Welcome to Pacentro, a medieval town at the heart of the Majella National Park. Considered one of “Italy’s most beautiful villages”, according to legend it was founded by Trojan hero Pacinus, who left Aeneas along the Tiber and decided to explore Samnium, finally making his home at the foot of Mount Morrone.
At 700 meters of altitude, the Caldora Cantelmo Castle – mentioned in records as far back as the mid-10th century – is considered the symbol of the town. It is one of the most beautiful fortresses in Abruzzo, and used to part of the Peligna Valley’s defense with the Popoli, Introdacqua, Anversa, Pettorano and Roccacasale castles.
Just slightly closer to the valley, a bell tower rises: it is the bell tower of the 16th-century church of Santa Maria Maggiore or of Mercy, which features a triumphant Mary in Heaven painted on its central ceiling.
Pacentro is also home to one of the first pasta factories in the Peligna Valley, namely the Antico pastifico “Morrone-De Cecco”, which was founded in 1880 and remained in business until 1949. In describing the town many also remember Casa Ciccone, where Madonna’s grandparents lived until they immigrated to the United States in 1919 (and which the singer visited in 1980 and 1987).
Great author Giorgio Manganelli (1922-1980) described Pacentro by saying it was a place “where restless city souls find respite in flavorful food, like fettuccine with truffle and saffron and goat liver. Its center is medieval, famous for its mean castles, and proud of its noble church. But, while the constant rain was cold and sad, I neglected any aesthetic pleasures and instead surrendered to the delight of full-bodied and witty food. I believe I will write again about Abruzzo’s dishes someday, but right now I want to express how wonderfully pastoral and Arcadian at the same time they are, not devoid of a hint of distracted literature; they make for a well-educated eating, which I dare say even offers some metaphysical guarantee” (translated from G. Manganelli, “La favola pitagorica”, Adelphi, Milan 2005).