Here is a guide to the best way to visit Chieti, one of the most beautiful cities in Abruzzo.
In the Abruzzo region, situated on a hill at 330 meters between the Majella mountains and the Adriatic coast, we find Chieti, a city that is not well-known as a tourist destination but is beloved by travelers for its artistic and cultural wealth. It is ideal for those who are looking for something different, where they can discover ancient villages and enjoy marvelous views of both the sea and the surrounding mountains. This is why the city is nicknamed “the Terrace of Abruzzo.“
Due to its strategic location, Chieti is often considered the perfect base for visiting nearby points of interest, such as the Maiella National Park, located in the most beautiful and wild part of Abruzzo, between the provinces of Chieti, L’Aquila, and Pescara. It is an ideal destination for trekking and outdoor activities.
Chieti is one of the oldest cities in Italy, famous for its history and peculiarities. It originated during the pre-Roman period and was subsequently inhabited by various civilizations that contributed to the creation of what we can see today, preserving its cultural and religious identity over the centuries, which is also reflected in the monuments the city hosts.
Legend has it that Chieti was founded by the famous warrior Achilles, who named it “Teate” in honor of his mother Thetis, a nymph. Over the centuries, the name underwent linguistic modifications that led to its current form, “Chieti.” Today, this legend about its origin is a source of pride for the inhabitants of Chieti, so much so that the image of Achilles armed with a spear and shield is depicted in the city’s coat of arms.
Even just walking through the narrow streets of the city, we can admire how rich Chieti is in history and culture. The historic center offers ancient monuments, historic shops, churches, and squares that are a must-visit. In addition to numerous monuments, it houses some interesting museums, such as the National Archaeological Museum and the National Museum of Ceramics. Being a significant religious center, it also possesses a grand 17th-century cathedral. The presence of so many cultural buildings should not surprise us when we consider the devotion of the people of Chieti, who eagerly await and anticipate the celebration of Easter throughout the year. Among the most heartfelt rituals is certainly the procession on Good Friday, considered one of the oldest in Italy.
Speaking of Easter, I cannot fail to mention the food and wine of Chieti and the province, considered an attraction in itself, characterized by the excellence of the local territory and its numerous accolades. The typical food and wine specialties have centuries-old origins and perfectly adhere to the principles of the Mediterranean diet and environmentally sustainable production. Among these, we find “pasta alla chitarra” (a type of long pasta) and pecorino cheese.
In a few words, Chieti represents a tourist destination that can be visited at any time of the year, appealing to those who love archaeology, art, and Italian cuisine.
Have I sparked your curiosity? In this guide, we will discover together what to see in Chieti, starting from its historic center. I will guide you on this journey, providing you with useful tips to make the most of this splendid city. I will also show you the main attractions to see based on the duration of your trip.
If you have several days available to visit the city, I will also give you some tips on how to extend your stay to indulge in food and wine, history, art, culture, as well as nature, sports, and relaxation. Furthermore, thanks to its strategic location, Chieti is perfect if you want to visit many nearby places such as the Maiella National Park, some of the most beautiful beaches in Abruzzo, ancient villages, and cities like Pescara and Ortona.
What to see in Chieti and how to get there
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This city is fortunate to be easily accessible as a destination, both by car via the highway and by train thanks to the Pescara-Rome railway line, which also stops in Chieti. Moreover, if you’re coming from afar, Chieti is also reachable by air! The nearest airport is Pescara, well connected to the city by buses operated by the “TUA” company. Once you reach Chieti, you’ll have the opportunity to visit its two main areas, one modern and one more ancient:
● Chieti Scalo is the modern and commercial part of the city, home to the Campus of the University “Gabriele d’Annunzio.” It is located in the valley to the north of the hill and extends to the banks of the Aterno-Pescara river.
● Chieti Alta, on the other hand, is the oldest part. Its hill is where the historic center is located, and that’s where we’ll start our itinerary to discover the city of Chieti. Get ready to admire breathtaking views, monuments, archaeological remains, and buildings that narrate the different historical phases the city has gone through. Let’s begin!
1. Largo Gian Battista Vico
It is the main and elegant square of Chieti, where the Chamber of Commerce building overlooks it. The building dates back to the 1930s and is characterized by a combination of Gothic and Renaissance styles, with decorations influenced by the fascist era, such as the imperial eagle resting on a head of Mercury, the god of commerce.
Here, you will also find Palazzo Fasoli, whose facade is characterized by the typical Pompeian red color. Despite the renovation of this building taking place in the 1930s, the Rococo-style decorations on the balconies are still clearly visible.
2. Marrucino Theatre
It is an elegant theater characterized by a 19th-century style, located at the end of Chieti’s main street (Corso Marrucino). It was built on the same site where a desecrated church previously stood, on the decision of the Decurionato of Chieti, in order to address the shortage of seating in the city’s previous main theater.
