Saturday, 16 August 2014


Calling all hikers, bikers, climbers, runners, or any sort of outdoor nature lover really

It's September, and do you know what happens in September?

Nothing, absolutely nothing.  And it's a tragedy.

Well, not exactly nothing, a few wise people come, but not many.  And that is the tragedy.  

September here in Abruzzo, and the whole of the autumn for that matter, is arguably the best time in the whole calendar year for outdoor people to explore off the beaten track.  

For late summer sun, warm enough for lazy days on the beach, or cool enough for hiking the endless trails of the wilderness that is the Majella National Park, there can be no better place to come in all of Europe.  

And we're here to guide you.  We're open all year, we have rooms available, we have gorgeous canvas bell tents cosy enough to take you through the cooler autumn months, we have stacks of information to get you out there and up into the hills and mountains.  We have equipment and guide books for climbers, we have Majella maps and our own hiking guides for hikers and walkers, we have mountain bikes you can use, and all the camping equipment you could ever need if you want to travel cheap and light - all you need bring is your tent and sleeping bag, we provide the rest.

Need any more persuasion to take your late holiday with us here in Abruzzo?

Here's our offer to all you outdoor and active nature lovers:

Email us with the dates you want to book, attach a photo of you being active in the great outdoors and we'll give you a 10% discount for September or October.

And there's more...

Because we know that you, like everyone else, will absolutely want to come back, we'll put all the photos into a popularity contest for a free, yes, free, holiday next year.  Any time you like, in one of our rooms or bell tents, for up to one week in 2015.

And there's more...

For everyone who comes, so confident are we of the wilderness in which we live that, for all those who hike all day long following one of our self-guided hikes and not see a soul, there's a bottle of superb Abruzzo wine at the end of it for you.

Boom boom.

What are you waiting for?

Here's where you can find out more:

Cool Camping
Trip Advisor

Go on, send us an email...
     you know you want to ;-)

Sunday, 6 July 2014


"Do I need a car?"

Ah.  That simple question, asked a million times, but without a simple answer.


Depends on lots.  But depends mainly on the type of traveller you are and what you're looking for in a holiday.

To begin with a few facts:


We are 2.5km from Serramonacesca.  Easy walking distance, until you bring our hill into the equation; it's a 200m climb back up.  I love the walk, as do many others, but some will only do it once.

Serramonacesca, her hills & views
Castel Menardo in the foreground, sea on the horizon, 
Kokopelli Camping just out of view bottom right

Evening walk into the village

You see lots of things along the way: plants for foraging in the hedgerows, wild flowers, lizards , butterflies, snakes.  Yes, really.  And, my goodness, do they make you jump.  Most of the time, however, completely harmless, but not for the squeamish.

There are buzzards calling, oriels singing, mistle thrush, redstarts, and hoopoes to name but a few.

Smiley :-) 
You'll most likely be joined by Smiley, the local character who will love your company.  You won't go far without a nod, a smile and a "buongiorno" from people sweeping their steps, tending their gardens or hanging out their washing, and the chances are you won't even need to walk.

Offers of lifts from passers-by will be many.  In fact, so insistent can they be that it's often easier to graciously accept than to explain that you do, actually, really, strangely enough, want to walk.

Local produce
Once in Serra, all your needs can be catered for.  So long as you shop like a local.

There are two small shops, limited in choice but, thankfully, a world away from a supermarket.

There is a butcher and a pharmacist, two restaurants, two bars, two gelateria and a fattoria where their own cheeses and arrosticini are produced from their own goats and sheep that you'll see grazing the hills with the shepherd and his dogs.

Cheeses & yoghurts from the Cheese Man
There's a vegetable seller in the piazza twice a week, a fish man who does the rounds on a Tuesday, a vegetable van that visits the campsite every Thursday, as well as the cheese man who comes on a Friday with home made yoghurts and far too tasty ricotta, pecorino and mozzarella.  So, yes, you can do very nicely indeed.

If you shop like a local and travel slow.

The Beach

A half hour's drive.  So, yes, if you fancy a day on the beach you need a car.  There are buses, they go from Serra into Pescara and back 2-3 times a day.  Early morning (6.30am), early afternoon and evening.  They take a while, they go round all the villages, you won't go anywhere fast, but you can get to the beach.  And back.  But it can be tedious.

Our beautiful river, the Alento,
it's source bubbling out of the mountains in Serramonacesca

Or, you can just take a blanket and a book, walk for half an hour or so, and go and sit by the river.


If travelling around from village to village, town to town, castle to castle takes your fancy, you could feel a little restricted without a car.


If you're a slow traveller and just want to absorb what is around you, really feel it, really experience it, get to know those who know it best, then, no, you don't need a car.  Within walking distance (for seasoned hikers and the hardy) we do have some of the most beautiful places and buildings in Abruzzo here in Serramonacesca, so long as you're happy to just explore what's on your doorstep and not venture further.

