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A Beautiful Land in the very Heart of the Italian Peninsula
Abruzzo is a region in central Italy that faces the Adriatic sea and offers a variety of culture, activities and scenery for lovers of both mountain and sea.
By: Massimo Desiati
Panoramic View Duca degli Abruzzi
The mix of outstanding natural environment and the stamp of the cultural contamination of the peoples who have crossed it – from Romans to Lombards, Normans and Spanish – produced a unique heritage, made up of archaeology, architecture and tradition. Ancient necropolises, like Fossa, the Stonehenge of Abruzzo, Roman settlements such as Alba Fucens, Romanesque churches, Benedictine abbeys, some beautifully set near the sea like S. Giovanni in Venere, and others in silently isolated mountainous areas as S. Liberatore a Majella form its considerable historical patrimony.

In Roccascalegna is situated one of the legendary Abruzzo castles. Scanno, among the numerous still authentic medieval villages, has particularly impressed the famous photographer Henry Cartier-Bresson. In the 1930’s, the graphic designer and “artist of the impossible” M. Cornelius Escher has been inspired by the mountain village Castrovalva.

Abruzzo was also a destination of the Grand Tour especially during the 18th and 19th century, when artists and wealthy noblemen completed their education with a travel period through European countries. The British, in particular, were lured to Italy and Abruzzo: Richard Colt Hoare, Keppel Richard Craven, Edward Lear and many more. In Civita D’Antino, the famous Danish painter Kristian Zahrtmann has even established a school for Scandinavian artists.

The extraordinarily beautiful village Santo Stefano di Sessanio, after extensive restoration works carried out with respect to architectural and cultural characteristics, has become famous well beyond Italian borders.

Castles, monasteries and medieval villages have attracted the interest of foreign property investors, who acquired entire villages as they discovered Abruzzo untouched nature and bargain home prices. Most Britons have chosen to buy their home and live in Abruzzo so that, in some quarters, this area earned the nickname of “Abruzzoshire”.

Abruzzo preserves a rich historic and religious heritage, therefore, numerous traditional feasts and festivals take place in which Christian faith and paganism survive such as the rite of the snake-catchers in Cocullo, the Easter celebration “Virgin Mary running through the square” in Sulmona.

Gastronomy in Abruzzo is a mixture of different tastes, where culinary traditions of shepherds and peasants flank those of fishermen. Besides, the geographical configuration of the Abruzzo territory and its mild climate have traditionally had great influence on wine culture and winegrowing conditions in this area, where D.O.C. wines have won many international prices: the list includes Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano and Cerasuolo.

Some of the traditional home-made dishes are the famous pasta alla chitarra, (sheets of pasta dough are pushed through a wooden loom with thin steel threads, the so-called guitar), the excellent arrosticini, thin mutton skewers grilled over charcoal and “ferratelle”, aniseed wafers cooked in a red-hot waffle iron over an open fire.

Gran Sasso: seen from Chieti
Abruzzo is also called the “Tibet of Europe” because it boasts the highest peaks in the Apennines: Corno Grande in the Gran Sasso mountains, Monte Amaro in the Majella mountains and Monte Velino, perfect places for hermitages set like jewels in the rock surrounded by the wild nature that drew Joseph Beuys and inspired his work “The defence of nature”.

Of all the European regions Abruzzo has the largest part (one third) of its surface covered by protected areas. It has a system of four extensive parks with a great variety of different habitats, and a rich and manifold flora and fauna. The vegetation, which varies relating to its altitude and exposition from the groom to the black pine, includes the violet flowers of Crocus Sativus from which the precious Abruzzo saffron is collected.

A dense network of oases and nature reserves, home to golden eagles, chamois, wolves, and in the innermost depths, Marsicano bears, where plateaux, alternate with beech-woods, waterfalls, and lakes, makes Abruzzo the ideal place for any true nature lover. Winter sports and leisure activities such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, kayak, are available as well as a wide range of accomodations: Hotels, Bed&Breakfasts, campsites, resorts, farm-holidays facilities.

The landscape full of mountain meadows, deep canyons, streams, forts has often been used as the backdrop for a number of western, and many other movies such as ’Ladyhawke’ with Michelle Pfeiffer.

The extraordinary therapeutic virtues of Caramanico sulphurous waters, Canistro and Popoli oligomineral and bicarbonate waters have been known for centuries since Roman times but only in the last fifteen years Spas have developed and exploited mineral springs for their chemical properties.

We can see the well worn paths between Campo Imperatore Plateaux and Apulia along which the transhumance happened, that is the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep from the greener pastures of the Apennines to the Adriatic sea and to Apulia. In past centuries this ancient custom affected the entire economy of Abruzzo whose characteristic product is Pecorino cheese, which has also become an iconic product of Abruzzo.

Situated between the mountains and the sea, Abruzzo offers its visitors a rich and complete variety of architectural masterpieces. Together with Santa Maria di Collemaggio, where the hermit Pietro da Marrone became Pope with the name of Celestino V, other churches are famous throughout the world as Church of Santa Maria Maggiore built in 1227, where the Eucharistic Miracle is preserved, and the 12th century church of Santa Maria in Valle Porclaneta.

Besides, Abruzzo has a wide array in terms of museums: from the great collections of medieval art and archaeology, as the statue of the “Warrior of Capestrano”(4th century BC) which is preserved in the Archaeological Museum in Chieti, to Museum of Ceramics and Museum of Peasant Traditions and Arts.

In summertime sandy beaches and seaside resorts attract visitors as well as “the dolce vita” bustling with events and nightlife. To the north of Vasto gentle shores and sand dunes alternate with wonderful rocky inlets and pointed cliffs where the ancient “trabocchi”– small huts built on piles – evoke memories of the past. Memories that today are clothed in the charm of the words of Gabriele D’Annunzio, the poet that so loved this corner of Abruzzo.

Abruzzo offers not only 133 km of sandy beaches and many bathing resorts but also many equipped modern facilities and a wide choice of accommodations. Its fine cuisine, friendly people and natural beauty make Abruzzo an ideal place for a safe and smart holiday.

Information: –
International Airport Pescara:
Roman Amphitheatre



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