Abruzzo: Why Visit Gagliano Aterno?

Why visit Abruzzo’s charming Gagliano Aterno, in Italy’s gorgeous L’Aquila Province?

Where is Gagliano Aterno?

Have you heard of Gagliano Aterno?

If you can possibly tire of stunning Sulmona, then venture on a day trip to the quaint medieval village of Gagliano Aterno.

Gagliano Aterno map, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe

Gagliano Aterno

Perched at a height of 653-metres within the National Park of Sirente-Velino – in the southern part of the Sirente mountain range – Gagliano is not on the tourist trail. You are assured of an authentic Italian experience in this village of around 250 people and one that is different from other traversed areas of Abruzzo.

Located in the vicinity of an ancient pre-Roman settlement, Gagliano dates back to the Middle Ages.

Although we receive a few inquisitive looks as we look like foreigners, locals are friendly in this sleepy village.

Village of Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Tree-lined welcome…

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Gagliano in the summer, you can experience wine-making festivals.

Also in August, Gagliano hosts the Sagra de J’ntremè, which draws crowds from around the region. Streets set up with laden tables await guests to feast on a traditional ancient lamb-based recipe. The Gaglianese dish is prepared with sweet and sour lamb livers. Much music and dancing follow the indulgence.

What to see

One of 6 villages in the valley, Gagliano offers several must-sees, although just ambling along Gagliano’s side streets and absorbing local life is enough.

Gagliano still bears the scars of the 2017-earthquake to strike L’Aquila’s northwest. Remnants of time-worn buildings propped up by scaffolding are still evident as are several irreparable homes. Rebuilding and restoring is a slow process.

Centro Storico

Of course as with many cities, towns, and villages in Italy – no matter how small – there’s always a fabulous Centro Storico (historic centre or old town) to explore.

Gagliano’s historic centre is small compared to others I’ve visited in Italy, although worth visiting nonetheless.

There’s always something unique and interesting to absorb in a small Italian village, isn’t there?

Arch in village of Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Rustic canvas

Medieval angles create unforgettable and delightful framed canvases, which help push you back in time to past history.

Antiquated external steps adorned by arches descend or ascend to landings that encircle squares and narrow streets.

Centro Storico heritage tour

The main reason for visiting Gagliano Aterno and Sulmona on this Easter weekend is to catch up with a good friend from the volunteering days in Thailand.

With Italian heritage on his father’s side and roots tracing back a century ago to Gagliano Aterno, the whole family is visiting Abruzzo on a journey of self-discovery and to connect with unknown distant relatives.

  • La Famiglia, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
  • Grandfather's house, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
  • Contemplating Italy, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
  • Rustic door, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
  • Father and son photographers, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe

Doesn’t everyone want to know about their heritage? It can be hugely emotional and moving connecting with and learning about your ancestry. Especially, when your roots hail from such a tiny ancient village.

Family crest above doorway, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Archway family Crest
Cobbled alleyway, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Cobbled alleyway
Narrow passageway, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Narrow passageway
Picture Perfect, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Picture Perfect

Luigi – Mayor’s son – kindly accompanies us on a private tour around Gagliano. Bringing our attention to important family Crests that adorn doorways, a testament that Gagliano was a wealthy village.

Strolling through the narrow cobbled alleyways, we reach the centre of Gagliano once more – all roads lead to the centre.

One building still displays barely recognisable words. As with the Fascist stencils in many areas of Calabria, they’re protected. And, it’s not until time’s wrath and the environment wear away the proof of history that aged walls can be covered or renewed once more.

Castello di Gagliano Aterno

With foundations dating back to 1328 and built by the de Aquila family, the majestic castle is now privately owned and closed to the public.

Sadly, this imposing castle is only visible only from its gate. Or, by glancing longingly from a distance at the castle perched atop a hill, whilst in the Fontana Medieval’s carpark.

Castello di Gagliano Aterno, Centro Storico, Abruzzo, Italy Europe
Castello di Gagliano Aterno

When the owner Baroness Lazzarini died, the castle was sold off and is now owned by 16 parties, which split the castle into 18 new apartments. None are interested in opening this wonderful piece of Gagliano’s history for public viewing. The castle’s underground still holds large wine-making cellars.

On the rare occasion that the castle is open to the public, the views spanning from the castle’s loggia (external corridor) and sweeping across the Subaequan Vale below are rumoured to be dramatic.

I guess at least the castle is maintained as the outgoings and payment of initial shares to buy into the castle are high. Hope that sometime in the future the castle opens to the public as I’m told that it’s quite impressive.

Fontana Medievale

The grand stone medieval fountain, which has withstood earthquakes through time, still stands defiantly in the People’s Square in the village.

