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Abruzzo: A Hidden Italian Gem

Majella NP, Abruzzo
Roccascalegna, Abruzzo
Abruzzo market_in_sulmona
Hills of Abruzzo
Abruzzo spring
Guardiagrele wrought iron shop, Abruzzo
Sulmonameanstand, Abruzzo
sulmona confetti, Abruzzo
Abruzzo 2

Abruzzo: A Hidden Italian Gem

story by: House of Travel

Located in the upper calf of Italy's boot, Abruzzo is an excellent destination to add to your tour of Italy.

Compared to the other heavyweight tourist areas around the country, Abruzzo gets little love from travellers. While this is puzzling for us, it's good news for you, as it means you're free to explore the countryside without having to contend with the camera-brandishing crowds of Venice and Milan.

Much of the region is sandwiched between the Apennine Mountains to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. Its unique geography provides Abruzzo with a tapestry of picturesque landscapes, from sweeping coastlines to snow-capped summits. Mother Nature doesn't get all the credit here, though - there's also fascinating culture to be absorbed and a dining scene that more than lives up to Italy's reputation as a foodie heaven.

Ready to explore? So are we! Check out the four best things to do in Abruzzo.

Abruzzo receives around 2,300 hours of sunshine annually, making it a perfect playground to enjoy some outdoor recreation. A wondrous diversity of wildlife awaits in the region's three national parks, which cover a combined area of some 275,000 acres of forestry, lush valleys and alpine scenery that are ripe for walks and exploration.

Abruzzo National Park offers an incredible showcase of nature in the form of about 400 species of animals, including golden eagles, wolves, otters and the Marsican brown bear, as well as 2,000 types of plants. There are also 25 towns located in the park, and a visit to any of these pockets of life is sure to be a memorable experience.

Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park is the largest of the three, and boasts a fantastic array of natural and culture attractions. Here, you'll find the 2,912 metre high Corno Grande, the tallest mountain in the Apennines and whose peak is covered in snow for most of the year. The park is also home to the small but lovely Calderone, the southernmost glacier in all of Europe.

The imposing mountains of Majella National Park cut an impressive figure against the landscape, as does the network of canyons that are riddled beneath it. There's more than 500 kilometres of trails to discover, ranging from quick jaunts to extensive multi-day affairs. The colourful flora and fauna is a sight to behold, particularly the graceful roe deer whose adaptability has allowed it to survive in the challenging conditions.

While trekking in Abruzzo is an activity best enjoyed in the warm summer months, the area continues to serve up outside entertainment in the winter, too. The region is home to some excellent skiing opportunities between December and April, when the mountainsides are blanketed in a thick carpet of snow. There are also a number of resorts that can be found in this area, but our favourites have got to be Roccaraso, Ovindoli and Campo Felice. Each offers a variety of ski runs that are suitable for beginners and snow-sport veterans alike.

Saturated in history, there are many spots around Italy that are of important cultural significance. One such place is the striking fortress found in the town of Civitella del Tronto. The Fortezza Civitella del Tronto is an impressive feat of military engineering, and comprises an area of more than 25,000 square-metres.

Running your hands over the thick stone walls that tower some 600 metres above sea level, it's easy to imagine how the soldiers and townspeople of the past would have used the strategically-placed fortress to fight off enemies. After exploring the various sections of the citadel, including the barracks, church and stockades, your visit concludes with stunning panoramic views of the town, mountains and distant ocean.

Naturally, pizza and pasta are Italy's most famous foods, but the country's cuisine extends far past these westernised cliches. Abruzzo has an excellent reputation among discerning foodies. In the towns dotted around the region, you'll find a diverse collection of restaurants to suit every budget. Many of these meals are based on traditional staples such as maccheroni alla chitarra - spaghetti made using a guitar-inspired device, and scrippelle'mbusse, delicious crepes filled with cinnamon and sheep's milk cheese.

Continue your exploration of local flavours by having a glass or three of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, a full-bodied red wine that goes outstandingly well with any red meat dish. You'll find Montepulciano d'Abruzzo in most of the restaurants in the region, but for a more thorough sampling consider taking a tour of one of the many wineries around Abruzzo. If you're visiting in the autumn season, also be sure to check out the local grape harvest.

Something else that you can't help but take note of in Abruzzo is the staggering number of olive groves that take up a good portion of the landscape. The influence of this tasty vege is obvious in so much of the local cuisine, but to gain a better appreciation of this versatile morsels, don't miss joining the locals in one of the many harvesting festivals. These bustling events start near the end of October and run for around six weeks, and are perfect for people of all ages.

The Italians are a passionate bunch, a characteristic that is true of the people of Abruzzo as well. Throughout the year, the region holds a number of festivals that offer you a peek into the traditional Italian way of life, while also allowing you to mingle with the locals. January hosts one of the largest and most celebrated festivals, The Feast of Saint Anthony, while in May you can be part of the Feast of Saint Domenico at the Festa dei Serpari (also known as the Snake Festival) in Cocullo.

Abruzzo supplies at least 80% of Italy’s truffles and what better way to celebrate this precious tuber but with a festival Italian style? Each year in mid-July in the small village of Campli in the northern part of the Abruzzo region, the village comes alive with a week-long festival with parades, traditional music, medieval pageantry and delicious tastings of truffles in so many ways. With a small population of 7000 people the town hosts so many people from local villages and from all over Italy over the weeklong festivities. Enjoy spaghetti alla chitarra with generous shavings of black truffle and parmesan, handmade gnocchi with porcini mushrooms and truffle and even delight in a rolled turkey filled with fresh truffle shaving, truffle paste and garlic.

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