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Stage 11

Foiano di Val Fortore > Francavilla al Mare

Strolling in Foiano di Val Fortore

On your marks! The Giro is setting off. The Samnite town is the starting point of the eleventh stage of the Giro and is entirely pedestrianised right up to the start of the race. The perfect excuse for a stroll through the town's historic centre to appreciate the Norman and Medieval atmospheres that still linger here, while admiring the details of the stone portals, the eighteenth-century bell tower and the even earlier Church of the Madonna Libera (Freed Madonna), built in the mid-15th century by the survivors of a catastrophic earthquake. A visit to the Cycling Museum, covering all the history from 1800 to the present day and organised to celebrate the 'pink' race, is also a must.

When in Molise...

Once in the Molise Region, it's worth stopping off at Larino to admire the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, which, when first constructed (80 A.D.), could host as many as 10,000 spectators. A little further on, now on the Adriatic coast, we come across Termoli with its powerful city walls that protect the original heart of the city, the historic centre built in the 5th century on a hill that drops away sharply to the sea. A walk through these narrow alleyways is thrilling, as is a visit to the Svevo Castle or the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Purificazione. From here on, the road hugs the coast, but even if you can resist the temptation to have a dip, there are still plenty of opportunities to stop off.

In Vasto, it's the Renaissance Palazzo D'Avalos that catches the eye. Surrounded by a large Neapolitan garden, it enjoys a panoramic position overlooking the coast below and hosts no fewer than four museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Fine Arts Gallery, the "Mediterranea" contemporary art gallery and the Historical Costumes Museum. Before leaving the city, a visit to the Roman Baths, with their splendid mosaics dating back to the 2nd century A.D., and the Caldoresco Castle, a fortress built in 1427 with towers, bastions and a moat, are also highly recommended.

Ortona, where the finish line of the first stage of the 2023 Giro was set, is well worth an extra stop to at least admire the imposing Aragonese Castle (15th Century) , the Cathedral of Saint Thomas the Apostle which contains the remains of the saint and the Palazzo Corvo (16th-17th century), that hosts the Abruzzo Regional Wine Centre.

The beach of Francavilla

The long sandy beach at Francavilla al Mare (a blue flag beach in 2023) seems tailor-made to enable riders and spectators to relax after the end of today's stage. It would be a pity not to take the opportunity. However, firstly, there's time to discover a town that is more than just a seaside resort, as the many prestigious buildings testify. Some of the most outstanding include the Santa Maria Maggiore church, built in the 15th century and then rebuilt after its destruction during WWII, and the 15th-century Michetti Convent dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua and known as the "Cenacolo Michettiano" or "Cenacolo dannunziano" (Gabriele D'Annunzio wrote "Il Piacere" (Pleasure) within its walls) - one of the town's most iconic symbols.

I know them all!