Abruzzo: Italy’s Last Hidden Treasure
Strong and gentle is how the Italian writer Primo Levi once described both the landscape of Abruzzo and its people. Take a trip to this amazing region of central Italy and you’ll see how true Levi’s words were and how relevant they still are. I grew up here – and now that I’m living abroad, I appreciate my homeland a little bit more each time I return.
Full of Surprises
One of my favourite things about Abruzzo is that it’s still a bit of a secret destination, and consequently, full of surprises. For anyone who’s never visited, there are amazing places to discover including three national parks (Lazio & Molise National Park, the Gran Sasso & Monti della Laga National Park and the Majella National Park), 23 ancient villages recognised as Borghi più belli d’Italia – ‘the most beautiful villages in Italy’, spectacular medieval towns such as Sulmona, Vasto, Lanciano, L’Aquila and Atri and 131 kilometres of coastline offering both sandy shores and quiet secluded beaches where you can dive. There’s also the only naturist-friendly beach on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
Abruzzo’s mountains are full of life. There are dozens of ski resorts, thermal baths and plenty of hiking opportunities – sometimes you get to enjoy all of them at once, as some locals proved on 1st May 2017, when they went skiing in the morning and then diving into the warm Adriatic sea in the afternoon of the same day. Among the must-sees in the region, don’t miss Campo Imperatore, Italy’s ‘little Tibet’ and Rocca Calascio, recognised by National Geographic as one of the 10 most beautiful castles in the world.
Pescara is the gateway to Abruzzo, it’s the biggest city (and where you’ll find the airport). You have a choice of large sandy beaches, a promenade that stretches as far as the eye can see and restaurants, museums, shops and nightlife to rival many larger cities. Best of all, unlike other coastal towns, Pescara is buzzing with life all year round.
The city has a modern outlook but is proud of its ancient roots. You’ll find many of Pescara’s most interesting wonders packed into the historical district (area around corso Manthoné), including the Cascella art museum, an ancient Spanish dungeon from the 16th century as well as the birthplaces of poet Gabriele d’Annunzio (winner of the prestigious Premio Strega) and writer Ennio Flaiano’s (director and co-author of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita). And that’s not all. There are dozens of fine restaurants where local tradition meets modern cuisine. Don’t leave without paying a visit to Taverna 58 or Pescì.
The Ponte del Mare bridge connects Pescara’s northern and southern promenades. Not only is it one of the most beautiful and futuristic bridges in Italy, but it’s also one of the best places to go and watch breathtaking sunsets on the beach. Pescara’s southern district, enclosed between the sea and its centuries old pine forest is also a sight for sore eyes.
Filled with Belle Epoque architecture, be sure to take a stroll around Via Scarfoglio and the Pineta Dannunziana, the pinewood’s lake where dozens of Art Nouveau villas were built at the end of the 19th century. Meanwhile, if you like art, you can look forward to seeing Venceslao Di Persio, a new collection lauded by Museé d’Orsay’s curator as one of the most beautiful art collections seen in her career.
Originally from Abruzzo, Edoardo Di Paolo now lives and works in the Netherlands, regularly flying home with Ryanair (and to Spain to visit his girlfriend Francesca).