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Palmoli, a Hilltop Village in Abruzzo Full of Traditions

Posted by on in Holidays in Abruzzo and tips

 The village of Palmoli sits perched on an isolated hill towering over the western side of the river Treste at an altitude of 727 meters. The habitable settlement was built on the southern slopes of the rock, there is a steep uninhabited cliff reaching down to the west side to the river. Palmoli is prominent and proud in its historical defence overlooking many other small villages similarly perched on outcrops in the valley. Surrounded by beautiful views of the Maiella & Gran Sasso mountains and a good stretch of the Trabocchi Coast at just 29 km. There is easy access to the Trignina valley and main road that runs towards the sea, at less than 30 minutes' drive and the medieval city of Vasto or towards Molise and further through to Rome and Napoli. Located within the Chieti province of southern Abruzzo and part of the Vastese hills Palmoli has a very small population of around 1000 inhabitants.

The historical centre is nestled on a long ridge with two main through roads and numerous medieval vico’s (side streets) running perpendicularly to the main streets. The Marquise castle and tower is to be found in the main square at the highest point of the village, with a pine tree framed park and children’s playground, a shaded & peaceful place to relax whilst taking in the stunning panoramic views of the mountains, sea and nearby villages. The top of the tower provides an amazing panoramic view of surrounding landscape.


  1. History
  2. Local festivals and traditions
  3. A few highlights of the local cuisine
  4. Places to visit
  5. What to watch out for
  6. Palmoli housing market


The village, originally called Palmula Monteverde, has very ancient roots. Around the year AD 1000, citizens, to defend themselves from barbaric raids, took refuge on the mountain, where in 1095 Pandolfo di Sangro built the oldest part of the castle, around which the urban centre then developed. In the 13th century the village then called ‘Palmula’ was governed by Filippo Grandinato, a member of a feudal family from Lombard. In the 15th century it belonged to Paolo di Sangro and at the end of the 18th century to Severino-Longo, Marquises of San Giuliano and Galiati. The ancient ruins are traceable in the medieval castle with the Marquisal chapel of San Carlo and in the characteristics of the village, full of courtyards, porches, stone portals, lunettes and railings in wrought iron and cast iron.

The chapel has a remarkable façade with a stone portal dating from the 18th century. Within the medieval walls remain two gates: Porta da Capo, called the Ribellino and Porta da Piedi, connected by a single lane. The bell tower of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie dates back to the fourteenth century. It was rebuilt around the middle of the eighteenth century on the site of an older church that held the body of St Valentino. The church displays a carved and gilded eighteenth-century organ in which a snake and a fish are figuratively sculpted. Leaving the village, you will find the Sanctuary Mariano of Maria del Carmine, part of the convent built by the Friars of San Francesco in 1583. With a classical design of this type of structure, a church and internal cloisters built to host the friars.

Local festivals and traditions

The local festivals here are steeped in tradition, fully enjoyed and proudly hosted by the whole of the local community. Palmoli’s Patron Saint is St Valentino and so February 14th is of particularly note, the day usually includes a procession with a nearby local band playing.

There are religious celebrations in honour of the SS. Madonna del Carmine on July 16th, where a procession with the statue of the Virgin is carried from the Sanctuary to the church of St Maria delle Grazie, where she stays until July 27th. On the 26th July there is the feast in honour of the saints Gioacchino and Anna.

The most visited and enjoyable of the celebrations is on July 27th, where in the morning the traditional parade of the ‘Pacchianelle’ is held, what can only be linkened to a harvest festival. Fireworks denote the start followed by a procession of farm machinery such as tractors and carts all dressed in grain plaits and ribbons to which the whole village participates. Carts are loaded with local produce, donations and animals, the villagers are dressed in traditional clothes. The procession ends in the castle grounds, there is a gathering in the park whereby you can enjoy local specialties like ventricina panini’s, scrippelle and local home made wines. All of the local produce is then donated to the Madonna. These donations are then auctioned in the afternoon at Piazza Marconi.

This is a great spectacle, the whole village gather in the square where an auctioneer sells off every donation to the highest bidder, this can include live rabbits, chickens, even goats or a sheep. Or baskets full of local specialties such as cheese, bread, biscuits, salami and wine which can then be cracked open and shared with friends during the auction. A lively, friendly atmosphere and all donations made will go to the following years festival. The evening is usually topped off with a music event and fireworks. A celebration of the land, the crops and produce that has been enjoyed by the whole community with many Palmolesi who live away, returning home for this festa.

Festa a Palmoli from abcgrafiche on Vimeo.

My personal favourite is August 9th-10th – the Ventricina Festival at the Marchesale Castle, wonderful aromatic chunks of pork are flame grilled on huge fires set outside the castle square, you can then sit inside the castle courtyard to feast. ‘Polpe’ are amazing, marinated in sweet pepper, and so soft and tasty, sides include the local curvy cucumber torricella and Palmoli’s famous cooked wine, vino cotto.

This night has such a warm feel, every age of the community chips in to help cook, serve and tidy, there is always a live band and little market stalls.

August 13thSagra dello spezzatino d’agnello at the lower part of the village in Fonte La Casa. This is a slow cooked lamb stew in tomato sauce.

An old tradition remembered here in Palmoli is the ancient figure, similar to that of a town crier, called ‘lu buajìre’, in recent times the crier would be equipped with a brass trumpet and a megaphone, they walked around the streets shouting public or informative announcements. When the Municipality or a local shop wanted to let everyone know something, they called the crier who would spread the word, literally. The last crier was best know as Cleto who worked right up until the millennium and who now enjoys his retirement locally.

A few highlights of the local cuisine

The region of Abruzzo has many traditional dishes that are generally very rich and tasty, allowing you to taste the genuine flavours of the past. They are often simple, but spiced and with strong flavours, there is a wide use of chilli, pork and spices. They are not light but when savouring them you will discover intense flavours that take you back to rural customs and to kitchens full of handmade produce, personally grown herbs, animals reared under the house, without chemical additives, preservatives or artificial aromas. This is slow cooking, with lots of time involved and patience, preparations that start early in the morning and last for hours, slow simmering and flavours that need time to diffuse. You can find these traditional dishes in restaurants in the area – Agriturismo Montefreddo, Degustibus, Bar in Villa.

  • The Viscica (ventricina) palmolese – the famous cured meat made with pork, chilli pepper and various aromas. Sweet red peppers and chilli’s are grown at home in the vegetable garden and are then thread on strings, hung to dry over months, later they are ground to add a wonderful flavour and colour along with home grown fennel seeds and the meat is then left to mature for at least 100 days. Most here rear a few pigs exactly for this purpose and also to make sausages, prosciutto and other cured meats. No part of the pig is wasted and soap is even made from the fat.

  • The spezzatino d’agnello – as previously mentioned, a slow, slow cooked lamb stew with tomato sauce. The fields here are mainly filled with grazing sheep.

  • Sagne apezzate – a dough made with flour and eggs, hand-worked, rolled out coarsely & cut into rhomboids, seasoned with fresh tomato or ventricina sauce and asparagus.

  • Pasta alla chitarra con sugo d’agnello – hand made pasta that is then rolled onto a guitar shaped tool which then makes square spaghetti, cooked in a lamb, tomato sauce.

  • Vino cotto – cooked wine made here in the mountains, generally Montepulciano D’Abruzzo grape made with one part raw must, one part cooked must that has been boiled to reduce to a third and one part of ‘m'sctard’, the reduction of the must. The result is a wine that depending on the mixture and each family’s recipes, can be adaptable in taste, sometimes sweeter or with more liquor, like a Marsala, or more "acidulous", however it is a wine with a strong alcohol content, a kick to it, and was traditionally severed with Sunday lunch. 

A few sweets include scrippelle, spun and fried bread dough or stuffed taralli, made with short cut pastry and filled with cooked grape must and walnuts. Also caggionetti, pasta stuffed with chickpeas and cooked grape must then fried and sugared.

