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Navelli is an ancient hill side village whose lovely golden stone houses look out over the valley below. Navelli is famous for its saffron production and if you are lucky enough to visit in October or November you will see the fields covered in the lovely purple crocus flowers whose red stigmas are the prized saffron we use in our cooking.
Navelli is a beautiful hill top village which has been classified as one of the "most beautiful villages of Italy". Its houses are made of a pale golden stone and are unusual in that they are linked by stone arches which are part of the accommodation of the houses.
The cobbled streets meander through the village allowing you to explore the interesting architectural features of the village which include big wooden doors, metal balustrades and arched windows and doors and novelties such as stone carved hands and steps hewn into rock. Navelli had two main periods of growth - medieval and Renaissance and buildings of both styles can be seen as you walk around the village.
Start your walk at the top of the village at the 17th century Palazzo Santucci. A medieval fortress originally stood here but this was replaced by the baronial palace that you can see today. Stone staircases lead up to an open galley and the views from the palace over the village and valley below are wonderful. The San Sebastiano church next to the Palazzo has a bell tower which was originally a turret of the medieval fortress.
Near to here is Porta Castello the oldest of the gateways into Navelli and the start of the oldest part of the village. Following the earthquake of 1456 the village expanded its walls and three more gateways through the walls were built. These all still exist today.
As you walk round the village you will see pretty churches and palazzos and also look out for the three stone, circular basins which were mangers for donkeys returning from their day's work.
Navelli, like much of Abruzzo produces wine and a good quality of olive oil but it is also famous for its saffron production. The beautiful purple crocus flowers are in bloom around October, November each year and the bright red stigma are collected by hand every morning and then slowly roasted over hot coals to preserve its wonderful taste and nutritional properties. If you have lunch or dinner in one of the restaurants in the village you will be able to sample dishes made with the local saffron. Also be sure to take some home to make the delicious classic saffron risotto - "Risotto alla Milanese" . The area also specialises in chick peas and almonds.
Don't miss the neighbouring hamlet of Civitaretenga which features an ancient castle and a Jewish ghetto of the 12-15th century though much of this has now disappeared. On the edge of the hamlet is the monastery of Saint Antony with a 13th century cloister. The church of San Egidio contains some lovely frescoes.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Abruzzo guide.