Gagliano is the only village in the area with a fountain in the centre, which marks its importance and once the richest village in the valley because of the natural spring/well in the village.

Fontana Medievale, Centro Storico, Abruzzo, Italy Europe
Proud and defiant

Typically in villages, collecting water involved a walk to a nearby fountain and was not always within easy reach.

Facciata della Chiesa di Santa Chiara

With foundations dating back to 1286, the monastery of Santa Chiara was donated to the Poor Clare nuns – an order founded by Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi.

The L-shape and church’s facade were completed over the 16th and 17th-centuries.

Facciata della Chiesa di Santa Chiara, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Facciata della Chiesa di Santa Chiara

The Cuban-founded Claretian Sisters also used this as a worshipping site from the 19th-century.

Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista

Continuing the heritage tour with a short drive from Gagliano, we’re confronted with the stone walls of the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista.

Cemetery entrance, Centro Storico, Gagliano Aterno, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Entrance to the cemetery

Etched in stone blocks on the church’s external facade, confirm the blocks originate from an Ancient Roman city: Superequum.

Gagliano street scenes

Wander around Gagliano for contrasting vistas of the village.

Another vista, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Another vista

You will stumble across monuments dedicated to Gagliano’s past inhabitants.

As lands belonged to the wealthy, farmers would often work for a year with nothing to show and barely enough to feed their families, if at all. Rent and perpetual outgoings paid by farmers kept them in poverty and miserable living conditions.

Many left Italy to seek a better life away from famine and heartache. Although leaving their homeland also brought on heartache for families.

Monument to migration, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Migration monument

A monument honouring the fallen graces every village, town, and city that I’ve visited in Italy.

Monument to the fallen, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Honouring the Fallen

Practising the Italian sign language in Gagliano…

Italian sign language, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Italian sign language

Check out its evolution in my Italian Languages, Dialects, and Hands: An Outsider’s View post.

A surprising and unusual stone fountain almost Asian in appearance emerges from the trees.

Intriguing water fountain, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Intriguing water fountain

Clean drinking water is readily available throughout most of Italy.

Getting there

From spectacular Sulmona, it’s around a half-hour’s lovely drive until you arrive in the small village of Gagliano Aterno.

Sulmona to Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe

The snow-capped Apennine Mountains form a spectacular backdrop against the undulating hills reaching down to farmlands, unfolding a scenic drive along the road.

Apennine Mountains, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Apennine Mountains

For those readers that don’t have a car, you can catch a public Corriere Pullman Trasporti bus between Sulmona and Gagliano, although bus times are not as regular as you wish.

Where to stay

If you’re visiting Gagliano during the summer months, then more accommodation is on offer than during winter.

The newly opened Gagliano Experience (B&B) in the Centro Storico, offers a modern stylish renovated and comfortable self-contained apartment.

The B&B’s owners are also passionate beekeepers and sell high-quality products. Check out their Essenziale Come Natura site for more intriguing information. Gifted a small jar of floral honey, I can vouch that it’s delicious.

Where to eat

Gagliano offers one cosy bar.

This is the place where locals gather to play Italian card games while relaxing and catching up on local happenings – or just to enjoy a refreshment and pastry.

Antichi Sapori

Take a short drive to Via Superaequum 81 Castelvecchio Subequo in the fresh air of the gorgeous Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park.

Stop for a couple of stunning photos along the drive to absorb the natural breathtaking surrounds…

Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park

…until you come across this great Agriturismo and B&B, which serves the freshest of delicious local dishes.

Antipasti, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe

Specialising in wines and local products with an amazing view, enjoy a traditional leisurely long lunch, while owners offer excellent food and service. The homemade pasta and house wines are wonderful.

Handmade pasta, Gagliano, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Fresh handmade scrumptious pasta

Antichi Sapori is only open in the summer, Easter, or other major holidays.

Returning to Sulmona

As half of our group stayed in Gagliano for the night, the other half decided to train it to Sulmona, from a nearby deserted station.

Sulmona-L'Aquila train line, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
Deserted dusk

The Sulmona-L’Aquila line – celebrating 125 years of service.

Sulmona-L'Aquila train line celebrating 125 years of service, Abruzzo, Italy, Europe
125 years of service

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

Previous Sulmona Chapters

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50 responses to “Abruzzo: Why Visit Gagliano Aterno?”