Places to visit

- The Castle

The castle is located on the north side of the town called Le Coste, guarding the valley of the river Treste, where there were several water mills. The structure has a unique dodecagonal defence tower. The baronial castle is one of the most evocative and significant civic monuments in the whole territory. Around the year 1000, following the raids of the Hungarians, Saracens, Normans, the people scattered in the various "vicus or villae" of the countryside began to perch on the mountain, near to the tower which immediately revealed a bastion of defence. The first castle, according to popular tradition, may have been built in 1095 by Pandolfo di Sangro, of the Counts of Monteodorisio, a branch of the Counts of the Marsi, relatives of Carlomagno. The same popular tradition recalls that three castles were built simultaneously by three brothers of the Di Sangro family: that of Monteodorisio, the center of the homonymous County; that of Furea (Furci); and that of Pàlmula, at the end of Iu Tèrmen 'of the Shire. The three castles were aligned and in direct visual communication in case of emergencies: by day, by using flagpoles and columns of smoke and at night with fires.

The castle now houses the Padre Beniamino Museum. The first museum of rural culture, and now a true "museum of the country", saw its birthplace in 1978, thanks to Father Beniamino Maurizio, to whom it is today dedicated. MUBEN hosts a permanent exhibition of numerous objects, images, video contributions from the historical past of the village. In the halls there are also hosted events, temporary exhibitions of craftsmanship or art.

The museum is located in the oldest part of the castle and accompanies the visitor from the bottom of the old stables up to the top of the watchtower, from where you can admire the surrounding area from the sea to the mountain behind.

- Agriturismo Montefreddo

Wile away a Sunday afternoon in culinary heaven, plate after plate of locally home grown organic delicacies within a beautiful setting. From home cured ventricina to hand made ricotta ravioli followed by hand reared lamb and the famous arrosticini. Always a comfortable and friendly feel with plenty of home made wine and liquors to savour. This country restaurant is truly an authentic Italian experience, slow food at its finest and by slow it also means lunch can take 3 hours plus.

The kids will love it, outside is a large playground and you can visit the animals too. Incredibly reasonably price. Bed and breakfast available too.

What to watch out for

- Palmoli Panthers

Palmoli has a long and successful history with football, the team AUDAX was born in 1926 in the Fascist Era, the term means bold, reckless or audacious and was a reflection of the mentality of those days. The current women’s team have been storming the B league for a few years now and certainly have a few star players to watch out for, home games are in the local football ground on alternate Sunday afternoons.

- Street Art Festival

Talks are in motion to initiate a street art event that will take place over numerous days every year, original works by international artists will be made on the streets with consideration to the local architecture, integration and community participation, local foods will be available to try.

Palmoli housing market

Palmoli over the last few years has attracted a small foreign market in house purchases. I spoke with the local Major Giuseppe Masciulli who noted that around 50 dwellings in total in both the historical centre and the surrounding countryside farmhouses had been sold to foreigners, who partly reside in Palmoli and partly use the buildings for tourism purposes. This has meant an enhancement of houses that were abandoned and have instead been recovered, restored and brought back to life.

This has meant financial opportunities for not only the owners of the properties but for building companies and individual craftspeople in the village whom have been employed in the restoration projects. This has also generated income with local builders merchants, shops and restaurants. Much more wealth has been brought to the village on a social level offering the citizens of Palmoli the possibility to come into contact with different cultures and with a different vision of life.

I asked the Major what he thought this meant for the future, he stated that the presence of so many people coming from Northern Europe and afar will mean that the citizens of Palmoli will be able to seize forthcoming opportunities, this future tourism and house sales could be a formidable tool for the commercialisation of local handicrafts, foods and wine products (olive oil, ventricina, etc.) as well as further encourage the tourism enhancement of the territory.

I am personally very inspired by this, abandoned, desolate medieval villages around us working on encouraging a little movement rather than falling into complete desolation. A means to encourage a diminished tourism, weakened economies and younger generations moving away. There are currently many, many street art festivals all over the world, art work that is visible to all, that local communities can be a part of and inspired by, this can introduce delicate murals, can tastefully enhance the more subtle medieval buildings. The hope is to enhance the local history and work on boosting the cultural profile of this small village.

This little mountain spot shines bright.

Author: Emma Archer

Bio: British Fine Artist who nearly ten years ago purchased an old stone farm house in the hills of Abruzzo. Emma has worked extensively in the past managing art galleries, working for creative organisations, PR Agencies and design companies as well as working on her artistic career. A keen gardner with olive plants, a herbal garden and fruit trees, Emma loves bird watching, walking and visiting art galleries. Emma collaborates with Abruzzo Rural Property as a freelance interpreter and blogger.