Abruzzo is located in south-central Italy between the central Apennines and the Adriatic coast. The vaguely rectangular-shaped region covers 10,794km² and is bordered by Marche, Umbria, Lazio, Molise, and the Adriatic Sea. With a population of only 1.3 million Abruzzo is one of the least populated regions in Italy. The regional capital of Abruzzo is L’Aquila. There are four provinces in Abruzzo: Pescara, Chieti, Teramo, and L’Aquila. The economy of Abruzzo is largely based on agriculture and animal husbandry. Chief crops include carrots, potatoes, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, figs and plums. Abruzzo is picturesque in its scenery.
Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of "poor man's fish," often found on the shores of ancient fishing villages.
The Maccheroni alla chitarra are highly-renowned (home-made pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades), while scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup, typical to Teramo.
As for the second courses, the typical recipe of Chieti is scapece, pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also heavily-consumed in coastal hubs and often revisited in the zones of Teramo Province.
A typical meal in Abruzzo is accompanied by a selection of the best wines of the Region: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. These are both national and international favourites, esteemed for the excellent production process, quality and price. Abruzzo also features a number of organic wineries in the zones of Chieti and Teramo.
Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, we highlight nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds similar to Jordan almonds, they are a speciality of Sulmona); cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey; mostaccioli and bocconotto, typical of the Province of Chieti.
As the Italian food sector consistently looks to innovate and honour historic traditions and local customs, quality dining establishments continue to pop up in the Abruzzo landscape.
One of Italy's most famous chefs, Heinz Beck is at the helm of Café Les Paillotes. The eatery is situated on the seafront in Pescara overlooking the Adriatic and now has a Michelin star.
Meanwhile, Niko Romito has been running Reale with his sister Cristiana since 2000. The self-taught chef was awarded three Michelin stars in 2013 -- there are only eight restaurants in Italy with this title. Located within a 16th-century former monastery in Castel di Sangro, Reale's menu combines haute cuisine with the best of Abruzzo produce and beyond.
Preserved Medieval Towns
While Abruzzo is well known for its wonderful ski resorts, it also masses many lavish beach resorts on its many sandy beaches. Tourists can be delighted by any number of adventurous activities. Local restaurants serve only the best in fresh-caught fish and mollusks prepared in every imaginable way.
Those who wish to avoid well developed holiday resort areas will find solace in any number of small attractive towns scattered throughout the region. Modern roads have made it possible for tourists to enjoy all the sites and visit any of the gorgeous stone castles dotting the countryside.
Medieval fortresses built for the protection of the village inhabitants have remained untouched and unchanged for many generations making them an important link to Abruzzo’s past. Small chapels are also sprinkled over the land, each one home to stunning architecture and beautiful religious relics. It is amazing that in Abruzzo one can see Italy as it was during the height of the Renaissance area.
Lakes & Natural Springs
The natural beauty of Abruzzo rivals every region across the boot-shaped peninsula.
Many of its seven picturesque lakes have nearby campsites or accommodation options as well as water sports like rafting and canoeing.
Lake Bomba has tourist resorts in its vicinity and Lake Scanno and Barrea are some of the prettiest, encircled by mountains and winding roads on approach. The Sorgenti del Pescara (natural reserve with crystal clear springs) by the small town of Popoli is another favourite with locals, particularly on hot summer days.
This UNESCO World Heritage-protected 70-kilometer coast stretches from Ortona to San Salvo in Chieti province. Its most striking sight is a collection of fishing net structures known as trabocchi. Historically, the trabocchi were used by fisherman to avoid deep waters and collect varieties like anchovies, sardines, sea bream and sea bass. Some are still managed by generations of fisherman and have branched out, now operating as restaurants.
Sulmona is famous for being the capital of sugared almonds, known as "confetti" in Italian, and torrone, classic Italian nougat. The city sits within a UNESCO-protected valley, once a lake that disappeared in prehistoric times. The streets here are lined in floral creations made up of confetti covered in coloured paper and bunched into bouquets.
You can buy these beauties in any flavour imaginable -- Nutella, tiramisu, ricotta and pear, fruits of the forest, hazelnut, the list goes on.
Guardiagrele in Chieti province is fast developing a local reputation as a foodie town. It even has its own sweet, Le Sise delle Monache, named for its rounded, perky shape.
The relaxed environment coupled with the beautiful scenery makes Abruzzo a necessary stop. As Abruzzo expands and grows it is likely that some of its beauty will be lost so it is best to visit now before it becomes a tourist hot spot. You won’t find luxury hotel chains and fast-food restaurants in Abruzzo, but you will find friendly people with good character, pristine natural environments, charming towns, majestic mountains, sandy beaches, fine food, and medieval history as close as your fingertips.
Source(s): lifeinitaly, edition.cnn, italia.it