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Skiing in Abruzzo

One of Italy’s poorer regions has a wealth of attractions for canny skiers, from gorgeous medieval towns to gourmet food

‘Are you sure you can ski here?” asked my friend Wolfie, looking around dubiously. We’d flown into Pescara on the Adriatic coast to be met by bright sunshine. Outside the terminal building, people were milling around in T-shirts. We were heading to the Abruzzo, a mountainous region around 50 miles east of Rome, but not commonly known as a ski destination beyond the local market, and not offered by British ski operators. We put on our sunglasses and waited nervously for our ride.

“Pope John Paul II used to ski here,” I told Wolfie.

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Bardsey: nothing to do and a great place to do it

No TVs, no cars, no telephones, and next to no people. That’s Bardsey Island

‘Lilac bin bags – you must live somewhere posh.” Colin the boatman eyed the bags, courtesy of Oxford city council, that sealed my supplies for the journey across to Bardsey Island. I’d followed the pre-trip instructions to the letter, including the watertight bin bags and the ominous advice to “bring more food than is required for a week, as occasionally the weather may prevent the boat from crossing”. Apparently, bad weather can mean up to a third of boat trips over the notoriously treacherous Bardsey Sound don’t run.

My crossing did take place but only because the vet and a local farmer needed to reach Bardsey – Ynys Enlli in Welsh – which lies off the far tip of the Llyn peninsula in north-west Wales. The regular service for day trippers had been cancelled. So, clutching my bottle of wine to my chest (it was my only company for the stay, and so needed to survive the journey intact), I bumped over the rough seas for the 20-minute crossing, watching the seabirds dive-bombing into the waves.

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