The Abbey of San Liberatore a Maiella

The Abbey of San Liberatore a Maiella
The Hermitage of San Onofrio
The Hermitage of San Onofrio

But what if you fall somewhere in between?

If you're happy to explore and get to know what's close to you, but wouldn't mind venturing further every now and then, here's what we can do to help, just a few of the little Kokopelli extras:

Drop you off, pick you up, take you out

Local markets
We're frequently out and about shopping in the local markets and towns, we go hiking, we go to the beach, we explore the higher mountain peaks, we'll go to a restaurant in the evening or just for a pizza or a party.

Anyone is welcome to hitch a ride.

Lend you a bike

We have mountain bikes that you're free to use, just pack up a picnic, hop on and pedal away.

Let you use our Vespa

Our little baby.  The essential part of slow Italian life, and fairly groovy too.  Think Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.  Roman Holiday

For just €40 a day you can take off, with the wind in your hair, the sun on your back, and live the Italian dream.  Even if for just a day.

So there you have it.

Do you need a car?   Entirely depends on you.

Saturday, 31 May 2014


It’s about time we went biodegradable.  

Kokopelli sunflowers
Slowly we’ve been disentangling ourselves from a way of life out of harmony with the natural world.  The easy ones are well entrenched now: shopping locally, eating seasonally, growing our own, making, mending, re-using, re-cycling, and so on, and so on.  

But to extract yourself completely and live a truly “green” lifestyle isn’t easy.  

Kokopelli bell tents & hens

We are a campsite with toilets to keep clean, showers, sinks and floors.  We have bell tents for hire, along with their cleaning and the laundry of linen and towels.  

Our campers cook and they wash their clothes, they wash their dishes and, if we’re lucky (and we usually are) they clean the cookers too.  Lots of chemicals going down the pan.

However, two problems:

1. Eco products are not cheap
2. Eco products are not easy to find here in Serramonacesca.

Abbazia di San Liberatore a Majella, Serramonacesca

I have been pondering this for a while.  If I can make my own creams and lotions from products that are all natural and good (and at a fraction of the commercial cost), then why can I not do the same for household products?  

This last month, a rather wet spring with a number of rainy days have given the opportunity of enforced inside labour.  So I surfed and shopped and experimented, and found we can do it and cheaply too.  Cheaper, in fact, than using commercial chemical products.  Here’s how, and how much it costs (details of where to purchase are at the end):

Universal Detergent from Solara

This wonder product is completely biodegradable and can be mixed and used for almost anything.  

It’s €4.50 a litre, is super concentrated and unperfumed.  

This is how I’m diluting and mixing it for household cleaning and laundry:

Large surfaces cleaning (€0.02 per litre - yes, really!)

15ml diluted in 4 litres of water = €0.02 per litre.  No brainer.

It works, its good.  Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and you're away.  Lavender, geranium, peppermint, tea tree, lemon, all enhance the cleaning properties and smell delicious too.

Small surfaces cleaning (€1.15 / 500ml)

Popped in a spritzer, 50% dilute and you have a kitchen cleaner, bathroom cleaner and just about anything else cleaner for only €1.15 for a 500ml spray.

Again, mix & match with essential oils, different ones for the kitchen, different ones for the bathroom, drop some citronella in for the kitchen one and help keep the pesky bugs at bay too.

Further dilute it and you've got yourselves a furniture cleaner.

Washing the dishes (€0.46 / 500ml)

Buy an eco washing up liquid from the supermarket (I used Winni's bought from Conad for €1.32 per 500ml) and mix it with Solara's Universal Detergent diluted for large surfaces (as above).   Use two thirds Solara, one third Winni's and, bingo, you've got a pretty effective washing up liquid that cuts through grease at low temperatures for €0.46 for 500ml.

Damned kind to the hands too.

Now this little baby is totally gorgeous.  Pure soap flakes of the gentlest kind, lightly scented with rose.  All natural and not an animal fat or chemical in sight.  Beautiful used on their own, and I will certainly spoil myself from time to time (loads of information on the Marsiglia soap below), but I needed to bring the cost down.

I mixed one third soap flake solution (soap flakes dissolved in a small amount of hot water) with two thirds Solara (diluted for large surface cleaning, ie 15ml Solara in 1 litre of water), filled the dosing ball supplied with the soap flakes, gave it a go and, by jiminy, it worked.  Not only did the wash come out sweet smelling and clean, but it was soft too.

Used with a cube of Marsiglia (see below) for rubbing on stubborn stains and you have the perfect solution.  Doing the laundry becomes an absolute pleasure.  

No going back for me.

