Abruzzo travel guide

Abruzzo is without a doubt one of the most beautiful regions of Italy in terms of natural scenery. Until 1963, it formed one region with Molise, called the Abruzzi. The region suffers a lot from earthquakes and a few years ago a large part of the capital L’Aquila was destroyed.

All about Abruzzo

Provinces Abruzzo

Abruzzo is divided into 4 provinces, namely L’Aquila, Chieti, Pescara and Teramo. The region is best known for its mountainous landscape in the province of L’Aquila. In the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise there are ancient forests. East of Avezzano, there is an extensive plain. The coastline is sandy and flat and fairly uniform.

Cities

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The most famous and for tourists most interesting cities in Abruzzo are L’Aquila and Sulmona. Pescara is the most famous coastal town and also the largest city in terms of population. It is especially busy during the summer months. L’Aquila was a thriving and very beautiful city before the earthquake struck. Unfortunately, years later, the city has still not been rebuilt. Chieti sits on a hill near Pescara and is a fairly prosperous, but less interesting city. Teramo has a small historic center and is slightly more beautiful. On many hilltops are castles and small, sometimes completely deserted, very picturesque villages. In total, there are 305 towns and villages in the region.

Abruzzo’s most beautiful cities

L’Aquila

L’Aquila is the capital of both the province of the same name and the entire region of Abruzzo. Unfortunately, much of the center of this beautiful city was destroyed by an earthquake in 2009.

Sulmona

Sulmona is the third largest city in the province of L’Aquila. It is nestled among the mountains and has a beautiful medieval town center. As the central transportation hub of the province, it is also a good base for getting to know Abruzzo.

Beaches

The coastline of Abruzzo is just over 130 kilometers long. The northern part, between the mouths of the Tronto and the Foro, is sandy. Further south, starting from Ortona, it slowly becomes rockier, with the Punta del Cavalluccio and the Punta Adreci as the most striking places. This part is mainly characterized by shell beaches. Closer to the border with the Molise region the beaches are of a sandier variety.

The best known coastal cities are: Pescara | Martinsicuro | Alba Adriatica | Tortoreto Lido | Giulianova | Roseto degli Abruzzi | Pineto | Silvi Marina | Montesilvano | Francavilla al Mare | Ortona | Fossacesia Marina | Lido di Casalbordino | Marina di Vasto | San Salvo Marina.

Nature reserves Abruzzo

The various nature reserves are the main attraction of the Abruzzo region. In the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise, bears and chamois can be seen walking through the beech forests and across the plateaus. This park has been in existence since 1922 and has the Valle del Sangro as its centerpiece.

The second famous nature reserve is the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso-Monti della Laga. It is here that the highest peaks in Italy can be seen. The biggest attraction is the Campo Imperatore plateau. The natural park is located partly in Lazio and partly in neigboring Le Marche.

The Parco Nazionale della Maiella is located entirely in Abruzzo and is characterized by rocky valleys. In addition to bears and chamois, it is mainly the varied fauna that stands out here.

The Parco Regionale Sirente-Velino includes the massive mountain range between L’Aquila and Sulmona and the area known as the Marsica. On Monte Velino the griffon vulture has been reintroduced.

In total, more than 30 percent of the region consists of protected natural areas. In addition to the In total, more than 30 percent of the region consists of protected natural areas. In addition to the above, there are about 20 parchi nazionali.

The best known mountains are the Maiella and the Gran Sasso.

Churches and convents

The region is also characterized by the many small monasteries that have been built there over the centuries, especially in the valleys. Large abbeys were also constructed along the main roads. These were very powerful and ensured that agriculture in the region was developed. The most famous ones were the San Clemente in Casauria and the Santa Maria Arabona and San Liberatore Abbey in Maiella. Of the first Cistercian Abbey in the area, the Santa Maria di Casanova, almost nothing remains.

It is also due to the presence and influence of these abbeys that even the smallest churches in the most remote places are graces with beautiful frescoes and other artworks. Examples are the San Pietro ad Oratorium in Santa Maria di Ronzano and the San Pellegrino Church in Bomaco.

Every year, 2 ½ million people still visit the Santuario di San Gabriele at the foot of the Gran Sasso. The church of this monastery, consecrated by John Paul II in 1985, can accommodate 10 thousand visitors at a time. Other pilgrimage churches include the Miracolo Eucaristico Monastery of Lanciano, the Santuario del Volto Santo in Manoppello and the Madonna dei Miracoli Monastery in Casalbordino.

Castles

According to the official list, there are as many as 520 castles in Abruzzo. These are generally built near towns along the main communication routes. One of the most famous castles in Italy is that of Civitella del Tronto. The castle of L’Aquila is the seat of a number of different museums and the one in Celano houses the Museo d’Arte Sacra della Marsica. The Castello Cantelmo in Pacentro and the ruins of the one in Rocca Calascio are also worth visiting. The castle of Roccascalegna is built on a picturesque rock. The castle of Crecchio is the seat of the Museo dell’Abruzzo Bizantino e Altomedioevo. Other castles, including those of Balsorano and Loreto Aprutino, have been converted into luxury hotels.

