We briefly touched on Abruzzo as one of the overlooked regions of Italy worth visiting — its breath-taking landscapes and natural beauty not to be missed — so we return the spotlight again to take a deeper look at the surprisingly underrated central region.
With the Apennines to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east, Abruzzo has year-round access to both the surf and the turf. But while it doesn’t have the Big City appeal of places like Rome, or Milan, or Florence, Abruzzo’s cities of L’Aquila and Pescara certainly have their own unique energy.
L’Aquila, the capital city and surprisingly only the second largest in the region, boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage; while populous Pescara has a more modern appearance and a very chic chunk of riviera.
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Crisis, or opportunity
Over the past few decades the coastline has seen increased urbanization (especially in the Teramo and Chieti provinces) and a serious depopulation in the inlands as more and more people move to the new urban areas, hitting L’Aquila the hardest. It got to the point that the regional government ran campaigns offering relocation grants to attract Italians and EU citizens to move to certain villages in the four provinces in order to help sustain the population, spur business activity, and maintain local infrastructure that was falling into disrepair (at the time of publication it is unclear if this program is still being run).
Having said all that, as Abruzzo has managed to fly under the radar for so long the cost of property (and also the cost of living) there is not as high as it is in more popular regions, making it an attractive location for retirees or digital nomads who are seeking a more authentic experience of small-town life in Italy — especially if you are the type who enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and even skiing in the winter months.
Between the mountains and the sea
We previously mentioned the Majella National Park as a point of interest, but Abruzzo will leave you spoilt for choice with the abundance of national parks in the region, namely Abruzzo National Park, the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park. The region’s 80 miles of coastline is a draw for tourists in the summertime, and the mountainous areas are well-established ski resorts for winter sports for ski touring, snowboarding, and even dog-sledding.
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The region is also littered with Medieval and Renaissance hill towns, most of which are in the national parks and as a result are very well-preserved. There’s also the very scenic and incredibly charming Italian Trans-Siberian railway for some old-world travel escapism; it departs from Sulmona (grab some of the famous sugared almonds as an onboard snack) and returns on the same day, snaking its way through Abruzzo National Park and the Majella National Park.
We’d be remiss to talk about Abruzzo without mentioning the Abruzzese themselves: widely known to be kind and generous, they (and the region as a whole) were famously described by 19th century diplomat Primo Levi as “forte e gentile” (strong and gentle), and subsequently was adopted as the region’s motto. So if the natural wonders of Abruzzo doesn’t make you fall in love with it, then you can be sure the people themselves will.