Abruzzo - Italy's Hidden Gem

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If you’re looking for a holiday in Italy just for the two of you, as part of a romantic getaway, and one that’s off the tourist trail and has gorgeous weather and spectacular scenery at prices you didn’t think existed anymore, Abruzzo could be just the place for you. It has great beaches, picture postcard landscapes, classic food and wine; just a few of the reasons why Italians like to keep this holiday destination all for themselves. Abruzzo is due east from Rome, and when you reach the Adriatic coast, you’ve arrived! It’s an easy drive of around three hours on a (usually) not-too-busy autostrada. 

If you are sun-and-sea lovers, you’ll be spoiled for choice. From Martinsicuro in the north to San Salvo Marina in the south, Abruzzo has nearly 100 miles of Adriatic coastline, with over 20 Blue Flag beaches - the top European ranking for safety and cleanliness. But it is inland that perhaps Abruzzo’s true glory can be found. The region has three Italian National Parks within its boundaries, with the highest proportion of protected landscape in relation to its size of any region in Europe. The parks each have a wide variety of terrain, encompassing the Majella and Gran Sasso mountains and huge tracts of pristine forest. These are the home of bears, wolves and wild boar, while golden eagles, red kites and buzzards soar overhead. For summer excursions, the parks have hundreds of miles of safe, well-signposted hiking and mountain biking trails amidst some spectacular scenery.  

In winter meanwhile, the mountains provide top-class skiing - especially on the huge Cinque Miglia plateau surrounding the resort town of Roccaraso - and on the Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso. To explore, you’ll find ancient Roman sites; medieval castles; quaint hilltop villages; and wonderful old churches and museums. If you prefer rather more leisurely pursuits, Abruzzo’s biggest town Pescara offers the widest choice of top-quality designer-brand shops; there’s a big discount retail village at Citta Sant’Angelo; and numerous shopping malls in the bigger towns where you can buy everything from high fashion to traditional handicrafts. 

The biggest, and nicest, surprise awaiting you on your Abruzzo holiday will be the low cost of eating out. There’s a big choice, starting with fixed-price menus offering two courses of excellent home-cooked food; wine; water and coffee for around €10 each and going right up to the heady heights of Michelin-starred fine dining. The coast is lined with excellent seafood restaurants; inland, you’re likely to come across places offering specialities such as wild boar and venison. Char-grilled meat is always a big favourite and you’ll find many restaurants providing a good choice of pork, lamb, steak and tasty Abruzzo sausages. And needless to say, the pasta is always excellent wherever you go. So is pizza, but make a point of looking for pizzeria using a traditional wood-fired oven (“forno al legno”) for the very best pizzas!

Abruzzo is one of Italy’s premier wine regions and each year, produces more wine than the entire country of Chile. The best reds are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; refreshing whites perfect for delicious summer drinking are Trebbiano and Pecorino; or try pink Cerasuolo which is what Americans would call a “blush” wine. Getting around, you’ll find that the roads are delightfully open, with traffic jams an absolute rarity. English isn’t widely spoken, but the Abruzzese are friendly, welcoming people who’ll go out of their way to make you feel right at home.

Those who know Italy well say that Abruzzo now is like the rest of the country used to be maybe thirty-odd years ago. The pace of life is relaxed; there’s no mass tourism; and you’re free to explore, come-and-go, and relax exactly as suits you. Though Abruzzo of course is great for family holidays (especially on the coast), for couples in particular the region can be extra-special and perfect for the ultimate romantic getaway. Abruzzo is an increasingly popular spot too for weddings and honeymoons. The excellent value-for-money you’ll find throughout means your dream occasion will cost far less than it might elsewhere in Italy.

Guest Writer, David Brenner