  1. AJM Avatar

    Great article and photos. My family on both sides have their roots in Gagliano Aterno. I was there visiting my grandmother years ago. You wrote how the medieval castle is now closed to the public. I had the good fortune of getting a tour of it years ago when I was there. It is spectacular. As it turned out, a relative of ours was a caretaker there. I was told that the daughter of the owners decades ago married a son of actor Tyrone Power. Don’t know if that’s factual or not. Anyway, enjoyed reading your piece.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the great feedback and for sharing your thoughts!
      It’s a lovely small village away from the crowds, which I enjoyed and lucky you had a tour of the castle. I haven’t heard about the Tyrone Power marriage but I guess anything is possible.
      I’ll be back in Italy in July but in the south in Calabria, which you should visit if/when you return to Italy.

  2. gillmorris Avatar

    What a beautiful little place. It’s funny to think that people get inquistive there, I thought that only happened in SE Asia LOL. Your photos are just stunning Nilla x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, it happens all the time in the southern villages as they’re not used to foreigners so I was surprised when this all happened in Gagliano Aterno.
      Thanks for the great Feedback Gill! x

      1. gillmorris Avatar

        You are more than welcome Nilla. It’s my pleasure x

  3. Parchment Planes Avatar

    I love this so much! Italy is our favorite country so far and we love going off the tourist path to explore the quieter areas. So many good tips and ideas, thank you! Now I want to go! I’ve only been to the Tuscany region, northern lakes district, Venice, and Rome. Hoping to go to the Amalfi coast area next time!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Julia for the wonderful feedback!
      I’m happy that this post makes you want to travel to this gorgeous area of Italy. I much prefer the less-touristy roads at a slower pace, to really absorb the locality…hope that you get to Italy soon. 🙂

  4. Bella Avatar

    Great article – I would love to visit 😍

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Bella – I’d love to re-visit Gagliano Aterno. 🙂

  5. Esther Avatar

    Beautiful pics! I love how the castle was split into a multi-flat apartment. What a quaint town. I’ll have to put this in my list of places to visit

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your great feedback Esther!
      Privatising the castle is good because it ensures the castle is preserved, but not so great as it’s never open for public viewing.

  6. Simon Avatar

    Hey lovely writing plus photos thanks!!! Have you ever visited Pescasseroli, you MUST. I am English and I live in Italy so contact me if you want any help, http://www.servicenolimits.com ciao Simon

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Simon,
      Thank you for your feedback and offer of help, which I’ll keep in mind. 😉
      No, I’ve never visited Pescasseroli. Is this where you live?
      Will check out your site.

  7. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    What a lovely trip through this small village. I can just imagine all the villagers turning the gaze at you all and wondering who you were – or who you are potentially related to. I would love to be there for the wine-making festivals!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Gagliano Aterno is a lovely small village that’s very welcoming and the locals are so friendly.
      I doubt I’m related to anyone there, but you never really know.
      Yes, would love to be there for the wine-making festival, which also includes loads of tastings as well! 😉
      Thank you for leaving me your feedback.

  8. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Grazie for the stroll. I must confess your experience of Italy makes me green with envy.
    You must be beginning to miss it?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the stroll.

      Yes, I am missing Italy but there’s nothing much I can do about it right now. Just have to go with the flow and I’m not stressing at all, which is good. 😉
      It’s great when you can share the experience with friends that have never been to Italy as in this case with Mark’s family – they loved it! Always helps when you have someone that can kind of speak the language… 😉


      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Not stressing is good. I am… concerned, that we booked our flight in January and are supposed to leave in less than a month and haven’t heard one word from the airline. We’re supposed to wait until 3 days before departure and don’t know whether there will a refund, a credit and how long it will be. Damn airlines tend to limit to one year which is not good for us… Well, we’ll see.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        The same happened to us as we booked 5 months ahead on Singapore Airlines with GoToGate.

        Singapore Air cancelled our April flight in March advising to contact agent for a refund/re-schedule. But, GoToGate went MIA. No response from half a dozen emails and support tickets, more than 3 hours waiting on the phone – nothing. So, I wrote on Singapore Air’s FaceBook page and was advised to phone SA customer service. The airline escalated my request to GoTOGate and a couple of weeks later, I finally received an email from GoTOGate asking whether I wanted a refund. That was last week so I’m still waiting. I’m also waiting on a refund for booking seats together on SA from the airline, which still hasn’t hit my account. And, waiting on the flight for 2 people on RyanAir from the UK to Italy. I’ve spent hours trying to recoup a refund but still haven’t received jack shite!
        They’re quick to take your money and but slow to refund – like banks.

        Try the airline’s FB page – this always gets a response for me regardless of the industry. 😉

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Well done. One has to fight all the way. Thank you for the FB tip. The intermediary (Despegar), an on-line platform is still around they’re the ones who fixed the Bogotá open credit. So I have good hopes. But I will use the airline FB if need be. Grazie mille.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        No problem. It’s all about not giving up and being persistent.

