South of Pescara Coastal Forts Protect The Adriatic Coast
We planned to take a day to explore the coastline south of Pescara as far as Vieste in Puglia. After we finished our week in Pescara, we were headed to Lecce in Puglia for our next week. The drive to Lecce would be long, so we knew we would not be taking the more scenic route along the coast the whole way. This day trip south ensured we experienced the slower coast trip. Our hotel concierge, the ever-helpful Fabio, waxed poetic about the coast and the things we should see. He gave David driving directions and stop suggestions until I pulled David away so we could actually see for ourselves.
Starting down the coastal road brought back memories of the June trip we had done along the US west coast. For our second stop on the Adriatic coast, we had originally booked a hotel in the beach town of Francavilla Al Mare. We checked out where we might have landed if we had not cancelled the hotel in Francavilla for a place in Pescara with real air conditioning. While not quite as deserted as we had found Igea Marina, the hotel north of the train tracks on the far end of town may not have been ideal. I guess that happens occasionally when picking hotels from the internet. We stopped a few times to look at the beach along the shore road but we were targeting a few specific stops on this trip.
Ortona On The Adriatic Coast
We were off to see how the coastal forts protect the Adriatic Coast. Winding our way up the hill got us to Ortona, the first town on our list. We found a beautifully restored castle fortress prominently standing guard over the town.
Climbing to each of the four corner towers, you could see how the port could be defended. The panoramic views let us see up the coast almost to Pescara and on the other side you could see the busy working port. We continued to marvel at how clear and blue the water kept getting as we moved each step further south.
Moving into town we found the Cattedrale di San Tommaso. From the outside this church looked newer and when we went inside we found a plaque that talked about the restoration. Like many of the other towns along this shore of Italy, many of the older sites suffered extensive damage in WW2 or in one of many major earthquakes. We really had not appreciated how widespread and catastrophic the earthquakes in Italy had been.
This church was surprisingly beautiful inside and included a separate tomb area for the Apostle Tommaso. Several of the stained glass windows were simple and stark but striking.
Another Canadian War Memorial In Ortona
As we headed back to the car, we saw yet another Government of Canada plaque and statue, this one representing the battle to reclaim Ortona. There is apparently a large cemetery in Ortona with buried Canadians that we missed, a common stop for people visiting ancestors.
Termoli By The Sea
This first stop along the coast road had taken well over 2 hours. At this rate we would not get far, so we decided to hop on the autoroute and make some progress down the coast. Leaving the province of Abruzzo, we entered the province of Molise and soon hit our next target destination Termoli. This exit presented us with our first toll booth trial. With no FastPass, we needed to find the line for cash and at this toll booth over lunch hour there appeared to be no option for us to exit. Since the FastPass lanes had gates, we would not even have been able to go through and hope a toll (with a car rental company userous handling fee tacked on) showed up at some future date on our credit card. We pulled over to ponder and finally tried pulling into a cash booth with a red light. This apparently woke up the one toll operator who finally came out and loudly told us he would open to take our cash.
We wound our way up again to find yet one more hilltop fort with some walls, two corners and one main gate still standing.
Inside this fort we found the small old town with houses and the obligatory church in the Piazza Duomo. The old church was stone with carvings and an impressive relief copper door. Not open when we visited, we got no idea of what beauty we may be missing inside.
From high on the walls we could look out to the beach and the interesting fishing shacks out on extended platforms. The water looked inviting and David was sure that it would be great scuba diving along the walls of the fortress.
Heading Into Puglia – A Stop At Ischitella
Hopping back on the regional road SS16 we continued south, crossing into the province of Puglia. Taking the country side road to catch the regional road SS693 that would take us out onto the peninsula to the Vieste area, we came across the most unusual sight. We were a bit confused when we saw the first young girl sitting on the side of the road in one of the pullout areas. As we continued to pass single and small groups of girls, some wearing small tops and just their panties, the light went on. These girls were there selling themselves to the truckers and farm workers coming along the road. This went on for miles and miles.
As we drove along we could see quite wide spread use of windmills on the hills and valleys but were surprised to see little visible use of solar power. The fields in the plains of the two lakes (Lesina and Varano) looked rich and red. But as we continued south and started to climb, the climate appeared more and more desert-like with giant cactus plants bearing bright red fruit standing at the side of the road. We also started to see white towns built on the sides of the hills.
While we had originally optimistically planned to get to Vieste on the peninsula before heading back towards Foggia and the interstate, when we hit the signs for Rodi Garganico we knew we would take a quick stop and retrace our steps before darkness descended. As we approached Rodi we could see a town high on a hill and on a whim I suggested we turn in that direction. David did not believe the road would go all the way to the top, but we soon discovered the switchbacks in the trees indeed would get us to the top to Ischitella.
We found the town of Ischitella to be virtually untouched by tourism. As we went through the switchback road in the town, the locals looked out at us with curiosity. Parked, we wandered through groups of mostly men huddled in small groups. The few older buildings we saw had no signs of restoration and we found no typical town map that pointed out key sights. Probably a good thing as we were kinda overwhelmed with all that we had already seen that day. We took our panoramic pictures of the countryside and had a quick stop in the local bakery and then were on our way back down the switchbacks before we lost all light.
It was a lovely drive back through Puglia as the sun set and reflected off the ocean. The trip back along the interstate was still a couple of hours, mostly uneventful after we got gas with the car almost on fumes. Stumbling with numb butts back to the hotel in Pescara, we scrounged our picnic supplies for food. We were going nowhere else that night.
Where did you go when you explored the Adriatic coast of Italy? Did you see the coastal forts protect the Adriatic Coast?