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6 Ways to Enjoy Small-Town Italy

Discover the simpler side of Italy by visiting a small and charming town in the Abruzzo region of the country

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Viva Italia

Ahhh, Italy. The architecture, the fashion, the food! The country is rich in history, culture and beauty. Venture away from Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan and you’ll find there is as much charm and appeal to small town Italy as there is to the larger, more tourist-familiar cities. Ready for a trip off the beaten path? Take a trip to Sulmona in the Abruzzo region and discover six interesting things to do in this quaint town.

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1. Read poetry in the town square

One of Sulmona’s claims to fame is being the birthplace of the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC – AD 17/18). Known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, he is best known as the author of Heroides, Amores and Ars Amatoria, three major collections of erotic poetry. You’ll find a statue of Ovid in the Piazza XX Settembre, the town’s square, which is the perfect place to find a café where you can enjoy a cappuccino, people-watch and read some of Ovid’s poetry.

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2. Drink water from the ancient aqueduct

The main architectural sight in Sulmona is the medieval aqueduct. Built in the thirteenth century, the aqueduct was quite a constructional feat. Approximately 100 metres long and made up of 21 lancet arches, the aqueduct supplied water to the mills and shops of the city during the Middle Ages. The locals would also use the water for domestic purposes such as watering their gardens. The aqueduct also consists of a fountain where a stream of water falls from a head of a bearded man. To this day, the fountain spews ice cold water that is safe and refreshing to drink on hot summer days.

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3. Visit the city market

One of the best ways to enjoy the city is to visit the local outdoor market in the Piazza Garibaldi, Sulmona’s largest square. Vendors sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to delectable meats and chesses, as well as Italian leather goods, clothing, accessories and souvenirs. Some Hollywood trivia for you: this is where George Clooney and girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis were spotted while Clooney was in town shooting scenes from the film The American.

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4. Buy confetti candy

Each year, thousands of wedded couple offer confetti candy as favours (or bomboniere as the Italians call it) for their guests to bring home to commemorate the special day. Sulmona happens to be the confetti capital of Italy as the city is the largest producer of these sugar coated almonds. The candies are made in two main factories, and all around the town you’ll see shops selling this popular confection in a rainbow of colours, as well as made up into different arrangements including flowers, ladybugs, and more.

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5. Watch an opera

Imagine listening to an aria from Puccini’s La Bohème or Verdi’s La Traviata in a courtyard under the stars. Talk about a truly cultural experience, and thanks to a Canadian-run program, taking in an opera in Sulmona is possible. Started in 2007, the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI) is a training program held every summer for budding opera singers and classical pianists. The town offers the perfect backdrop and environment for students to hone their musical skills in front of live audiences as a series of concerts are a major component of the program. If you find yourself in Sulmona in mid-June to mid-July, be sure to check out these young talented singers and pianists as they perform everything from Italian folk songs to operatic excerpts.

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6. Take part in a medieval festival

Every July, Sulmona puts on its popular medieval festival known as Giostra Cavalleresca. The festival is a way for the town to celebrate its medieval heritage. The city is divided into seven competing quarters, with each being represented in a parade of colours, captains in armour, horses and duels. For those who want to experience authentic Italian cuisine, this is an excellent time to visit the town as sumptuous feasts are also a large part of the festivities.

(Photo credit: giostrasulmona.it)