The Wild Landscape of Abruzzo, Italy
The Wild Heart of Italy
Looking for somewhere wild to explore in central Europe, then look no further than the little-known region of Abruzzo, a hidden jewel nestled in the heart of Italy.
Far away from the hordes of tourists that flock to Venice, Florence, Rome and the Amalfi – the Abruzzo region of Italy hides in plain sight. Boasting an area of over ten thousand square kilometres, this beautiful region is largely undiscovered by foreign visitors with only around 200,000 visiting the area annually, although it had long been a favourite with over one and half million knowing Italians visiting the area every year.
Landscape and Geography
Abruzzo’s landscape and geography are, perhaps, some of the most diverse and fascinating in the whole of Italy, and maybe, in the whole of Europe. Ensconced in the middle of the Italian peninsula, Abruzzo is bordered to the north by the region of Le Marche, with Lazio to the west, and Molise to the south. Its eastern border is curtailed by the Adriatic Sea and 129 kilometres of glorious coastline.
The Four Provinces
The region itself is divided into four provinces. First is the land-locked mountainous Aquila province, then Teramo boasting both hills and mountains, along with the rolling hills and valleys of Chieti that joins with the province of Pescara and its diverse coastline. Almost the entire area of Abruzzo is rugged, mountainous and surprising, with fantastic views around nearly every corner. This wild and uncompromising landscape has meant the region has historically been one of the least densely populated areas of Italy and remains so to the present day.
An Adventure Playground
The region’s diverse geographical features lend themselves to wide variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling skiing or swimming. For the even more adventurous the numerous mountains and rivers are a playground to mountain climbers, cavers, hang gliders and white-water rafters. Winter sports in particular have transformed many mountain villages, with the region now boasting 22 ski resorts within its hilly interior.
From Coast to Hills
The long coastline of Abruzzo is varied and diverse, clustered around and to the north of the provincial capital of Pescara (Abruzzo’s largest city with a population of 123,000) there are many beautiful beaches and well-tended resorts, including the lovely Pineto with its backdrop of pine woods (from which it takes its name). South of Pescara the coastline becomes a little more rugged, hiding secret coves with sandy beaches, and dotted with the typical Abruzzian fishing structures known as ‘trabocchi’, jutting out, hopefully, into the Adriatic Sea.
Inland, and especially around another of the regional capitals L’Aquila, you will find the remnants of 99 legendary castles, many you are able to visit and also ancient ruins such as Alba Fucens, a Roman colony dating from 304 BC, which is found in the foothills of Monte Velino.
Also inland the two large valleys of Fucino and Sulmona supply vegetables for the tables of Rome, whilst back at the coast fisheries, mollusc farming and floriculture are thriving activities.
Tying the whole region together is a network of local roads which enable any visitor to reach even the most remote spots whilst the A25 autostrada traverses the region linking Rome in the West with the resort of Pescara on the Adriatic coast.
National Parks and Protected Areas
Roughly one third of Abruzzo is protected natural areas and national parks, the main being the Unesco World heritage sites Abruzzo National Park, the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, the Maiella National Park and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park. This gives visitors an amazing opportunity to experience some of Europe’s finest and best-preserved natural areas, as well as the chance to witness an incredibly diverse variety of local flora and fauna. Because of the surprising geographical variety in the landscape of Abruzzo, there are numerous different animal species populating the region including wolves, Marsican bears, wild cats, otters, deer, porcupines, vipers, golden eagles, as well as large roaming families of wild boar. It is believed that nearly 75% of fauna biodiversity in Europe can be found in the protected areas of Abruzzo.
Even though Abruzzo’s landscape is largely protected, there are still many areas that are threatened by human expansion, including the Aventino River, the region’s last unharnessed body of flowing water. Many animals native to the region are also in jeopardy, such as the Marsican bear population, whose habitat is at risk of shrinking. The state of Abruzzo along with many non-for-profit organisations are, however, trying to make efforts to raise awareness on such environmental issues, educating and engaging the public to the value of preservation.
Although the landscape may often be seen as rugged and sometimes unforgiving, the people of Abruzzo are warm-hearted and are proud of a long a heritage rich in folklore and traditions, welcoming visitors to the region with friendliness and often a little curiosity.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius