The high plain of Navelli in Abruzzo is, of course, strongly identified and associated with saffron cultivation.
The plain is impressive and sits at an altitude of 550m above sea level surrounded on all sides by higher peaks. Climbing the road from Acciano it is possible to see the awesome Gran Sasso looming in the distance.
But it is not just the town of Navelli where the flowers are produced, but three other small localities: Civitaretenga, Caporciano and Prato d'Ansidonia.
From here, take the road parallel to the Navelli plain in the neighbouring valley of the River Aterno as it twists its way past some rarely visited medieval villages all huddled in the Parco Naturale Regionale Sirento Velino.
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Fontecchio and Fossa are the most interesting.
The first still retains its 'centro storico' or old quarter just as it used to be, even including the 13th century fountain used by the women to launder their clothes.
Also look out for the bombed out ruin of the chapel at the center of the castle, a victim of WW2. There is still an image of Mussolini adorning a nearby house, new or old we're not sure.
Fossa is home to the 12th century church of 'Santa Maria ad Criptas'. Inside are incredible frescoes from the 'Benedettina' and 'Toscana' schools of the same period.
For an authentic local meal visit a new restaurant just off the the straight road running the length of the plain.
Called the 'Antica Taverna Restaurant' it does a wonderful 'maltagliata with saffron sauce', a pasta first course we doubt is bettered anywhere else in the region. Other delights include 'rintorce alla pecorara', 'scomposto', 'tegolini croccante' and 'soffione di ricotta'.
Stay in a small agriturismo called 'La Stella'. It is the ideal place for basing yourself before discovering the wider area. It is located in the village of Collepietro overlooking the Navelli Plain and is owned by the big hearted Americo Grande.
The air is sweet and the food and wine home-made. The 800 meters of altitude will have you sleeping like a baby.
As for the town of Navelli, well if you been to Spello and the Valle Umbria, there is a certain similarity and the town is part of the Borghi più Belli d'Italia network.
Why not take a trip in mid august for both the 'Feast of Chick Peas and Saffron' and the annual Donkey Palio. From Dan Hostetler's Italy events database we quote:
'The donkey's important historical role in Italy's development cannot be understated', says Eugenie Milonis, a Roman psychologist with a penchant for the beasts of burden. He is trying to stymie the sharp fall in donkey numbers by using his 3,000 acre property near Sulmona as a donkey farm in a desperate bid to save the Italian donkey from extinction. As an example of the severity of the shortage, this town had to import donkeys from Mr. Milonis for their annual palio (donkey race) because they were not able to find any in Abruzzo.