Abruzzo Map & Travel Guide
Wild, Wonderful, Enchanting and (A Tiny Bit) Dangerous Abruzzo

The wild and unspoiled landscapes of the Abruzzo, with their little villages clinging to the slopes, have never managed to capture the hearts of American travelers. While many Italians I've spoken with have visited countless national parks in the US, the Abruzzo's abundance of parks and reserves goes unnoticed by the American tourist. And that's a shame. Castelvecchio Calvisio in the Gran Sasso awaits your spring visit in the picture below.

castelvecchio calvisio

There are fantastic archaeological sites as well, like Alba Fucens. While the mountains are nice, you can go underground and visit the Grotte di Stiffe and its underground waterfall. It's spectacular.

But let's start with the map.

Map of the Abruzzo

abruzzo travel map



Getting Your Bearings

The Abruzzo stretches from the heart of the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. It's composted of regional provinces centered around L'Aquila (the regional capital), Pescara, Teramo and Chieti.

A Taste of The Abruzzo

Monastero Fortezza di Santo Spirito,

Monastero Fortezza di Santo Spirito

A mountain fortress you can stay in? Yes, this fortified monastery has been made into a hotel.

According to the website: "The Monastery of Santo Spirito is the first Cistercian settlement in the valley of L’Aquila. It was built in 1222 by Placido of Roio..."

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grotte di stiffe abruzzo

Grotte di Stiffe

A river runs through this cave located just south of L'Aquila and creates a waterfall when there's plenty of water. The best time to see the waterfall is in spring since that's when there's the most water.

Tours can be booked at the cave entrance or reserved by callingĀ +39 0862 86142 and are included in the ticket price.

Website

ravenna byzantine mosaic

Il Castello di Rocca Calascio

The defensive fortress stands at 1460 meters above sea level and overlooks the Plain of Navelli near the village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio. It is easily visited as one of the attractions inside the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, and you probably won't have to rub elbows with a thousand tourists if you go.

More on Rocca Calascio

Abruzzo's Major Cities

The city of L'Aquila was known as the Florence of Abruzzo or the Salzburg of Italy until things got shaken up in the 2009 earthquake. The province that surrounds it, however, still manages to be quite appealing: 13 of the villages are designated asĀ the "Most beautiful villages in Italy" are within its borders. They are: Anversa degli Abruzzi, Bugnara, Castel del Monte, Introdacqua, Navelli, Opi, Pacentro, Pescocostanzo, Pettorano sul Gizio, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Scanno, Tagliacozzo, Villalago. abruzzo confetti

Sulmona is one of our favorite cities in the Abruzzo. Sulmona is known as a center for production of "Confetti", sugar coated almonds, chocolates or sweets that are traditionally given to relatives and friends, especially at weddings. Sometimes they are made into flowers, like the picture on the right. The red garlic is know for its flavor and healing powers. There's lots to see. You could make this your hub and see much of the Abruzzo on day trips.

Sulmona Travel Guide

Scanno, another "Borghi Piu Belli d’Italia" is a beautiful town of 2000 residents tucked into the Sagittario Valley and encircled by the Majella mountains. Nearby is Scanno Lake, stocked with pike and perch. Shoppers might take note of the local lace and handmade jewelry the village is known for. In late April or early May handicrafts are celebrated in an event called L'appuntamento con la Tradizione.

Teramo sits between the Vezzole torrent and the Tordino River in northern Abruzzo, a town that began to develop in prehistoric times. For a while it was isolated on the border between the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and the Papal States. There are two great monuments to visit, the Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, 1176) and the Roman Theater. The archaeological Museum is found inside a restored complex of 17th-century buildings belonging to the Co-cathedral Chapter of Atri. You can get a guided tour--and there is disabled access to the museum.

Pescara was the birthplace of the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, an advisor to Mussolini. His home on Corso Mathone holds a collection of his letters and documents. Beach goers will appreciate Pescara's ten-mile stretch of beaches. The promenade called Vale della Riveira gets the stroller a good look at them. Join one of the stabilimenti to get access to one of those chairs and umbrellas so geometrically arranged on the sand. There are also free beach areas. If you're tired of really old cathedrals, the Cattedrale di San Cetteo, dedicated to Pescara's patron saint was built in the 20th century. Likewise, if you like your art modern, the Museo d'Arte Moderna Vittoria Colonna awaits your visit. In July, Pescara Jazz is held.

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Top Archaeological Sites of the Abruzzo

The Roman site of Alba Fucens, which also contains some interesting Medieval works, is a large site set in what was once an ancient lake in the northeast of the Abruzzo surrounded by the Peaks of Monte Velino and the Majella range.

As beautiful and evocative as Alba Fucens is, the site of Peltuinum, shown below, might take the prize as a place situated in the most beautiful spot in the Abruzzo. Peltuinium was founded in the second half of the first century BC. The site is located 20 miles to the east of L'Aquila.

peltuinum abruzzo

The National Parks

The parks are full of authentic little villages perched on hills and on the side of mountains. You can just pick a road and likely be surprised at what you might see. There is a facebook page of Abruzzo Wildlife where you can see what's being photographed these days in the parks.

If you want to save time and see the "best" of them, you may wish to take a tour. Viator offers many treks and tours of the Abruzzo.

The Food Specialties of the Abruzzo

Lamb is the king of meats in the Abruzzo. Try the famous arrosticini, skewers of lamb roasted over an open fire. The very traditional fricassee called agnello cacio e oro is lamb cooked in wine, eggs and cheese.

pastaMaccheroni all chitarra is the pasta of the Abruzzo. It's a square sort of spaghetti made by pushing pasta dough through a contraption of wires called a chitarra, literally a guitar. Try it with the lamb and sweet pepper sauce. The pasta on the right is chitarra sauced with asparagus and the famous red garlic of sulmona.

My favorite salami is Ventricina, a specialty made of coarsely chopped pork, sweet and spicy pepper, black pepper and wild fennel seed. Sometimes a little orange peel is added. I've found a spreadable version of Ventricina in Sulmona, almost like a pinkish Calabrian 'Nduja.

Bourbon and French rule around Teramo left vestiges of the common French andouille (tripe sausage) the Italians turned into Nnuje.

Wines are predominantly Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (red) and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (white). These days, the wines might surprise you, as the industry has recently upped its game and is producing some aged and complex wines from these grapes. The bottles you get for cheap in an American chain liquor store don't represent what they're serving in a good restaurant in the Abruzzo these days.

Airport

Abruzzo International Airport is located about 4 km from the center of Pescara. The next closest airport in in Rome.

When to Go to the Abruzzo

My preferred time to visit the Abruzzo is spring, because you'll see this spectacular land green and floral like this in April:

abruzzo in springtime

In May the cherries blossom. Since it is cooler in summer, that's not a bad time go to either.

Here is an average high and low temperature graph in Fahrenheit for your travel planning; the data is from Sulmona, at 400 meters above sea level:

sulmona historic temperature chart

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