An Introduction to Abruzzo, Italy
Abruzzo is a region of Center-South Italy divided into a mountainous area in the west, with the Apennines, and a coastal area in the east, facing the Adriatic Sea. Considered “Italy’s best-kept secret”, because it’s still off the tourist radar, Abruzzo is a fascinating region with unspoiled nature, uncontaminated national parks, and stunning coast.
Not by chance, Abruzzo is known as “the green lung of Europe”, perfect for visiting by everyone who loves spending time in nature. But the Abruzzo region also has magical medieval towns kept alive by strong traditions.
Things to See & Do in Abruzzo
Unmissable for its breathtaking natural landscapes, in Abruzzo you will be spoiled with choices when it comes to national parks to explore.
The Abruzzo, Lazio e and Molise National Park dislocates between the three namesake regions and is the spot to be for hiking, discovering the local wildlife, and skiing. The Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park is another must if you love mountain excursions, and it has the highest mountain in the Apennines, called the Big Horn.
Last but not least, the Majella National Park is one of the best preserved Apennine ecosystems, where you can enjoy waterfalls and canyons. Abruzzo mountains are blessed with incredible ski slopes and cozy mountain lodges that make for an unforgettable winter escape!
Abruzzo is also home to many of the best-preserved medieval and Renaissance villages and towns, several of which have been awarded as the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” (that means “the most beautiful towns in Italy”).
Among the towns to visit is L’Aquila, the region’s capital city. Home to Renaissance and Baroque buildings and churches, and a symphony orchestra, L’Aquila is the place to be for art lovers!
A perfect medieval village, Roccascalegna is gorgeous, with its 16-century castle perched on a limestone rock. The Castle in Roccascalegna is one of the 50 castles in the Abruzzo region, but it is one of the most impressive!
At the foot of the Majella is the town of Sulmona, where ancient history and a very special food tradition merge to delight every visitor. Birthplace of the Roman poet Ovid, Sulmona is also the cradle of the delicious “confetti”.
But Abruzzo is not only famous for its mountains. The region’s coast is dotted with the iconic “trabocchi”, the ancient wooden fisherman houses placed straight over the water on stilts. Several “trabocchi” are nowadays restaurants serving local dishes.
The coast stretches from Ortona to Vasto and is filled with beautiful beaches where you can relax and swim. If you are organizing a beach holiday, you shouldn’t miss Vasto, full of many beach resorts.
Secret Gems of Abruzzo
Nestled among the Gran Sasso and the Monti della Laga National Park is the gorgeous town of Castelli, an absolute must-visit for a product of local craftsmanship, the majolica. This version of decorative ceramics was appreciated and collected for centuries by the nobility of Europe.
What’s unique about majolica is the characteristic “pentacromia”, a five-color palette that composes the majolica’s hand-painted pieces. The town has plenty of factories and shops where you can learn about the making process of majolica and buy one to bring home.
Food & Drink of Abruzzo
Abruzzo’s diverse territory gives life to unique local products that are used to create a rich cuisine that will delight every palate.
If you are in the hinterland or the mountains, you will surely smell the fragrant odor of truffles, added to a wide range of dishes to uplift their flavors. Make sure to try the simple yet delicious agro-pastoral dishes, like the popular arrosticini, mutton/sheep skewers cooked on a special narrow grill.
Porchetta is another incredibly delicious meat dish that consists of slow-roasted pork, usually eaten like a sandwich.
If you love dairy products, Abruzzo produces the tasty Pecorino cheese that you can try in the dish Pallotte Cacio e Ove, fried cheese balls soaked in tomato sauce. Moving to Abruzzo’s coast, you will taste seafood dishes, like the Brodetto alla Vastese, an exquisite fish soup perfect for eating in a trabucco!
The maccheroni alla chitarra is Abruzzo’s favorite fresh pasta shape. This thin and squared spaghetti is particularly delicious with seafood. The confetti is a sweet eaten everywhere in Italy at weddings and other celebrations, like graduations.
A typical product from the Abruzzo town of Sulmona, the traditional confetti are simple sugared-coated almonds. However, you can find confetti in any imaginable flavor, like Nutella or tiramisù.
The most famous wine in Abruzzo is the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a classic and fragrant red wine.