Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 17, 2023

Guardiagrele, come for the view, stay for the cake

Guardiagrele was named la terrazza d’Abruzzo (the terrace of Abruzzo) by poet Gabrielle d’Annunzio. It sits in the foothills of the Maiella mountain in the Provence of Chieti in Abruzzo, in central Italy. We stayed in the town for a couple of days to visit a friend of my son.

The stunning Santa Maria Maggiore is the biggest church in Guardiagrele. The facade is 14th century gothic.



The Coronation of the Virgin sculpture in the portal lunette is attributed to the school of Nicola di Guardiagrele.

Under the colonnaded portico, next to the side door, is the fresco by Andrea De Litio (1473) portraying Saint Christopher.


I liked the little chap in the alcove off to one side.

The bell arrangement on top of the church are quite unusual.

We were in town the weekend of the La Rocca festival. It was great to see the town filled with people enjoying the fun.

We woke up Sunday morning to see the piazza below us filled with a market.

The views from the terrace with the market are lovely.

Delightful Alessio and his lovely partner organised lunch at their favourite restaurant. The food was delicious.

After lunch they took us a little higher to a plateau near Pennepiedmonte with stunning views.

There is a tiny shepherd’s shelter on the side of the mountain.

There was a memorial nearby to Andrea Bafile (1878-1918) a Lieutenant during WWII. He was awarded a post-mortem Gold Medal for Military Valor.

Now for the cake. Sise delle Monache (nun’s breasts) is a speciality from Guardiagrele. It is a 2 layer sponge cake that is filled with custard. It is often served together with a brush to dust the icing sugar sprinkled on top of the cake off your clothes.

It is said to refer to the 3 nearby mountains, Gran Sassi d’Italia, Maiella and Sirente-Velino. It was mischievously transformed to “nun’s tits” by a person who noticed some especially whitened cakes and decided they resembled nun’s breasts. There are a couple of other explanations, but the cakes have become a treasured speciality of the town.

There is said to be a statue of the cake, but we could not find it after considerable searching. We had to make do with the small one outside the shop where you can buy them.

Here is the real thing. Alessio made sure we got to sample this delectable sweet treat.

A brushing off was required after eating.

Thank you to our lovely friends for a wonderful visit to your town.



  1. I would go there just to see and eat the cake, but I do like Gothic buildings over Rococo

    • Guardiagrele looks so interesting with the Gothic Church, features & bells (did they play while you were there?).
      The views & Memorial up in the mountains to the WW1
      veteran stunning. The markets, festival. delicious lunch (not to mention the unbelievable cakes) must have been a great time for your visit.

      • The bells chimed regularly while we were there and the town was very lively with the festival. The town seemed much loved by the locals.
        The cakes are delicious and a bit of fun.

    • It is a lovely town. The cakes are special…and delicious.

  2. We visited that stunning part of Abruzzo in 2019 and saw the beautiful village of Fara San Martino nearby where the pope has the exclusive pasta factory. I love Abruzzo!

    • This was my first visit to Abruzzo. The countryside is beautiful and the towns we visited were great. I will return.

  3. I think maybe only in Italy would they have such wonderful cakes and call them Nun’s Tits! That’s hilarious – I hope the nuns think so too

    • The cakes are popular in town. I think every town should have a special cake.

  4. The church is gorgeous, the town looks beautiful and the cake must be superb. Thank you for sharing.

    • The town is lovely and the cake is delicious.

  5. We have a very active and proud population of people from Guardiagrele here in the Philadelphia area. They are a very lively and hospitable group who frequently have big events to celebrate their homeland and their town.

    • I would be proud to be from that town too. It is delightful.

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