Picinisco: Scotland’s pretty Italian pipeline even inspired D.H. Lawrence
D.H. Lawrence had it right all along. The famous British author traveled the world but chose a small hamlet on Lazio’s southern border to finish his famed novel, “The Lost Girl.”
While he called Picinisco “primitive,” he also wrote about the raw beauty of Picinisco’s Valle di Comino. Located a 2 ½-hour drive from Rome, Picinisco (pop. 1,200) sits at the corner where Lazio, Molise and Abruzzo meet.
It’s shouting distance from Abruzzo National Park and home to some of the best pecorino cheese in Italy. And where else in Italy can you stay in a 98-year-old B&B with a classically-trained chef cooking you meals?
Picinisco also has a pained history. It was the site of two mass exoduses to Scotland after wars devastated the economy of Southern Italy. But those naturalized Scots return to Picinisco every year.
Things to do
1 • Abruzzo National Park. You’ll probably drive to Picinisco which makes it convenient to visit this beautiful national park. It’s only a few minutes to the park’s forest. Covering 192 square miles (497 square kilometers), the park is sliced by the Apennines mountains. The Sangro river flows through the park, forming two lake basins. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, climb to the top of 7,382-foot (2,250-meter) Monte della Meta. On a clear day you can see both the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. The park features 67 species of mammals, 230 birds and 14 reptiles. Keep your eye peeled for the Marsican brown bear.
2 • Casa Lawrence. You can sleep in the same house where D.H. Lawrence penned one of his most famous novels. Or you can just visit his room where his old manual typewriter still sits on his desk. During War I, the British accused him of being a German spy and he fled. He traveled the world, particularly Italy. An Italian friend recommended he visit Picinisco. He was so taken by the house he found, he spent two winters in it finishing “The Lost Girl.” Built in 1889, the house is modernized but decorated in the same fashion that Lawrence described in his book. The agriturismo has big rooms and big beds.
Info: Contrada Serre, 39-07-76-698-183, 39-349-072-3087, https://www.casalawrence.it/index.php/contatti.html, email@example.com. €80 per room, max two people. €25 per meal for guests. €30-35 per meal for visitors.
3• Food festivals. At 2,378 feet (725 meters) and surrounded by farmland, Picinisco is a natural for food festivals. It has the orapi (wild Italian spinach) festival in mid-June, the Pastorizia shepherds festival Aug. 9-10 and Le Feste, feasts reminiscent of early pilgrimages, Aug. 18-20. Also, check out Picinisco’s famous Pecorino Picinisco cheese at La Caciosteria di Casa Lawrence, owned by Loreto Pacitti who also runs the agriturismo.
Round trip from Picinisco to Scotland
Sixty percent of Scotland’s population with Italian roots come from Picinisco and Braga, Tuscany.
The pipeline began in the 1890s when political corruption and failed military campaigns in Africa poleaxed Southern Italy’s economy. Many Picinisco citizens bolted for Edinburgh which was one of the wealthiest cities in Great Britain.
The second exodus began after World War II when Benito Mussolini’s ill-fated military campaign left Italy broke, particularly in the South. As one transplanted Scot from Picinisco said, “You can’t eat the view.” However, many Scots with roots in Picinisco return annually. Go to the main square, Piazza Ernesto Capocci, and inevitably you’ll hear Scottish brogue.
One Scot we met, Cecidio Di Ciacca, whose roots in Picinisco go back 500 years, returned to buy I Ciacca, his grandfather’s village and where he took his last name. When I asked him what he liked about Picinisco, he said, “Peace. It’s a cosmopolitan village. In the summer you meet people from all over the world. D.H. Lawrence called this piazza ‘the drawing room of town.’ That was 1919.”
Where is it:
80 miles (145 kilometers) east of Rome
How to get there: Rent a car. The closest train station is at Cassino 18 miles (30 kilometers) away. Rental cars in Rome start at about €25 a day.
Where to eat:
Caffe Cominium, 509 di Forca d’Acero, Atina, 39-347-707-0707, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. A modern restaurant in a rustic valley, it’s a casual lunch place with pastas, burgers and local wines at reasonable prices.
Where to stay
Villa Inglese, Via San Martino 22, 39-339-206-7574, www.villainglese.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Art Nouveau palace built in 1926 with incredible balcony and rooftop terrace views of Valle di Comino. Owner Ben Hirst is a professional gourmet chef who produces amazing meals with local, seasonal products. Rooms start at €120, breakfast included. Six-course tasting menu for dinner offered at €53.