Set on a knoll above the Sulmona plateau in the foothills of the Parco Nazionale della Majella, Pacentro is a gorgeous hill town, its three slim Renaissance towers evoking those of Tuscany's San Gimignano. It has never expanded far beyond its medieval boundaries and remains free of the unsightly modern sprawl that encircles some of its bigger neighbours. Largely off the standard tourist circuit and – unlike Pescocostanzo and Scanno – not affiliated with a ski resort, its pleasantly tangled streets remain quiet and authentic. It's a good place to mingle with the locals, taste home cooking in low-key trattorias, or use as a base for some nearby national park walks.
Of interest to modern visitors are the 14th-century Cantelmo Castle with its famous three towers, the mannerist-meets-baroque Chiesa Santa Maria della Misericordia, and a slew of grand nobles' houses that beautify the lanes between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Umberto I.