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Abruzzo Travel Guide

Ruins of Rocca Calascio in the Apennines, Abruzzo (© sal - Fotolia.com)
Ruins of Rocca Calascio, the highest fortress in the Apennines, Abruzzo.

Introduction

Taking up a good part of the Central Apennines, Abruzzo is one of the most mountainous regions in Italy, as well as one of the greenest. Roughly half of the region is taken by natural reserves, including two national parks. The symbol of the region is the Abruzzo Chamois. Other common animals include brown bears, wolves, deer, lynx, roe deer, snow vole, fox, porcupine, wild cat, wild boar, badger, otters and vipers.

With a land area of 10,763 km² (4,156 sq mi), the region is slightly larger than Lebanon or Cyprus. Geographically belonging to Central Italy, Abruzzo is officially part of Southern Italy due to its historic association with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Although the region was impoverished until a few decades ago, it is now the wealthiest is Southern Italy in terms of GDP per capita.

Abruzzo doesn't have any big cities or compelling historical attractions, but it makes up for it with a plethora of picturesque mountain villages and some of the country's most stunning landscapes.

On 6 April 2009, earthquake of 5.8 on the Richter scale rattled L'Aquila, Abruzzo's regional capital, and the surrounding villages. Thousands of buildings in the medieval town were destroyed and nearly 300 people died, making it the deadliest earthquake in Italy since 1980. Some 65,000 people were left homeless for months.

The pasta maker De Cecco, considered by many Italians to be the best brand of pasta, is based in the village of Fara San Martino, on the eastern edge of the Maiella National Park.

Elio Di Rupo, the current Belgian Prime Minister, was born to immigrant parents from Abruzzo. He is the first and so far only head of government in Europe to be of 100% foreign ancestry.

Cuisine

Abruzzese cuisine blends elements of northern, central and southern Italian cuisines. It has been heavily influenced by the pastoral tradition of the Apennine Mountains, which cover over half of the region. Dishes are commonly flavoured with aromatic saffron and/or hot chili pepper.

Typical Abruzzese dishes include agnello casc' e ove (lamb stuffed with grated pecorino cheese and eggs), arrosticini (aka spierini or spidducc'; mutton skewers cooked on a brazier), gnocchi carrati (potato dumplings flavoured with bacon, eggs and pecorino cheese), maccheroni alla chitarra (narrow stripped pasta made on a guitar-like wooden box with strings, served with a sauce of tomato, bacon and Pecorino cheese), mozzarelline allo zafferano (small pieces of mozzarella cheese coated with a batter flavored with saffron), pastuccia (polenta stew with sausage, eggs, and cheese), scrippelle 'mbusse (crêpes stuffed with meat and vegetables and bathed in chicken broth), and spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and oil, sometimes also with dried red chilli flakes).

Sulmona is the home of the Italian confectionery known a confetti, sugar coated almonds (similar to dragées) that are traditionally given to friends and relatives on weddings and other special occasions.

Abruzzo is one of Italy's top wine producing regions, with an annual production of over 4 million hectolitres (twice more than Tuscany). 17% of the wines belong to one of the eight Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC). The region's most famous wine is Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, one of the most widely exported DOC wines in Italy. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is either a DOC or a DOCG (for wine produced around Teramo), and accounts for 80% of the DOC and all the DOCG production in Abruzzo.

Attractions

Attractions are listed geographically, from west to east (left to right) and north to south (top to bottom).

North-West

Gran Sasso National Park
Corno Piccolo (2665 m), Gran Sasso National Park (© maurosessanta - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Gran Sasso National Park.

Inside Gran Sasso National Park

Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Abruzzo (© luca manieri - iStockphoto.com)
very good Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte, Abruzzo (© stefanopagliuca - Fotolia.com)
very good Castel del Monte.

Other attractions

very good L'Aquila
very good Atri
very good Civitella del Tronto
good Rocca Calascio Fortress

West & South (Apennines)

Abruzzo National Park
Young chamois, Abruzzo National Park (© Excalibur - Fotolia.com)
must-see Abruzzo National Park.

Around Abruzzo National Park

Scanno
Scanno, Abruzzo (© Nyky - Fotolia.com)
very good Scanno.
Barrea
Barrea, Abruzzo (©  Tony - Fotolia.com)
very good Barrea.

Other attractions

good Alba Fucens (ruins)
good Avezzano - San Pelino
good Castel di Sangro
good Pietrasecca

Centre & East

Celano
Celano, Abruzzo (©  realphoto - Fotolia.com)
very good Celano Castle.

Around Maiella National Park

Roccacasale
Roccacasale, Abruzzo (© Ciaobucarest - Fotolia.com)
very good Roccacasale.
Pacentro
Pacentro, Abruzzo (©  realphoto - Fotolia.com)
very good Pacentro.

Other attractions

good Anversa degli Abruzzi
very good Bominaco
very good Casoli
very good Colledimezzo
very good Farindola
good Goriano Sicoli
very good Majella National Park
good Pescara
very good Sulmona
very good Villa Santa Maria

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Eupedia's Rating System

Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

  • : Moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
  • : Recommended - to visit if you have time
  • : Outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
  • : Best of the country - shouldn't be missed
  • : Best of Europe

Natural attractions

  • : Moderately interesting
  • : Recommended
  • : Highly recommended
  • : World-class natural attraction
  • ※ : UNESCO World Heritage site


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