Il Marsiglia - Natural Soap from Marseille

The picture is not complete without a little information (or a lot) about sapone di Marsiglia, of which I cannot believe I have gone all these years without.

Il Marsiglia is soap from Marseille, and is about as natural as it’s possible to get.  It’s made only from vegetable oils, soda, water and sodium chloride (normal salt).  It is therefore truly hypoallergenic, 100% biodegradable and completely free of the fragrances, preservatives, animal fats, petroleum and other synthetics found in commercial soaps.  

What is more, it is a completely universal cleanser as it can be used gently, safely and effectively for both yourself and your house. 

Seven good reasons for using Marseille Soap:

  • All cleaning needs, of the person and household, can be met
  • Little expense achieves great results
  • Completely biodegradable
  • The scent is delicious, yet never intrusive
  • This soap is not tested on animals
  • Antiseptic properties
  • Natural repellent for pests of people and animals

Two Types

Each true Marseille manufacturer has its own recipes and many "secrets", but substantially the soaps can be divided into two types:

“The Green”

Dark green in colour that comes from the olive oil that it is made with.  “The Green” is definitely the most suitable for personal hygiene, but can also be used for hand or machine washing, or as universal cleanser.

“The White”

More clear with a slight cream or beige tint.  It is made ​​from seed oils (palm, peanut or coconut).  This type is recommended for hand or machine washing, or as a neutral detergent.

The properties & uses of Marseille Soap

The extent of this product can only be fully appreciated when we start to look at its properties and uses.  Whoever thinks that Marseille soap should only be used for washing clothes, will be amazed to discover how many of their current products can be thrown away in favour of a bar of Marseille.

Personal Hygiene

Bolognano swimming hole, Valle dell'Orta, Abruzzo
The “Green", based on olive oil, is perfect for all aspects of personal hygiene and leaves your skin feeling clean and fresh and with the delicate aroma that is characteristic of this soap.  

It rinses easily and can be used by the whole family.  

Eating arrosticini, Serramonacesca, Abruzzo

Being hypoallergenic it is also suitable for the little ones and those with the most sensitive skin.  

With its known bactericidal effect it is also effective against parasites, and regular use can benefit those with skin problems, such as eczema or acne.

As an exfoliant, well lathered into an exfoliating glove the Marseille can be effective for the removal of dead skin cells, leaving the body silky and shiny.


Used with a good (ideally badger hair) shaving brush and very hot water, lathering the area to be shaved until you get a soft foam softens the hair making it easier to shave and allows the blade to flow beautifully. 

Hand washing

Sheep, Passo Lanciano, Abruzzo
Being an effective, yet gentle, cleanser the Marseille can be used on any fabric, even the most delicate, such as wool, silk and lace.  

All you need do is lather the soap directly onto the clothes, rub and rinse.  If you’d like to leave the clothes to soak, simply grate the soap into flakes (or buy a bag of the soap already flaked) and dissolve about 10 grams of soap to 5 litres of warm water.    

In the washing machine

Drying washing, Abruzzese style.
The soap flakes can be used in the washing machine either alone or, as I do, mixed with another (biodegradable) detergent which gives a more cost effective solution.

It is recommended to always use a dosing ball placed directly into the drum as this gives a more even distribution of soap, increases its effectiveness and reduces the amount required.

Revive shoes

Winter shoes!  Serramonacesca, Abruzzo
If your shoes (even those with leather parts) have reached the point of no return, you can make them look like new by leaving them to soak overnight in a solution of 1 tablespoon of soap flakes and 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 5 litres of warm water.  After soaking, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry in the shade.

Shine your jewellery

Soak your gold and silver in a solution of 1 tablespoon of soap flakes dissolved in 1 litre of hot water.  After a quick rinse your jewellery will shine like new. (Should not be used ​with pearls, coral, bone or ivory.)

Clean and soften brushes

After cleaning paint brushes with the appropriate solvent leave them to soak for a few hours in warm water saponified with Marseille.  Just let them dry, no need to rinse.  Soap is great protection for the bristles and keeps them soft.  Even works for make-up brushes.

Leather cleaner

Shoes, handbags, furniture, biker suits, etc. The leather can be cleaned with a brush or a cloth soaked in Marseille soap.  After washing, rinse and allow to dry slowly (never in the sun)

Tile cleaner

Kitchen and bathroom tiles clean well and quickly with a Marseille soapy sponge. If dirt has accumulated in the grouting, prepare a cream of equal amounts of soap flakes and baking soda and dilute with a little water.  Apply with a brush, leave for at least an hour and rinse.


The majority of the floors, including wood, can be cleaned effectively and without rinsing with a weak solution of Marseille. Once dry the soap leaves the floor shiny, unlike many detergents.  (Test on a small area first to check the compatibility of Marseille with your floor.)

