The Romans and Neopolitans love Roccaraso. At weekends and bank holidays, the alla moda set converge on this ski resort, located just two hours from Rome and Naples, in search of la dolce vita.
Yet despite being Italy’s fifth largest resort, the 100km of the Alto Sangro ski area remains practically unknown to Britons.
Most skiers know that Italy is less expensive than France, Switzerland and Austria, but few are aware of the Apeninne mountains – a range that extends 750 miles along the length of peninsular Italy – let alone that there is skiing there.
But families looking to solve the twin problems of skiing in school holidays – interminable queues and stratospheric costs – should try looking south of the Alps for a solution.
Significantly less expensive and less rammed than half-term flights to Geneva, I flew with my family to Italy’s southern capital of Naples, before driving the 86 miles to Rivisondoli, one of the three pretty hillside villages that serve the ski area.
I’d been warned about the “erratic” driving of the locals. Armed with upgraded car hire insurance that reduced our excess to zero, I stirred my courage to tackle the traffic out of Naples. It turns out that “erratic” is an accurate description of Neapolitan driving. “Chaotic” works too. In the UK you rarely see cars weave from the fast lane to the hard shoulder and back again at unrelenting high speed. It’s no surprise that I have never seen so many cars sporting dents in their bodywork.
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Would they ski like this too? We never truly had the chance to find out, as we had planned our four days of skiing for mid-week, when the slopes were practically empty. There’s no ‘vacanze’ for Italian children in mid-February and, while the fur-collared, designer-dog, Dior-wearing brigade were visible, they were mainly sunning their already-tanned faces on the south-facing terraces, rather than queuing for lifts.
Not that the Italian influence was unwelcome. It’s not just in superlative cuisine and low prices that Italy shines compared with other European ski destinations: listening to Italian being spoken is, well, bellisima.
Even their names are poetic. Bonaventura…
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