        I had another win last week with Europcar.
        Hired a car here in Brisbane for 52 days and returned it in mint condition 1st week in April as scheduled. The return guy didn’t even come out of his office to inspect the car. Several days later I get an email with photos of a small hairline crack in the passenger mirror’s casing. Then I get a bill for $742 to fix it!
        I went online and obtained a quote to fix it with genuine parts costing $219. So, went back to Europcar and presented the quote telling them that they were blatantly ripping me off. It’s taken 2 months of writing emails back and forth but the claims dept finally emailed and said its dropping the charge.
        Persistence! 😉

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Persistence indeed. ✌️

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Of course. It’s the Calabrese stubbornness! 😉

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar


  9. Vaibhav Mehta Avatar

    Looks like a lovely tranquil neighbourhood. Didn’t know about the llace but it’s these gems that make a place worth travelling!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Exactly Vaibhav!
      I love to explore unexplored places and share these with everyone.
      Many thanks for stopping by and leaving me your feedback – much appreciated.

  10. the eternal traveller Avatar

    This is our idea of a perfect day, wandering and exploring somewhere unusual and off the beaten track.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Exactly Carol and much prefer the smaller more authentic villages than the over-run tourist areas. Although, you do still need to visit the milk-run at some point.

  11. karenincalabria Avatar

    Nice story and great photos, as always. Looks like an interesting place to visit and the lamb sagra sounds pretty good, too.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks for the feedback Karen.
      Just enjoyed the podcast with you and Katy from on Untold Italy. 🙂

      1. karenincalabria Avatar

        Glad you liked it – thanks for listening!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Very much!
        It’s a shame that I can’t leave a comment on the page.

      3. karenincalabria Avatar

        Thanks! I know how you feel. When you get used to reading and interacting, it can feel a little strange on sites when there isn’t a comment function enabled.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, exactly.
        Love it when readers interact on my site, so don’t understand why some sites don’t allow commenting. Each to their own.

  12. Oh, the Places We See Avatar

    You give so much good info on Gagliano. I’d love to visit there after the quarantine. Such pretty buildings and good places to dine.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the great feedback and taking the time to leave me a comment!
      Hope you get to this sleepy village one day… 🙂

      1. Oh, the Places We See Avatar

        Would love that!!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Gagliano Aterno is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re in stunning Sulmona.

  13. Bonnie J Del Greco Avatar
    Bonnie J Del Greco

    Thank you Nilla for the excellent article on Gagliano Aterno. I love your photos of the trees sheltering the street, the peek -a- boo shots through the doorways and arches. The history you wrote of the town. It was an amazing visit and has awoken us to the wonder of this little spot of the world. I do wonder what Mark was saying in Italian sign language? So nice to meet you along the way. Caio.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ciao Bonnie
      So happy that you enjoyed this post and it brought back memories for you. Please feel free to share the post with family and friends.
      And, thank you for letting me join your family group on your special visit to Sulmona and Gagliano Aterno. It was such a lovely time!
      Take care

  14. Suzanne et Pierre Avatar

    We visited Abruzzo in 2005 and absolutely loved the area though unfortunately we didn’t stay long enough to see everything there is to see. Hopefully, one day we will be able to go back to spend more time exploring this beautiful area. Thanks for your virtual tour of this town. (Suzanne)

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I’m sure you had a wonderful time in Abruzzo, I’ve never heard travellers say otherwise – it’s such a gorgeous region of Italy.
      I would also love to return to explore further.
      Hope that you and Pierre are OK during these bizarre times!

      1. Suzanne et Pierre Avatar

        Thanks for asking. We are fine though getting very bored. We are waiting for the opening of borders (even within our own countries) to start exploring again. Hopefully, it will be soon.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It’s the same situation here although I’ve never bored as have too much writing to do!
        Hopefully, we’ll be able to travel soon but I believe that it will be under very different circumstances.

  15. Marron Santillan Avatar

    Nilla, that place looks stunning, laid-back, and peaceful! The pasta looks phenomenal. I do think Italy is always a good idea. Such a beautiful country.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Marron,
      It’s a lovely small village and yes, the pasta dish was heavenly! Just wish I could reproduce this dish.
      Thanks for the great feedback and hope you get to visit Gagliano one day…

  16. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

    Awesome post Nilla
    I’m starting to know more about Abruzzo

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Mohamad for the great feedback and glad that you’re learning more of Abruzzo. 😉

      1. Mohamad Toutounji Avatar

        Oh you are most welcome dear

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you – too kind.

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