Ortona: a Hidden Gem on the Italian Coast

by Kathryn Blanco / Sep 17, 2012 / 0 comments

Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Sienna, Assisi. If you’ve ever traveled in Italy, or have any intention to, chances are you have heard of all these famous vacation destinations. But have you ever heard of Ortona? A beautiful town right up against the Adriatic Sea, Ortona has history, religious significance, and beautiful sights. While there may not be enough there to spend nearly a whole vacation, it would make a nice weekend spot and it’s a good spot to put on your tour if you’re passing that way and have a little extra time on your itinerary.


Ortona, Italy



I would suggest staying at the Hotel Mara. The Mara is a four star hotel with a beach on the Adriatic Sea. Simple but well-designed, clean, and comfortable, the hotel offers a delicious complimentary breakfast and has wonderful views of the sea.


Ortona, Italy



The sea itself is gorgeous, with white beaches and glittering waters. The water tastes surprisingly salty and the breeze smells of salty air and fresh seafood. Just a few yards away from the beaches lies the town, small and beautiful with wide cobblestone streets and narrow lanes for cars. During some days in the summer, you can visit the local street market, where everything from fresh fruit to furniture is sold in little stalls. Every night, the street lamps softly glow and send glistening reflections on the water.


Ortona, Italy



The town also has an interesting and little-known historical and religious significance. From what I’ve learned from family history, in World War II, the town was a strategic point and the Nazi forces wanted to make it an army base. The Allied forces wanted to keep that from happening. The town faced years of bombing and was largely razed to rubble. The citizens had to hide out in caves in the mountains to survive. Going even farther back, and of more significance, the relics of St. Thomas the Apostle rest in The Church of (surprise, surprise) St. Thomas the Apostle. His actual body, as recognized by the Catholic Church, lies in a golden casket in the church. As my dad pointed out, anywhere else this would be a huge deal, with religious people and even historians traveling just to come see this. But here in the Italian countryside, you wouldn’t even know. A family we met there seemed surprised that we were unaware of this slightly important artifact that just happened to be lying a few blocks away. Apparently, long ago people used to make pilgrimages to the spot, but after World War II, the number dropped considerably.


Ortona, Italy



The food is simple and good - much of it is fresh seafood, seeing as this once (was and to some extent still is) a fishing town. For a seafood lover, I’m sure this would be a great place to indulge that. But fear not, those who don’t care for seafood. My dad and I managed to get by just fine taking the surf out of surf and turf.


If you’re traveling in Italy and are passing by this way with a little time to spare, consider stopping by in Ortona to view what life is like in a small town on the coast of Italy.





Kathryn Blanco is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


All photos courtesy and copyright Kathryn Blanco