09 September 2010 Published in Abruzzo Itineraries
Vasto Vasto © Copyright Delicious Italy


Vasto is a gem of a place perched over the Adriatic Sea with a view which, on a good day, stretches to the the Gargano peninsular and the Tremiti Islands. It is a perfect base from where to discover the wonderful Trabocchi Coast towards Ortona or inland along the Sangro Valley as far as Villa Santa Maria.

It owes its names to the Greek word for wool 'iston'. Originally called Histon, then Histonium, this ancient farming culture is still clearly reflected in the fine pecorino cheese, typical local dishes and even the traditional coats of the zampognari muscians. Vasto was also a key stop for the twice yearly migration of sheep until the last century.

The town was the old seat of the Frentani who enjoyed the benefits of operating a Mediterranean trading post. An ancient Italic people, they survived happily until a four year social war gave an excuse for Rome to swallow them up in 88 BC. The surrounding Frentani Hills still remind us of the original inhabitants and are themselves home to an unspoilt land of broadleaved woods and truffle filled soils heading towards Molise.

The nearby villages and hamlets are worth visiting. Not least Carpineto Sinello for its strategic position, Atessa for its 'Well of Miracle' in the 15th century convent, and Roccamontepiano which was destroyed by a huge landslide in 1765. But back to town.

The cathedral of Vasto is S.Maria Maggiore and was built in the 11th century AD. It was badly damaged during a Turkish invasion in 1566 and again by fire in 1645 before being reconstructed in a neo-classical style in 1785. The magnificent bell tower dates from the 14th century AD.

We have stayed in Vasto on two occasions. One was as a quick stop over on the long drive to Puglia; the second for a week to discover the local food and wine, not least the famous brodetto Vastese.