Italy // Abruzzo and Molise //


A popular tourist destination, SCANNO is reached by passing through the narrow and rocky Gole del Sagittario, a WWF reserve that makes a spectacular drive along galleries of rock and around blind hairpin bends that widen out at the glassy green Lago di Scanno. Perched over the lake is a church, the Madonna del Lago, with the cliff as its back wall, and nearby there are boats and pedaloes for rent in the summer.

A couple of kilometres beyond, Scanno itself is a well-preserved medieval village encircled by mountains. In 1951, Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed the village, in a series of atmospheric shots focusing on the traditional dress worn by Scanno’s women. Some elderly women can still be seen wearing the long, dark, pleated skirts and bodices with a patterned apron that suggest a possible origin in Asia Minor; the annual Costume di Scanno festival in April sees the locals taking to the streets in their finery. Scannese jewellery also has something of the Orient about it – large, delicately filigreed earrings, and a charm in the form of a star, known as a presuntosa, given to fiancées to ward off other men. If you want to see the costume and jewellery at close quarters head for the shops on Strada Roma and Corso Centrale.

It’s a pleasure strolling around the old town, built into the steep hillside, the squares and alleyways lined with solid stone houses built by wool barons when business was good. Though shepherding as a way of life is virtually extinct and the population has dwindled, it’s still a living village.

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