Abruzzo in central Italy has attracted many visitors over the years because of its snow season. However, most were European until recently.
The region is a world away form modern Italy and could soon be experiencing an international tourism boom.
Visitors are looking for less-known and undiscovered destinations as a result of rising incoming travel numbers in the country. Abruzzo is one such destination.
These include lakes, the Adriatic coast, national parks and imposing mountain ranges. They also have UNESCO heritage sites. There are some of the most stunning medieval towns in the country. The cuisine is varied and eclectic, with a focus on the mountains and the beach.
Many tourism operators and trailblazers are hard at work to make central Italy’s green area more visible.
Sulmona’s locals Katy Gorman, Susanna Iraci, and the provincial of L’Aquila run the Welcome to Sulmona Project, which is the only English guide to the region.
They offer more than just tips and advice.
Gorman says, “Abruzzo is a surprise.”
It is what most people want from an Italian vacation experience, but are unable to find in other destinations.
“In Sulmona we like to think that we are the jewel of Abruzzo’s crown, perfectly situated within reach of the Adriatic coast, the mountains and an enviable amount of national parks, protected areas.
Abruzzo is easy to access from Rome, and has its own airport in Pescara that serves major European, UK, and Italian cities.
These are 10 reasons to visit Italy’s next hot spot.
1. Abruzzi cuisine
This region is characterized by its mountainous and maritime borders. Fishing and farming are the region’s lifeblood.
It is evident that the cuisine varies from the coast where seafood is a mainstay to the inland regions where legumes, meat, especially pork, reign supreme.
Arrosticini are thin mutton skewers that are one of the most popular dishes in Italy. They are simply salted and flame-grilled and can be ordered at large family tables by the hundreds.
Abruzzo has a long history in pasta-making. It has been producing handmade spaghetti alla Chitarra for over 200 years.
This egg pasta variety is made by pushing it through a wooden contraption with stainless steel guitar-like strings.
Antico Pastificio Rosetano, Via Salara 9, Roseto degli Abruzzi is one of many historic pasta production companies in the region.
It produces the Verrigni brand, which uses water from Gran Sasso mountain ranges.
Francesca Petrei Castelli, Gaetano verrigni and Gaetano Verrigni are open to visitors for a visit that will allow them to learn more about the production process.
2. Culinary courses
Visitors to the region can sign up to a cooking school, or turn their trip into an entire culinary adventure.
Ezio Gentile, a Boston-based chef, organizes three-day or even a week-long cooking vacations in Prezza. Prezza is a small medieval town located in the mountains of L’Aquila.
Prices start at $935 per day and $2,549 per week.
Rosaria and Annabella run cooking classes called Cooking by Rosie in a small village near Pescara. The guests learn how to make two types of pasta and then the local wine is used to wash it down.
For 70 Euros ($81), you can take three-hour classes and then have a big lunch. You can also arrange customized activities on your own.
Giulia Cappaticcio manages a stay and cook program at Casale Centurione Abruzzo. This country house is located in Manoppello, in the province of Pescara. It boasts a lush green setting and mountain views.
3. Wines of international fame
Emiliana Dell’Arciprete, a native of Abruzzo and the founder of the blog Abruzzo4Foodies, believes that food and wine tourism are key to positioning Abruzzo in the top destinations.
“Historically, tourism to this area has been a result of skiing in winter and the national parks. Abruzzo is gradually gaining popularity with food and wine, which is an unexpected drawcard for tourists.
Abruzzo is known for its red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. It is made with the Montepulciano grape and is distinct from the Sangiovese used to make the Tuscan Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano.
Chieti is the largest wine-producing region in the region. Some of the first Montepulciano bottles to receive the coveted DOC (denominazione di origine controlledlata), quality assurance label, are on display at EnoMuseo wine museum.
Cantina Cerretano is one of the most prominent local producers with cellar doors. They produce organic and vegan wines (Via Ortonese and Orsogna), and the Trappeto Di Caprafico (Localita Caprafico 35, 66043 Casoli). Villa Carrene, a family owned vineyard and cellar, is just a few miles from Sulmona, in the medieval city of Prezza and offers wine tastings by appointment (Via San Rocco 2/A, 67030 Prezza, 67030 Prezza).
4. Beautiful beaches
Although Abruzzo might not have the same beach reputation as the Amalfi Coast or Sicily, it is still a great place to go for long sandy beaches along the Adriatic.
