Abruzzo, a jewel in the middle of Italy, by Francesca Di Pasquale

Do you know a place, in the centre of Italy, where mountains and sea are less than a thirty-minute drive away? If you don’t, then you must visit Abruzzo!

This smallish region in the centre of Italy is divided into a mountainous area to the west and a coastal area to the east, and encompasses a lot of natural and historical attractions. I’m from a little village named Luco dei Marsi, in the inner part of Abruzzo, and in what follows I’d like to introduce you to some of the stunning places in the area I come from.

Unfortunately, in recent years Abruzzo has been mostly known for disastrous events like the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake which damaged its regional capital, L’Aquila, and the surrounding villages. Last January, the Rigopiano avalanche was another tragic event.

Despite this, Abruzzo should not be called to mind only for bad memories because it has much more to offer. First of all it was a prominent central area during the Roman period with its populations – Sabines, Marsus, Sannus, Picenus and others, no less important. Centuries later it became part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Because of its historical and cultural ties with the South of Italy, Abruzzo is considered more a southern region than a central one.

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Its mountains are considerable indeed. Abruzzo is bordered by the Apennine Range; and its highest peak,  the Gran Sasso, is located in Abruzzo.. It has two summits: Corno Grande, the highest (9,554 feet), and Corno Piccolo. There is also the Abruzzo National Park which stretches into the Maiella mountain chain. This Park is important for the preservation of species like the Italian wolf, Marsican Brown Bear and Abruzzo chamois. A walk in this protected area would be the perfect way to see these special animals in their natural habitat. I love some of the villages in the heart of the Park such as Pescasseroli or Villavallelonga. They are really folkloristic and still still steeped in the past.

Until the 19th century, Abruzzo had the third largest lake in Italy: Lago Fucino. Then Prince Alessandro Torlonia had it drained because of its continuous overflows. Nowadays there are many awesome minor lakes worth visiting in Abruzzo such as the Lago di Scanno, the Lago della Duchessa and the Lago di Villetta Barrea. They are all in the heart of the National Park where you can see rare flora and fauna.

Abruzzo also has folkloristic villages to visit such as Roccascalegna, known for lying atop the spur of a mountain, and Rocca Calascio, which is the highest medieval fortress in the Apennines. Actually, every village offers rarities to be discovered and the local people are always willing to help explain local traditions and customs.

There are also characteristic places of worship such as the Eremi Celestiniani, built into the rock by Pope Celestine V. Some years ago, I went hiking in this area. It was an amazing experience which helped me to make deeper contact with nature. I thoroughly recommend you have this experience.

If you are not still convinced, Abruzzo has many delicious dishes such as Pallotte cacio e ova, which are bread balls filled with eggs, cheese and tomato sauce or Maccheroni alla chitarra, handmade pasta with tomato sauce and meat ragù. There are also pastries as Bocconotti, Parrozzo and Tisichelle.

I have only described some of the innumerable treasures of Abruzzo. You can find more information in Italian here and here, and in English here. So don’t delay: choose nature, fun and relaxation. Visit Abruzzo for an unforgettable experience.

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