Ortona on the coast of Abruzzo
‘Montagne’ vs ‘Mare’ is an ongoing discussion in many Italian families, but in Ortona on the coast of Abruzzo you can have a holiday both ways. Here the younger generations will enjoy a lively and sunny day on the beach, while their parents or grandparents remain in the serene, fresh air of the mountains.
The main attractions of Ortona on the coast of Abruzzo are undoubtedly the sea and the mountains. In addition to the regional harbour, there are great blue flag beaches below the railway line. And if you drive half an hour west, you come very close to the Majella National Park with great hiking in the mountains and on the high plains. The town itself also offers a few attractions apart from its role in world history. Here are five unmissable sights in Ortona.
Go to see Thomas the Apostle
I have no idea, how doubting Thomas, who went to India to preach the Gospel, ended up in Abruzzo, but some of his bones and perhaps even a part of his skull have been kept under the cathedral of Ortona since 1258. There is even a pilgrim trail leading from Rome to Ortona. And even though the Basilica di San Tommaso Apostolo was demolished during World War II and the reconstruction is not worthy of the patron saint of Architects, it is nevertheless an interesting place to visit. There are so many strange details to study, and in the spaceship crypt below the church you can see the golden coffin containing a silver relic bust containing the holy relics.
Climb the Spanish castle
Right above the harbour of Ortona there is a Spanish castle or castello aragonese erected in the 15th century, and greatly damaged and destructed during WWII. The castle was built by the Spanish King Alfonso d’Aragona after a period of violent rivalry with the Republic of Venice. It has recently been reconstructed as an open-air theater and music venue and great place to climb around and enjoy the spectacular views of the coast, the sea and the unpredictable Abruzzo skies.
Visit a fishing machine on stilts
The coast south of Ortona is also known as ‘Costa dei Trabocchi’ due to the presence of ancient trabucchi or trabocchi fishing machines. Some of these fishing machines are still in use, while others have been transformed into restaurants and hotels. Other sights along the coast include the striped lighthouse, the ‘floating’ Saint Thomas monument in the harbor and the characteristic south Italian watchtowers.
Cheapskate window shopping
The pedestrian zone in Ortona is too modern and too ordinary to be really charming, but the locals like to hang around on white plastic chairs outside the cafés, and there are museums dedicated to music and war, some art galleries and curiosity shops selling sweets and liquor or phoney bar signs and mirrors. In other words, it’s a great place to go window shopping without spending a penny.
Stroll along the promenade
Like most coastal towns in south Italy, Ortona has a really nice promenade. On Belvedere F.P. Tosti there are small gardens with nice shade, pretty piazzas, lots of space for pushchairs, dogs and children to run loose. And most importantly a magnificent view.