These waters consistently earn the Italian blue flag rating of pristine waters from Teramo or Chieti province.
Locals love Ortona, which boasts numerous beach clubs. Pineto is another resort town that has sandy beaches shaded with pine trees.
Vasto, a Roman fishing village, lies to the south. It boasts a sandy stretch and is surrounded by beautiful sea views.
5. Beautiful springs and lakes
Barrea Lake Agnese Gambini
Lake Barrea is just one of the seven stunning lakes in the area.
Abruzzo’s natural beauty rivals any region on the peninsula, which is boot-shaped.
Nearby camp sites and accommodation are available at many of the seven beautiful lakes.
There are tourist resorts around Lake Bomba, and Lake Scanno or Barrea is close by.
Locals love the Sorgenti del Pescara, a natural reserve with clear springs that is located near Popoli. This is a popular spot especially during hot summer days.
6. Amazing hiking and skiing trails
It’s no surprise that towns such as Roccaraso and Castel di Sangro, Ovindoli, Campo Felice, and Ovindoli are popular destinations for skiers from Italy and elsewhere in Europe.
The region receives a lot of snow each year. Abruzzo is a great alternative to other Alpine destinations.
One third of the area is composed of national parks. This makes it the most rural part of Italy.
Many of these towns have hiking trails that are great for anyone who loves the outdoors, especially in the warmer months. The Majella National Park and Abruzzo National Park are two of the most beautiful.
7. Historic medieval towns preserved
Places like Pescasseroli and Tagliacozzo, which are not as well-known medieval towns as San Gimignano or Tuscany’s Siena, offer authentic regional experiences. They also have stunning scenery, some even featuring castles.
Rocca Calascio is one of the most striking. It boasts a watchtower dating back to the 10th Century and is the highest fortified in Italy at almost 1,500m above the sea level.
Abruzzo is known for being the greenest area in Italy because of the many national parks that are within its borders. Most towns are situated on dramatic cliff faces with impressive mountain ranges as their backdrop.
Marianna Scoccia is the mayor of Prezza. She says that these medieval treasures must be protected.
“Our region is well-known for its medieval hamlets, and towns. Prezza is one of these towns.
“Here, you can stroll the streets and experience the tranquility and history of a bygone era. It’s also where centuries-old traditions are preserved such as the Malmozzetto medieval Festival held in Prezza every August.”
8. Italian confetti
Sulmona is known for its capital of sugared nuts, also known as “confetti” (in Italian) and torrone (in Italian), which are the classic Italian nougats. It is located in a UNESCO-protected Valley, which was once a lake that had disappeared in prehistoric times.
These floral creations are arranged in flower arrangements made of confetti, colored paper, and bundled into bouquets.
These beauties can be purchased in every flavor possible — Nutella or tiramisu, ricotta, pear, fruits from the forest, hazelnut, and many more.
Guardiagrele, Chieti Province is quickly gaining a reputation for being a great foodie town. It even has its sweet Le Sise delle Monache. This literally translates to “nun’s breasts” and is named after its round, perky form.
This bun is a chantilly-cream-filled type of bread that’s most often eaten at Pasticceria Emo Lullo, Via Roma 105 Guardiagrele.
9. Top restaurants
Reale restaurant – Abruzzo
Reale is run by Chef Niko Romito, located in an ex-monastery from 16th century.
Quality restaurants continue to open in Abruzzo as the Italian food industry continues to innovate and respect historic customs.
Heinz Beck, one of Italy’s most renowned chefs, is the head of Cafe Les Paillotes in Pescara (Piazza le Laudi 2 Pescara). This restaurant is located on Pescara’s seafront, overlooking the Adriatic. It has been awarded a Michelin star.
Since 2000, Niko Romito and his sister Cristiana have been running Reale (Piana Santa Liberata Castel di Sangro), together.
Three Michelin stars were awarded to the self-taught chef in 2013. There are only eight Italian restaurants with this title.
Reale is located in Castel di Sangro’s 16th-century monastery. It offers haute cuisine and the best Abruzzo produce.
10. The Trabocchi Coast
The UNESCO World Heritage-protected coastline stretches for 70 kilometers from Ortona in Chieti to San Salvo. The most notable sight here is the collection of fishing net structures called trabocchi.
The trabocchi were originally used by fishermen to avoid deep water and capture varieties such as anchovies and sea bream.
Many of these boats are no longer in operation because they aren’t competitive with modern fishing technology. However, many are still managed by generations and are now restaurants.