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From the US Maria Pia chooses to live in Abruzzo, in this article for she shares why Fossacesia is love at first sight.

There is a place in Abruzzo that changed my life when I visited it for the first time over fifty years ago. From that moment on, I always yearned to come back to Fossacesia. Over a twelve year period, I spent four summers here – summers that would disclose my destiny to live in this corner of paradise forever. I am very happy to tell you a few of the things I love most about it.

Suspended between the sea and the sky

Fossacesia is a town of just over 7,000 inhabitants in the province of Chieti, situated on a hillside overlooking the Val di Sangro and the Adriatic Sea. Fossacesia Marina, an important part of this municipality, is positioned on the shore of the Golfo di Venere just north of the Sangro River delta, and is part of the famous “Costa dei Trabocchi”. Fossacesia Marina has been awarded the European Blue Flag for the past 18 years, so it is not just another a sleepy fishing village where you can enjoy a restful vacation. It has almost 5 kilometers of coastline hosting a growing number of trendy beach clubs and discos, restaurants, sports facilities, and of course the famous Trabocchi – ancient fishing rigs transformed into restaurants, where visitors can experience traditional Abruzzese seafood specialties while “suspended” between the sea and the sky.

“Via Verde” bike trail

As a boon to tourism, this summer the Province of Chieti is inaugurating a new bike path which has been constructed along the trail of the former Adriatic train line. Several years ago, Fossacesia, San Vito, and Torino di Sangro’s train stations were moved inland when the Ferrovie Italiane doubled the tracks to satisfy the growing needs of the rail system. This decision was saddening, because travelers would miss out on the spectacular views, but it opened new possibilities for tourism with the new “Via Verde” bike trail. Once completed, this will be one of the longest seaside bicycle paths in Europe.

Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere

Another prominent feature of the Fossacesia coast is the Abbey of San Giovanni in Venere, an 11th century monastery overlooking the Marina, the Golfo di Venere, and the Sangro River valley.

The Abbey rises on a promontory overlooking the sea and is perfectly visible from the beach, especially at night, when looks like an ethereal jewel hanging in the sky.

This monumental structure was built on the remains of a Roman temple of Venere Conciliatrice- (Venus, in her lesser-known attribute of mediator of family unity). The temple was visited by troubled families who prayed for restored harmony, and young couples who came to be betrothed. Young women would drink from the nearby sacred well as a fertility ritual.

Centuries later, when the Cistercian monastery was built, some of these traditions were maintained and adapted in the light of Christianity. Until just a few years ago, many young couples from the area would make a promise to each other at the Abbey on June 23rd, the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist. Also, their “compare” (best man or maid of honor) would solemnly vow to help the new couple grow in serenity and harmony. This hallowed place was also a stop along the pilgrimage route to the Holy Land, and weary knights would knock on the monks’ doors, asking for hospitality during the Crusades. One of the legends about the monastery narrates that it preserved the Holy Grail for a time.

The Abbey has a well-tended cloister garden and porticos, with a series of windows on the northern side, where the vestiges of the ancient temple – the bases of its monumental columns – are still visible. Inside, the Romanesque style church is principally unadorned, but the crypt below is decorated with medieval frescoes depicting St. John, Jesus, and various other saints, as well as with columns dating back to Roman times. The façade is decorated with high relief sculptures depicting the story of St. John the Baptist, and the apse of the church faces the sea, with the fertile patchwork farmland of the Sangro Valley spreading out under its watchful eye towards the south. Further inland, stands majestic Mt. Maiella. The space between the mountain and the abbey is filled by dazzling landscapes in myriad shades of green: from the emerald vineyards to the more silvery hues of the olive trees, contrasting with the deep russet of freshly plowed fields and the amber wheat swaying in the breeze.

A natural palette

A “belvedere” (look out point) situated on the cliff facing north, reveals the Golfo di Venere in its entirety, with its frequently changing shades of blue ranging from azure to turquoise, depending on the cloud coverage. On calm days, the water is so still and transparent, it is like a deep cerulean swimming pool. The best time to enjoy the belvedere is at sundown, when sky goes from deep pink to purple, the fishermen leisurely steer their boats back to shore, and the day winds down to the murmur of lazy waves stirring the pebbles along the shoreline.

Finally, one of the most beautiful features of Fossacesia is the Viale di San Giovanni, two kilometers of cypress and pine tree-lined road that connects the town center to the Abbey. This is also known as the lover’s lane of Fossacesia (I can attest to that!), although in recent years, there is a serious issue with the pine tree roots ruining the roadway and sidewalks. Cyclists, runners, walkers…and lovers beware!

All in all, Fossacesia is one of those places you will easily fall in love with and will yearn to come back to. And you never know, destiny might even play a trick on you like it did with me!

Fossacesia is the starting point of Alex Tucci’s run to Monte Amaro: read more about the project MareAmaro here

Maria Pia De Simone
Fossacesia, June 2019
Photos ©Maria Pia De Simone
Cover photo ©Venusia

Maria Pia De Simone

Italian-American-Italian, 37 years ago I married my first love, the boy next door…to my grandparents in Fossacesia. I came to Italy for the first time when I was 8, then I came back at 13, 15, and 20. During the last three visits, I fell in love, but the idea of living in Italy was no more than a vague, romantic dream. Then “destiny” played its hand and what seemed impossible came true. I came back forever in 1982, one year after getting my foreign language degree and I never looked back. I worked at the Mario Negri Sud research institute as an English teacher and language editor for the scientific articles written by the researchers. Later I was hired by a local company that manufactures equipment for the production of automotive batteries, where I handle all communications and contract negotiations with our clients. I live in Fossacesia with my husband Giovanni and our two sons, Massimiliano and Lorenzo.
Proverb: an appeasing sheep eats from his own bowl and the others’.
Dish: Li Bummalitt…sea snails in tomato sauce
Place: Viale di San Giovanni, place of my first kiss and San Giovanni in Venere Abbey where we were married.