Folk and other festivals Abruzzo

The most famous festival in Abruzzo is the folk festival of the so-called serpari, held every year on the first Thursday of May. The venue is Cocullo and the festivities are dedicated to Sant’Antonio Abate. However, the tradition of these snake charmers is 25 centuries old and dates back to the time when a people called the Marsi settled here.

In Fara Filiorum Petri, on January 16, the feast day of Sant’Antonio Abate is celebrated by lighting torches (farchi). This tradition is similar to that in several small municipalities in the Apennines and on the Adriatic coast.

On May 8, a procession is held in Balsarano that leads to the Grotta Sant’Angelo. The procession takes place in honor of San Michele Arcangelo. This tradition also goes back to an older variant. Until the early Middle Ages, the cult of Heracles was celebrated in the same grottoes.

The literary and theatrical events are of such a nature that one actually has to speak Italian to get any benefit from them. The biggest musical events that take place each year are Pescara Jazz, Vasto Jazz and the Tortoreto Blues Festival. Vasto also hosts an annual organ festival, as well as an event dedicated to reggae and Bob Marley.

Traveling Abruzzo by car

There are a number of freeways that pass through the region. The most important one is the Roma-L’Aquila-Teramo (A24), which also passes through the Gran Sasso Tunnel. The A25 goes from coast to coast, connecting Rome to Pescara. Part of the A14, which runs all the way from southern Italy to Turin, runs along the Adriatic coast. The A14, the A24 and the A25 are all toll roads. The region is further traversed by a number of “superstreets”, which connect the most important small towns. The smallest hamlets can often only be reached via poorly maintained roads. This lack of convenience is however compensated by the beautiful scenery.

Public transportation

It is very easy to travel by train along the Adriatic coast. The larger cities are on the Bologna-Bari line, while the smaller towns are connected by regional trains. From Rome there is a direct connection to Pescara, with stops at Avezzano, Sulmona and Chieti. Whoever is not in a hurry can travel to Carpinone on the extremely slow, but very scenic train from Rieti via L’Aquila, Sulmona and Castel di Sangro. The route passes through three of the region’s most important national parks (Gran Sasso, Maiella and Parco d’Abruzzo).

The company TUA provides most of the bus connections between the larger and smaller towns in the region. In some places, other private companies also operate. As everywhere in Italy, the company Flixbus is very active in Abruzzo.

The main airport is in Pescara, which is used by RyanAir (from Charleroi).

A brief history of Abruzzo

Ancient history

The Marsi were the first tribe to live in Abruzzo. They had a reputation as witches and snake charmers. Like the other tribes settling in the area soon afterward, they orginated from central Italy. Examples are the Sabines, the Equi and the Peligni, who settled near what is now L’Aquila. The Pentri and the Caracini settled in the Sangro area, the Vestini near the Adriatic coast, the Pretuzzi and Picentini in the Teramo area, the Marrucini near Pescara and the Frenatani around Chieti.

From 304 BC several of these tribes allies themselves with Rome. Colonies were created in the area and the consular road Via Tiburtina Valeria brought prosperity to the settlements along its route. (Initially this road only reached as far a Tivoli, but was then prolonged all the way to Pescara.)

Under the Emperor Augustus, who reigned from 27 BC till 14 AD, the area was divided into two parts. The IV Regio (Sabina et Samnium) was the part closest to Rome and comprised parts of what are now Molise and Latium. The V Regio (Piceno) was the southern part of present day Abruzzo.

Middle ages

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Goths and the Lombards invaded the area. Most of Abruzzo was annexed by the Duchy of Spoleto, a small part went to the county of Benevento.

The next invaders were the Franks, who completely exterminated the previous occupiers. In 1140, the Normans, under Ruggero II conquered Abruzzo. Then it was the turn of Frederick II of Swabia. Under the latter, many castles were destroyed, but others were constructed. It was under Frederick that the territory of Abruzzo got its present borders.

In the meantime, the Benedict order had started building monasteries in the area.

After the defeat of the last descendent of the Swabians, Corradino, Charlese II of Anjou divided the territory into two halves, with the river Pescara in the middle. Both L’Aquila and Sulmona were important trading posts along the road between the Kingdom of Naples and central Italy. As a result, a period of prosperity started. The wealthier and more important aristocratic families had impressive mansions built in the cities they governed.

This lasted until the early 15th century. The House of Anjou was defeated by the House of Aragon, the area was hit by multiple earthquakes and bands of brigands started ransacking the territory.

After the Middle Ages

This situation hardly changed in the next three centuries. Spanish domination brought a period of decay to Abruzzo. There was a lot of bureaucracy and trade was virtually non-existent. The territory was again split up, this time into Abruzzo Ulteriore I and II (more or less present day L’Aquila and Teramo).

In 1707 the Austriand conquered central Italy, but were booted out again in 1734 by Charles of Bourbon.

In the 19th century Abruzzo played a big role in the Risorgimento fights for the Unification of Italy. Having achieved its aim, the newly created Kingdom put an end to the still existing banditry in the area and improved its infrastructure.

Still, poverty remained and the early 20th century was a period of depopulation. Young people left for the big cities (and often to the United States) to find work and/or an education. This trend continued during the rest of the century, also as a result of more poverty caused by the two world wars. Since the last one, at least the bigger cities have gained some prosperity.

Latest news Abruzzo

The 2022 winter sales in the Abruzzo region are from January 6th till March 5th.

Abruzzo, Italy

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