3. Palazzo de Mayo Museum
This museum is located in the historic center of Chieti and has its origins in the Roman imperial era. In the year 2000, it was restored by the Carichieti Foundation. The structure of this large building dates back to the Baroque period, and inside it not only houses the headquarters of the Foundation but since June 2, 2012, it is fully accessible to the public with the opening of the museum, art library, auditorium, and exhibition halls, making the palace a true cultural center of great interest.
4. Cathedral of St. Justin
It is considered the most important church in Chieti, built in the 1200s on the remains of another ancient place of worship. Over time, various restoration works have been carried out, resulting in a cathedral characterized by a Neo-Gothic exterior and a Baroque interior. This church, from an architectural point of view, consists of three aisles divided by columns. Elevated above them is the presbytery (the area reserved for the clergy), and beneath it is the crypt, which contains precious frescoes, ancient paintings, and the relics of Saint Justin.
5. La Civitella National Archaeological Museum and the Roman Amphitheatre
Within the Archaeological Park of “La Civitella,” you will find the National Archaeological Museum and the Roman Amphitheater.
The museum is located on the top of the ancient city of Chieti, offering a wonderful panoramic view of the Majella massif. Inside, there are several artifacts that tell the story of the birth and development of the city, once inhabited by the Marrucini people. To visit the museum, you can choose from three different museum routes: “The Beginning of Urban History,” “From Rome to Yesterday,” and “The Land of the Marrucini,” allowing you to retrace the ancient history of the city.
Near the top of the acropolis, you will find the Roman Amphitheater of Chieti, discovered along with other remains during archaeological excavations carried out in the Civitella area. Thanks to these excavations, the elliptical shape of the amphitheater, where gladiatorial combats took place, has been revealed. Part of the wall surrounding the arena and the honorary tribune has also been brought to light.
6. Abruzzo University Museum
It is a scientific museum that contributes to the character of the “Gabriele d’Annunzio” University of Chieti and Pescara through an exhibition space for the dissemination of Natural Sciences and the History of Science, with particular emphasis on biological and medical aspects. Its halls house art collections that have been donated to the museum.
7. Costantino Barbella Art Museum
The museum is located inside Palazzo Martinetti Bianchi, which was previously used as a Jesuit Convent. It was later purchased by Pietro Franchi, who transformed it into his own residence. During the first half of the 19th century, it was sold to the Marquises Martinetti Bianchi.
Today, the noble floor of the palace, decorated by the Franchi family with the representation of the Apotheosis of Psyche, houses the Costantino Barbella Art Museum. Here, you can admire some of the most beautiful and ancient Abruzzese works of art, as well as precious collections of majolica ceramics by renowned ceramicists from Castelli (Teramo) and various frescoes that have been recovered from the original Church of San Domenico, which is now destroyed.
8. Roman temples
Near Largo Gian Battista Vico, we can find the remains of three Roman temples that, according to research, were dedicated to the three deities Minerva, Jupiter, and Juno. Today, we are able to admire these small temples probably because they were built in an area that was anciently used for the worship of the gods, making this place the oldest place of worship that Chieti possesses.
9. Piazza Esedra della Pescheria
Currently called Piazzetta Teatro Mario Zuccarini, in memory of the Abruzzese historian, it is located at the intersection of Via Toppi and Via Arniense. This square has a fan-shaped layout where the fish market used to take place with products that arrived from Porta Pescara.
The nickname given to this square is “lu Ricchiappe” because in the past, during the patron saint festivities, the race of the “barberi” (local horses) would end in this place. It was an ancient race with horses ridden without jockeys and saddles. The owner of the winning horse would receive money as a prize and a votive icon of San Giustino.
10. Villa Frigerj and the National Archaeological Museum of Abruzzo
The National Archaeological Museum of Abruzzo is located inside the municipal park, near the city center, in the elegant Villa Frigerj, built in 1830 by the baron from whom it takes its name.
The museum was established in 1959, thanks to the archaeologist Valerio Cianfarani. Inside, it houses some of the most important masterpieces of Italic and Roman art, such as the symbol of Abruzzo, the Warrior of Capestrano, the Hercules Epitrapezios from Alba Fucens, the Hercules Curinus from the Sanctuary of Sulmona, and many other artifacts from the ancient peoples who inhabited Abruzzo before Rome.
Visiting Chieti and surroundings
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So far, we have seen what to see in Chieti; but if you have more time available, why not explore its surroundingas wells ? Come with me and discover the Abruzzo coastline and some of the most beautiful historic villages in Italy, where nature, culture, the sea, and the mountains take center stage.
The city of Chieti, as we have seen before, is characterized by both beautiful coasts and mountains. Towards the Adriatic, we find the Trabocchi Coast, a series of beaches interspersed with fishing platforms called “trabocchi”, which were historically used by the people of Abruzzo. Some of these trabocchi have been transformed into charming restaurants. Moreover, between one trabocco and another, you have the opportunity to explore fascinating coastal cities like Ortona, Vasto, or Fossacesia, which offer beautiful beaches and stunning views.