Perfuming & protecting clothes

A cube of Marseille (or a bag of flakes) when placed inside cabinets or drawers will release its fragrance for a long time.  You can also use the “scented” versions.  Your fabrics will also be protected against moths and pests .

Plants and flowers

Tomato growing, Kokopelli Camping, Serramonacesca

Aphids can be easily combated by spraying the plants with a solution of 5-10 grams of flakes dissolved in a litre of water.  The parasites will disappear and the effect will be long lasting. 

Antique restoration

Due to its absolute absence of synthetic chemicals, solvents, fragrances and preservatives, Marseille soap is often used by restorers to remove dirt from walls, furniture, wood, frescoes, paintings, etc

The Alento, Serramonacesca

Where to buy:  provided the majority of the info above and sells all the products listed.  

The website is only in Italian, let me know if you need help ordering.  

If anyone locally (Abruzzo) would like to avoid the delivery charges for orders under €60, let me know as I'm happy to do combined orders.

Looking down from Mammarosa, Parco Nazionale della Majella, Abruzzo

Thursday, 15 May 2014


It's not every night you go to the bar and come home with a piglet.  Poor little porker had been hit by a car and was on the side of the road looking very poorly indeed.

We picked him up and carried him home.

We didn't expect him to still be alive in the morning, but he is.  He's still rather poorly, but is snorting and has shown he can be a feisty little chap.  Just taken a bit of milk from a bottle too.  

Whether he'll still be alive tomorrow, who knows, but we'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Most Divine Strawberry Jam in the World

It's not often I get involved in recipes (or cooking for that matter), leave that to the experts, but this really is THE MOST DIVINE STRAWBERRY JAM IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.  And it's sooooo quick & easy it can be made on any camping trip, by the kids too.

Breakfast, brunch, tea, supper, or just because.

When I saw all the bright scarlet, juicily ripe strawberries piled chin dribblingly high at the market, I absolutely could not resist buying a kilo and getting the jam bucket out.

This has got to be the easiest and best recipe EVER.  Jamie Oliver, as annoying as ever, has to be given credit.  All I did was swap his vanilla pod for the zest and juice of a lemon.

Make it, you won't regret it & will love me forever.


Fruttapec: 1kg fruit, 500g sugar, 1 sachet
Zest & juice of half a large lemon
1kg ripe strawberries (washed & leafy tops removed)
500g high pectin sugar (jam sugar) or, as I did, 500g sugar & 1 sachet of Fruttapec


Sterilize your jars & lids (approx 4 x 400ml jam jars)
Put the strawberries, lemon, sugar & Fruttapec in a saucepan.  Mash it all up with a potato masher, leaving a few chunky bits to get your teeth into.
Place the pan on a medium heat, bring it to the boil, leave it boiling for about 1 minute, then simmer for about 5.
Take it off the heat, and skim any foam from the top and leave it to cool a little.
Spoon the jam into your jars, put on the lids, and turn them upside down to cool.
Spread thickly on your morning toast, add a dollop of mascarpone (just because you can), eat and smile :-)

All ready for the Kokopelli Shop (if we haven't eaten it all first)

Saturday, 15 February 2014


In the Footsteps of the Hermits

It's February, the sun is shining and it's beautifully warm, but the leaves have yet to appear and the bracken, brambles and grasses are still brown and lying flat from the winter's snows.  What better time to seek out the ancient trails.  By summer, they will be gone.  Hidden once more by the lush growth and greenness that characterises Abruzzo.

Within a 10km radius from our little spot in Serramonacesca (the land of the monks) you can find tucked amongst the hills of the Majella the Eremo of San Onofrio, the Abbey of San Liberatore, the Castel Menardo, the Torre Polegra and the cascading waters of the Alento river.  An area rich in history, monks and hermits.  

Getting off the beaten track, you find evidence of ancient lives all over these hills.  There are caves, clearly once the dwellings of hermits, all have spectacular views down and across the valley, and all with water courses nearby; there are old trails worn smooth from the many feet that have passed their way, and there are signs of the land having been tilled and managed.  And nobody knows they're there.  All except us, and a few local hunters and foragers.  

A intensely spiritual place for sure.

Within sight of the Torre Polegra

Warm, protected, hidden
A bed carved at the back

A room with a view
and an en-suite bathroom.

Follow the valley further down,
taking care over the sheer drops and steep gorges,
look closely or you'll miss it.
Clear some undergrowth, and there it is.
 Another cave hidden away
Another view
Another bathroom
Another life.

These are trails that you won't find in any guide book or map, they are not easy to find or easy to access.  But if you come and stay, and don't mind a bit of a scramble, we'll show you the way if you promise to keep it a secret.

Where we are:
Who we are:  

Further reading:

The Eremo of San Onofrio:
Castel Menardo & the Torre Polegra:
The Abbey of San Liberatore:
The Alento River: