Make the most of your visit in any season, and in any weather
Sulmona is a year-round destination although ‘the season’ itself really starts at Easter time and continues until ‘Tutti i Santi’ on November 1st. You’ll find plenty to do at any time of year but the Sulmonesi naturally entertain themselves either indoors or outdoors according to the season. And what about that odd wet day in the summer? Because they do happen…
We’ve put together a short guide to making the most of your visit, in any season, and in any weather.
Treat yourself to a long lunch
The 4-hour lunch is a well-loved Italian institution and best enjoyed in good company when you have nothing else planned for the afternoon. The most popular lunch-time destination in Sulmona is the Locanda di Gino in Piazza Plebiscito (the piazza where the church of Sant Maria Della Tomba is located ) and in fact it’s only ever open at lunch time so you really should book if you can. You’ll find exquisite dishes made from only the very best and most local ingredients – cooked and served by members of the Allega family.
There are, of course, many other wonderful restaurants in and around Sulmona so why not go a little further afield? Up to Pacentro, or to Introdacqua, or even to Pescocostanzo as all have excellent restaurants. Note that restaurants don’t expect to turn their tables at lunch time so you should arrive at 1.00pm (ish) and then stay as long as you like.
Go to the Pelino Confetti Museum
The Pelino Confetti factory on Via Stazione Introdacqua has a quirky and totally unique little museum dedicated to the history and manufacture of our famous confetti sugared almond candies. Entry is free and it’s fun for all ages too. You’ll even find some examples of old fashioned telephones, typewriters and cash registers from the family’s personal collection. Don’t forget to stock up on candies in the factory shop before you leave.
It’s a 15-minute walk out of town but worth the effort. The museum and factory shop are open Monday to Saturday until 12.30pm and then again in the afternoons from 3.00pm. Closed Sundays and holidays.
Visit the other museums in Sulmona
Sulmona has a very good Civic Museum at the Annunziata on Corso Ovidio with a wide variety of exhibits housed within a costume section, an archeological section and a Medieval section, plus the wonderful Domus Arianna with foundations and mosaics from a Roman house of the 1st century AD. The museum is open every day (except Mondays) in the mornings until 1.00pm and then again in the afternoons from 3.30pm.
There is also the gallery at the Diocesan Museum at Santa Chiara (Piazza Garibaldi) with an eclectic collection of works dating from between the 12th and the 19th centuries, and a Natural History Museum in Piazza Sardi on Via Angelone.
Take a Cooking Class or a Wine Tasting Experience
The Welcome To Sulmona Experiences run year round so all you need to do is make a booking! The Cooking Class obviously takes place inside a kitchen and the Wine Tasting Experience is held at a special venue which has a covered terrace overlooking Piazza Garibaldi. Try to incorporate an experience into your itinerary in advance so you can join together with other couples or small groups and take advantage of the best rates. At the last minute you can always ask if there is a class already scheduled where you can tag along. Note that the Cooking Class includes pasta making which is always fun for little ones as well as for grown-ups.
Sulmona International Film Festival
There are several impressive annual events which take place in the off season. Our favourite is the Sulmona International Film Festival. Now in its 36th year, its most recent incarnation is as a festival of shorts from Abruzzo, Italy and abroad, including documentaries, animation and music videos. Many are in their original language or have sub-titles. The 2019 festival takes place over 4 days at the beginning of November and the programme always includes a full schedule of ‘dopo festival’ music & social events over that period too.
Listen to some Music
From October to March every year is a series of concerts of all genres called the Camerata Musicale Sulmonese. These are held either at the Maria Caniglia Theatre on Via Antonio de Nino, or in the hall of the Annunziata on Corso Ovidio. Many Sulmonesi have a season ticket, and it is one of the places to ‘see and be seen’ over the winter, but you can buy a single ticket from the box office just before the start of each concert for about €10. You’ll also find sublime choral music by the Cathedral Choir of San Panfilo on a regular basis, and an impressive line-up of modern bands for a younger crowd at bar / music venue Soul Kitchen on Via A. Volta.
The Maria Caniglia International Opera Competition, now in its 34th year is open to young, aspiring singers and takes place over a week, usually in early December. The maximum age for competitors is 35 and the finalists come from as far afield as Korea, Ukraine, Turkey, France, the US and of course Italy.
Go to an Art Exhibition
The MAW Gallery (Men Art Work) hosts short shows and exhibitions of local and often young & emerging artists in their gallery on Via Morrone. The shows are free of charge and open both in the mornings and the afternoons. The opening nights are always particularly lively!
The Premio Sulmona, now in its 45th year, is a contemporary art competition held each autumn at the Diocesan Museum of Santa Chiara. The standard of entries is always very high, with painting and sculpture from all over the world. The exhibition lasts 3 weeks usually until the first week of October.
Spend some time inside our wonderful churches
There are over 20 churches in Sulmona alone, although not all keep reliable opening times. Not to miss is the crypt of the Cathedral of San Panfilo, the stucco, frescoes and the double organ of the Annunziata and the architectural details of the interior of the restored Santa Maria della Tomba. If you are a Catholic (practising or not…), or just curious, you are welcome at Mass for sure. Mostly there is a Mass on a Saturday late afternoon and again on Sunday morning at about 11.00am. San Francesco della Scarpa is one of the churches where visitors are more than welcome and Don Gilberto’s sermons here are legendary. Just grab a pew and enjoy. No need to queue up to take Communion.
Just outside of Sulmona is the recently restored church of the Abbazia di Santo Spirito al Morrone at Badia. Further afield is the wonderful 13th century Oratorio of San Pellegrino at Bominaco. Called ‘The Sistine Chapel of the South‘ it is richly decorated with fresco cycles depicting Christ’s childhood, the Passion and The Last Judgement. If it is not open when you arrive, call the number on the sign on the gate and the custodian will come and open up for you. And don’t forget to also visit the church on the same site behind the chapel called Santa Maria Assunta, which is equally interesting.
There are lots of small, independently-owned shops dotted around town. Pop in and you might see something that grabs you. For confetti souvenirs go to Il Fiocco under the portico on Corso Ovidio near the War Memorial, for household accessories go to Manuelstore on Corso Ovidio opposite Piazza Plebiscito (Santa Maria della Tomba), for quality wines and local products go to Soldo di Cacio near the church of Santa Maria della Tomba, for jewellery including a selection of traditional items such as the Abruzzese pendant shape called La Presentosa go to Le Gioie del Sestiere on Via Mazara (past the Comune building), and for cute kids’ clothes go to B store at the far end of the Villa Comunale near the Cathedral.
Cover pic by Gianpaolo Tronca.