If we move away from the coast and venture more towards the inland, where the terrain becomes hilly, we come across Lanciano, a well-maintained village nestled in the shadow of the majestic Majella massif. Underneath its slopes, you’ll find wonderful places that should not be missed, such as Guardiagrele, a splendid medieval town full of history, known as “the city of stone” by Gabriele d’Annunzio, who was born in Pescara in the province of Chieti. Another city worth visiting in any season is Pescara, not only for its beautiful beaches but also for its historical heritage. For a perfect base to explore it, Città Sant’Angelo, situated on top of a hill, offers a marvelous panoramic view.
After visiting Pescara, if you feel like relaxing on a beach along the Abruzzo coastline, you can simply head a bit further south of Pescara. There, you will find Francavilla al Mare, a town with beautiful beaches. It is known as the last town along the Pescara coast before reaching the Trabocchi Coast.
What to do in Chieti
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As we have seen, Chieti may not be the typical tourist destination for a day trip in Abruzzo. However, it is a pleasant small town to explore in every season, both during daylight hours and in the evening, to admire the landscapes it has to offer and to experience its authenticity by strolling through the center, with its noble palaces and characteristic shops. Here, you can purchase various traditional handicraft products, such as terracotta vegetable containers, wooden cutting boards, cake irons, and much more to take home as a souvenir of your vacation.
If you feel hungry while walking through the city and don’t have time to sit down at a restaurant, you could try Chieti’s street food at local festivals or along the Adriatic promenade, where you can enjoy excellent skewers of sheep meat (arrosticini) and fried seafood cones. Alternatively, if you prefer to have a proper meal or an aperitif, there are many trattorias and typical establishments to choose from. Some of them are located along the coast, allowing you to savor your meal while enjoying a splendid sea view.
In addition to culinary activities, Chieti offers a variety of other experiences. In case of rain, you could visit the splendid underground city, exploring its evocative hypogeum spaces. Three of them are open to the public, offering a glimpse into the ancient Teate and showcasing the remains of the water system of the ancient Roman city. On sunny days, you can take a stroll in the flowered gardens of the villa comunale in Chieti. Alternatively, if you’re passionate about geology and biodiversity, you can venture outside the city and embark on a hike in the Gran Sasso National Park, walking amidst majestic karst systems and having the chance to spot magnificent specimens of golden eagles, chamois, or Apennine wolves.
Another must-visit trekking route is the one that winds through the Gole di Fara San Martino, within the eponymous Nature Reserve. This path, with its sheer cliffs, will lead you directly into the heart of Majella (the mother mountain of Abruzzo), which gradually slopes down towards the coast. You can walk or cycle along the coastal stretches thanks to the Via Verde of the Trabocchi Coast, a seaside route considered one of the most beautiful in Italy.
The province of Chieti, in addition to offering breathtaking landscapes to admire and photograph, boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Abruzzo. Among these are the beaches of Francavilla al Mare, Punta dell’Acquabella, Mottagrossa, and the Punta Aderci Nature Reserve, where you can relax and take a swim surrounded by mountains.
Local food and wine
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The gastronomy of Chieti and its province is characterized by its excellence and the significant number of certifications obtained. Among these, we find several wine denominations, such as Terre Tollesi DOCG, Terre di Chieti IGT, Abruzzo DOC, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, and Ortona DOC.
In addition to wine, there are remarkable traditional products to enjoy during your vacation. Among these, you absolutely must try the extra virgin olive oil “Colline teatine” DOP, the peppers, and the typical Abruzzese cold cuts. Furthermore, thanks to the city’s proximity to the sea, fish dishes cannot be missed, such as the seafood brodetto, prepared using only the finest quality fish. Do you prefer sweets over savory? Then you cannot miss tasting the characteristic “Cicerchiata”, which are fried dough balls with candied fruits and honey.
The Abruzzo region, in addition to its various certifications, also boasts 16 Slow Food Presidia, of which 4 are in the Sangro Aventino area. Among these, you can find the “fico seco reale di Atessa” (dried royal fig of Atessa), the “salsicciotto frentano” (Frentano small sausage), the “peperone dolce di Altino” (sweet pepper of Altino), and the “oliva Intosso di Casoli” (Intosso olive of Casoli). In addition to the delicacies I have listed, there are many other local dishes to try, but I want to leave the pleasure of discovering them to you. For example, you can participate in wine tastings or cooking courses that you can book on our website.
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If, during your vacation, you don’t want to miss the popular gastronomic and religious events that characterize Chieti, here are some you shouldn’t miss:
- The Good Friday Procession, which annually reenacts the passion and death of Jesus Christ in Chieti.
- The New Olive Oil Festival in Frisa, where you can taste the new olive oil and explore food stands with typical products, all accompanied by music.
- The Sweet Pepper Festival in Altino, where you can taste a wide variety of dishes based on the local typical product.
- The Chestnut and Novello Wine Festival in Arielli, where you can taste novello wine from local wineries, chestnuts, and freshly cooked meat on the grill.
Well, now that you know what to see in Chieti and its surroundings, I wish you a wonderful trip to Abruzzo! 😍