the Molise region), as well as Gargano and the Tremiti Islands (both located in the Puglia region).
Loggia Amblingh is a great place to go for a walk with a constant sea view and a charming view of the ancient wall. The path is lined with multiple restaurants where you can have a meal with a view.
If you have the chance to schedule a tour of the Santa Maria Maggiore bell tower, this is the ultimate place to get a bird’s eye view of the entire city, making it worth the hike up all of the stairs.
The remaining wall of the San Pietro church is a great place to get a view that is photographed often because it is as if the door is opening to the sea. The original church was damaged by landslides and it was eventually demolished, with the exception of this one wall as a door to the sea.
Outside of the city is the Punta Aderci Nature Reserve which is one of the most beautiful places around! It is one of the first trabocco images you will see to represent the Costa dei Trabocchi. You can get to the nature reserve by car, bus, or bike.
4. Local Dishes to Try
Seafood – Brodetto alla Vastese (fish soup), Cozze Ripiene alla Vastese (Stuffed Mussels), and the classic Spaghetti alle Vongole/Chittarina allo Scoglio.
Meat – Ventricina is a Vasto speciality and it can be found in many forms including ventricina arrosticini, pasta with a ventricina sauce (great for amatriciana fans), and deli slices on a meat and cheese board, sandwich, or even on top of a pizza.
Pizza – We have a wide variety of different types of pizza including various places for a whole pizza at dinner. There are also multiple on-the-go pizza places including Pizza Rossa from Stanisci Bakery, Pizzette from Impasto Pizza e Pane, and Pizza al Taglio at Basilikum or Pizzeria Castello.
Gelato – We have several gelato shops to choose from with some of my favourites in the historic centre being Bar Venezia and Dolci Storie. In Vasto Marina, we have two gelato shops that have won Gambero Rosso awards: La Dolce Vita and Pannamore.
Sweets – There is another Pannamore shop in the city of Vasto, but this is a pastry shop rather than a gelateria – also delicious. Something that can’t be missed is to get Scrippelle and Boccanotti from the Stanisci Bakery by the Santa Maria Maggiore church. Another great bakery is Lu Furnarille where you can get Bocconotti, Zoccoletti, and other seasonal specialities (even some that you can take with you as a gift or souvenir).
5. Great Walks & Cycle Rides
There is plenty to do and see just wandering around the historic centre of town, but a specific walk in the city would be to start at Belvedere San Michele, walk downhill through the Villa Communale park and then stay along the side with the sea view to walk along Loggia Amblingh, wrap around Palazzo d’Avalos, then continue on to Via Adriatica.
Another option that is frequented by locals during their evening Passegiata is to walk down Corso Nuova Italia through Piazza Rosetti, Corso de Parma, Piazza del Popolo, and Via Adriatica. There are plenty of walks through the historic centre, but I would recommend just wandering around. Don’t forget to look for the lights on Via Santa Maria Maggiore as well to see if you can decipher any Vastese dialect.
Punta Aderci is a great place to go for a nature walk or bike ride. This is also considered to be a part of the Via Verde bike path for the Costa dei Trabocchi (although the path is not paved so there are generally gravel or mountain bikes used for the Punta Aderci section). The proper Via Verde bike path is great to take a walk, bike, rollerskate, etc. It was built along the old train tracks so you are right on the coast. There are some parts from Vasto that you will need to take the road, so do map out your ride before taking off.
If you fancy a beach walk, take a stroll along the Lungomare Cordella in Vasto Marina. You can even walk to the Monument to the Bather (Monumento alla Bagnante) which is sometimes referred to as La Sirenetta.
6. Where to have an Aperitivo
For an aperitivo focused on people-watching and being a part of the hustle and bustle in town, I would recommend going to Mirò or Bottega del Tilt, both located in front of Palazzo d’Avalos.
For an aperitivo when you want to hide from the heat of the sun or you want to be covered from unexpected rain, check out Bar ai Portici where you can find locals enjoying drinks and snacks year-round.
For an aperitivo with a view, head to Bar Venezia where you can enjoy an aperitivo with a sea view and grab a gelato after.
7. Recommendation of a Local Vineyard to Visit or go For a Tasting
Fontefico is a boutique, family-run winery where they do everything on-site. They are committed to organic and slow wine processes and have even won Slow Wine awards. They do tours, classes, and tastings as well as special events. Their award-winning wine makes a great bottle to gift or bring home from a vacation.
Other wineries to check out would be Jasci & Marchesani and Sergio del Casale.
In town, you can check out Sideways Enoteca, Drogheria Buonconsiglio, or Vinstrò to enjoy a wider variety of different wines and some small plates.
8. Recommendation of Budget and High-end Restaurants
The ultimate high-end restaurant seems to be Castello Aragona which is a fine dining restaurant in a castle on the hill with a sea view. The other high-end option not to miss is to dine on a trabocco in the sea, the main one in Vasto being Trabocco Cungarelle.
In town, there are plenty of fabulous restaurants to choose from so it’s difficult to make a list. Some of my favourites for seafood are Sunrise Agri Foods (summer only), Re Pescatore, and Trattoria Zi Albina. For an all-around option, you could try Le Cisterne, Il Panzotto, and La Pergola. There are still many restaurants on my list that I need to try, so feel free to explore and find a restaurant that calls to you.
One of my favourite places is located not far from the Casalbordino/Vasto Nord autostrada entrance. It is called Lu Barrott’ di Nicola and it is an excellent place for fresh, local, seasonal, and traditional dishes like palotte cacio e uova, arrosticini, bruschetta, fresh pasta, etc. They keep things simple, but everything is delicious including their house wine. It is technically in Pollutri and an excellent place for groups as well.
9. Sagre and Feste?
We have the Sagra delle campanelle (August), a bell festival with various types of bells for sale in Piazza Rosetti. There is also the Toson d’Oro (August) which is a re-enactment of the Court of d’Avalos from 1723.
The San Michele Arcangelo patron saint festival is on September 29th. There are processions, carnival games, lights, market booths, and many events throughout the week.
We do have some sagre that are generally hosted by different church congregations: Sagra dei cavatelli alla pescatrice e frittatura di paranza (end of June, beginning of July), Sagra cavatelli ceci e frutti di mare (August), Sagra della patata (August).
Vasto has previously hosted sagre/festivals for Ventricina and for Brodetto alla Vastese, but I have not found any official events planned for 2023 in the city of Vasto (yet). There will be a Ventricina festival in Fresigradinara which is still in the Vastese area but is about a 30-minute drive from Vasto.
We also have a store in town called Sparagn e Cumbarisc which sells clothes and “cosarelle” with Abruzzese dialect written on them. They have a webpage (for 2023) with a list of different sagre e feste in Abruzzo that includes links to the event on Facebook, Instagram, or website to reference.
There are multiple Street Food festivals in Vasto Marina a few different times during the summer, and various events throughout the summer. We have a summer calendar that the city does each summer and it can be found at www.vastoestate.it (plenty of events for adults, kids, and the whole family).
10. The Best Things to Do Locally for the Under 12s
Take the kids to the Aqualand waterpark or to the beach as Vasto has been awarded not just the Blue Flag, but also the Green Flag for the kid-friendly beaches in Vasto Marina. There are different excursions and rental options including bikes, kayaks, sea bikes, SUPs, etc. In town, Villa Communale is a great place to let the kids play year-round. There are also various events for kids during holidays and summer as well as cooking classes and ceramics classes.
Note: There is an interactive map that is helpful for navigating around the city if you have a specific location in mind. It includes landmarks and different points of interest and you can find it here. If you want a visual overview of the city, watch this drone video.