The Wild Heart of Italy
Abruzzo is a region in southern Italy known for its rugged mountain landscapes and beautiful national parks. Its coastline on the Adriatic Sea is also popular for its beaches and seafood cuisine.
Abruzzo – The Wild Heart of Italy
The central Italian region stretches over 10,794 km² east of Rome from the Adriatic coast to the Apennines. It is divided from north to south into the following four provinces:
Travellers to Abruzzo pass through landscapes that are as varied as they are spectacular, stretching between the high mountains and the coast in the heart of Italy. In this region are majestic mountain massifs with gigantic granite boulders, deep forests with unimagined biodiversity, hidden Romanesque churches adorned with precious frescoes, picturesque chains of hills, colourful vineyards and clean, endless Adriatic beaches.
The diverse region is a real insider tip and the big Italian tourism has still left it out, fortunately! In the past, people gave the area a wide berth for fear of wild animals, and today people travel here for exactly that reason: to explore the untouched nature and biodiversity in one of the large national parks, with the Gran Sasso being one of the special highlights!
Rugged peaks almost 3,000m high mark the highest points of the Gran Sasso. The largest national park in central Italy has arguably the most spectacular landscapes to offer: from the barren beauty of the vast “Campo Imperatore” plateau, named after the Staufer Emperor Frederick II, the mighty Gran Sasso itself, to the wooded “Monti della Laga” to the north. The park is also a refuge for bears, wolves, lynxes and countless other animals.
The “Parco Nazionale della Majella” inland is wild and the mountain range of the same name dominates it. In the far south lies the magnificent “Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise” with vast beech forests and picturesque villages.
Towns with flair and ancient churches
But Abruzzo does not only offer wild nature! Even in the most remote mountainous areas, you will discover a whole series of small towns worth seeing and some of the most beautiful villages in Italy (“Borghi piu belli d’Italia”). The Ovid town of Sulmona on the edge of the Majella has kept much of its charm among historic buildings. The magnificent baroque town of Pescocostanzo is just a stone’s throw away at an altitude of almost 1,400m. Halfway to Rome is the tranquil town of Tagliacozzo, where a battle in 1268 ended the rule of the Hohenstaufen dynasty.
The massive Renaissance fortress of Civitella del Tronto sits enthroned amidst the hilly landscapes that stretch between the mountain massifs to the Adriatic Sea. Within sight are the beautiful town of Atri, with its important cathedral, and the ancient Roman city of Chieti, which is home to the Abruzzo National Museum of Archaeology.
The most beautiful churches of rural Italy can be found in Abruzzo – Romanesque masterpieces with incredibly fine ornamentation, expressive reliefs and ancient colourful frescoes, which make the hearts of art lovers beat faster. Even Pope Benedict XVI has been on several private visits to some of the places of worship!
The Adriatic beaches – Blue flags and decorated with trabocchi
Hardly any other Italian region has been able to collect as many “Blue Flags” (Bandiere Blu) as Abruzzo in recent years! The award of the European Union ennobles particularly clean and intact stretches of coastline. The Adriatic beaches are therefore extremely popular with the Italians themselves, which is why they can get quite crowded in high summer.
A special highlight in the south of Abruzzo is the Trabocchi: The pile dwellings that stand in the sea with their overhanging fishing nets and poles. The fishermen’s huts have been used for fishing since the Middle Ages and give the coastal section between Pescara, Vasto and San Salvo the name “Costa di Trabocchi.” This area is a dream destination for painters and photographers!
The cuisine of Abruzzo – committed to tradition
Livestock farming is one of the centuries-old traditions of the region and has greatly influenced the hearty cuisine of Abruzzo. The lamb kebabs “Arrosticini” are a kind of national dish. And sheep plays a decisive role in Abruzzo’s cuisine in other ways too: whether for warm lamb innards on the starter plate or the ricotta in the dessert. Chilli peppers, which are often hung on the windows to dry, are a popular spice. The famous saffron from Navelli near the capital L’Aquila has been grown here since the 15th century. And the wines of Abruzzo, such as the red “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo”, are increasingly gaining international recognition and have long stood up in comparison with other regions of Italy!