Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hermitages and Churches in Abruzzo

Last month we took an amazing excursion with Daniele of to two hermitages of extraordinary beauty, two abbeys and a magnificent hill-town church. Included in his itinerary were:

• Eremo San Spirito a Majella
• Eremo San Bartolomeo in Legio
• Abbey of Santa Maria d’Arabona
• Abbey of San Liberatore a Majella
• Chiesa dei Santi Valentino e Damiano

They are not easy to get to using public transport, so going there with a knowledgeable guide like Daniele is the ideal way to visit them.

Daniele picked us up after lunch outside our rented apartment in Montesilvano. First we came to the Cistercian abbey of Santa Maria d’Arabona in Manoppello.

Rose window in Santa Maria d'Arabona

Lily pond outside Santa Maria d'Arabona
Next we saw the beautiful abbey of San Liberatore a Majella in Serramonacesca. We took the enchanting path behind the abbey along the Alento River past ancient rock tombs, pools and little waterfalls.

San Liberatore in Serramonacesca
Mosaic floor of San Liberatore
Ancient Rock Tombs behind San Liberatore

Chiesa dei Santi Valentino e Damiano

The striking church of Saints Valentino and Damiano with its twin belltowers is in the gorgeous hill town of San Valentino. The church, which was built from stone from the Majella in the second half of the 18th century, was designed by the noted architect Luigi Vanvitelli, who also designed the palace at Caserta near Naples. In front of the church, between the two flights of steps which lead to its door, is the lovely Fountain of Sansone.

Chiesa dei Santi Valentino e Damiano
If you are ever in the little hill-town of San Valentino, I recommend that you taste their homemade ice-cream 'Crema di San Valentino'.

Eremo San Spirito a Majella

The picturesque hermitage of Eremo Santo Spirito is immersed in the fabulous scenery of the Majella Mountains. Unfortunately it was closed when we got there. Had it been open we would have been able to see a simple church, sacristy, monastic complex, chapter hall, library, winter chapel and refectory. Celestine V lived there from 1274 to 1276 before he became Pope. With a car you can drive to within 100 metres of this hermitage.

Eremo San Spirito

Eremo San Bartolomeo in Legio

We had a very enjoyable half hour walk through the Majella National Park on the way to the Hermitage of San Bartolomeo, which was the highlight of our trip. It is in an isolated spot but the walk there is not too difficult and the landscape is absolutely stunning.

Majella National Park
The hermitages rises beneath a rocky spur that covers it completely. The refuge itself can also be reached from the other side by a 'sacred staircase'. The only furnishings inside are the simple altar holding a statue of Saint Bartolomeo and a few wooden chairs along the side walls.

Eremo San Bartolomeo
When we arrived the only other person there was a mysterious, bearded, long haired, barefoot man dressed in orange robes. He pointed to my camera and waved his finger as if to say not to photograph him. He had piercing brown eyes that I will never forget. He had lit some incense inside the small chapel which wafted through the air and contributed to the atmosphere of calm. I kept my sunglasses on inside because my eyes were welling up with tears with the indescribable sense of peace that I felt there. This place has an ancient energy and being there was truly a spiritual experience.

Sacred Stairs Eremo San Bartolomeo

(John took these two photographs with his mobile phone.)

For more information about this hermitage, go to Sammy's blog where she wrote a superb detailed account of her visit to the Hermitage of San Bartolomeo. Noel from added exquisite close-up photos of the wildflowers and butterflies that he took the time to photograph along the way in his post entitled 'A Sanctuary in the Majella'.

We ended the day with delicious dinner in Osteria Belvedere in Roccamorice. Passing through that town in the evening we could see many of the townspeople out on the streets, chatting and eating together at outdoor caf├ęs and restaurants in a warm, lively atmosphere. It was beautifully lit up and was the kind of town that I'd like to spend more time in, to return to in order to get to know it better...

Last year we took other great tours with our excellent guide Daniele. I wrote about them here:

Journey to San Giovanni in Venere Abbey, Abruzzo
Trabocco Punta Torre, Abruzzo Coast
Cookout in Campo Imperatore
Spellbinding Santo Stefano di Sessanio


  1. Dear Nora,
    Thank you very much for bringing back memories of very special places of Abruzzo! I've visited the Eremo of Santo Spirito this summer and was really enchanted by the place.

  2. Thank you Tatiana. Beautiful Abruzzo has so many special places. Delighted to hear that you visited the Eremo of Santo Spirito this summer. Was it open when you were there?

  3. Unfortunately, the church was closed because it was decorated for a wedding and they were afraid that the bambini will destroy everything! But I don't think that they would do any harm. They were noisy but very polite and religiously educated.

  4. What a great excursion. Italy just never ceases to amaze with all of its wonders.

    1. Your own tour of Tuscany in the spring sounds absolutely fantastic Janie; staying in Lucca and visiting Florence, Garfagnana, Barga and Pistoia - Wow!