is in a little-known area of Italy called the Ciociaria, midway between Rome and Naples, but inland in the foothills of the mountains. The hilltop medieval towns were pre-Roman settlements and have been continuously inhabited for more than two thousand years.
It was a very rich town in the 1700s and 1800s, being then at the centre of
Italy's wool trade. This accounts for the profusion of beautiful and
grand palazzi and other buildings built by the extremely wealthy mill
owners, who also owned all the neighbouring farms. These were farmed by
tenant farmers who paid a tithe of 50% of all their produce to the
owner. Still within living memory, people here can remember the donkeys
filing their way into Arpino each week in the summer, laden with olive
oil, vegetables, lamb and pork, to be unloaded into the palazzi cellars.
Although the system of tenant farms was abolished upon the Federation of Italy, in many other ways, life here has retained its traditional pattern. Some foreigners live here and more have holiday homes, but the way of life is Italian. The locals are very welcoming to foreigners and make every effort to ensure that those who live here are adopted into local life, festas, concerts, card games, and just sitting in the piazza at one of the many bars and chatting with whichever of their friends happen to pass by.
One of the many benefits of Arpino - aside from the beautiful ancient buildings with panoramic vistas in all directions - is its accessibility. The centre of Rome is only a 90 minute drive away, as is Rome Fiumicino airport. The smaller airport of Ciampino is even closer, only an hour away. For foreign purchasers, this is a big advantage, aside the pleasure of being able to spend a day in Rome at any time you please - or indeed just an evening at a concert or opera, returning to Arpino after the performance. Naples, a much nicer city than its reputation suggest, is a similar distance.
Then, there is the ability to drive up into the huge National park of Abruzzo, over a mountain pass and through Europe's largest beech forest. This leads on to ski areas, both cross country and downhill. Similarly, a 50 minute drive in the other direction takes you to the little coastal towns south of Rome with charming beaches, less crowded than those north of Rome.
Arpino itself has all the facilities necessary for day to day life. Up in the historic centre, there are four butchers, a bakery, a shop making and selling delicious fresh pasta, a truly excellent delicatessan and small supermarket, several fruit and vegetable shops, a patisserie, florists, a well-stocked electrical shop, a dry cleaner's, many hairdressers, a beautician, two pharmacies, several stationer's, a post office and two banks, etc., etc. Down in the valley, ten minutes drive away, are large supermarkets.
And of course there are little bars and cafes and small restaurants. Also a public swimming pool, a riding school where you can also rent out horses for the day and tennis courts.
Often overlooked, both by tourists and by those foreigners in search of an Italian home, in favour of the more publicized regions of Tuscany and Umbria, the Ciociaria remains largely an unspoilt gem with beautiful scenery and medieval hilltop towns. A home or second home in the Ciociaria, in the hilltop towns of Arpino or in the rolling countryside that surround it, will afford you a setting where over two thousand years of history combine with an idyllic rural Italian lifestyle, where you can still discover the ‘real’ Italy and take time out from the busy crowds of the larger tourist cities.