Despite its central location and proximity to Rome, Abruzzo is one of Italy’s least known and populated regions – a spectacular and harmonious blend of snowy mountains, grassy plains and forested canyons; of hillside olive groves, vineyards and long sandy beaches. Its natural riches are protected in three national parks, one regional park and many smaller reserves. Thousands of years of history are reflected in a multitude of abandoned castles, hilltop villages and ancient farmsteads; religious dedication echoed in splendid abbeys, silent churches and remote hermitages.
It’s a wonderful place to get to know. The Abruzzesi are resourceful, respectful and welcoming people – with a sure view of their global future but a firm sense of their history and tradition. Neither northern nor southern, the spirit of Abruzzo is its own.
The wild and high Apennine ridges form the grain of the land. Two thirds of the area is mountainous and one third is protected. The claim to be the greenest region in Europe is well founded.
Ancient sheep droves run hundreds of kilometres from the coastal plain of Puglia northwards into the mountain pastures of Abruzzo – the routes of the great bi-annual migration of flocks and shepherds known as the transumanza.
The mountains are home to marvellous and rare plants and animals. The highest peaks in Italy outside of the Alps are here, their slopes supporting ski resorts and an extensive network of summer trekking and mountain biking trails. The mountains fall to the Adriatic, the intervening hills covered in vines, olives and orchards; the coastline itself is developed with resorts offering warm, safe bathing – beach bars, sun shades and loungers as far as you can see.
The region is divided into four provinces, each named after its capital town – L’Aquila, Chieti, Pescara and Teramo. L’Aquila is also the seat of regional government and Abruzzo’s cultural centre. Its university can trace its roots back over 500 years. It’s a refined and beautiful city situated high on the flanks of the Gran Sasso mountains but currently recovering well from the devastating earthquake of Easter 2009. The largest settlement, though, is relatively modern Pescara where over 120,000 live in new apartment blocks and villas on the long Adriatic shore.
Nineteen of Abruzzo’s villages have been designated amongst the most beautiful in Italy, the third highest number of all the regions of the country. Pettorano Sul Gizio, the comune we belong to, is one of them and is one of the best.
Abruzzo remains a largely unfashionable corner of Italy and the better for it. Spared overwhelming touristic icons (no leaning tower or grand baroque fountain) it has revealed itself slowly to the outside world. Development is at a steady pace. There are manufacturing industries, motorway connections, a large coastal city (favoured holiday spot of Italians), sophisticated restaurants and modern shopping malls but, mostly, low key. What can’t escape your attention though is empty mountainous countryside – a magnificent unspoilt landscape to savour and explore.