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Abruzzo Travel Guide
Abruzzo Travel Guide

Guide to Abruzzo

Sitting neatly in the center of the Italian peninsula, Abruzzo is a lesser-visited region of Italy that’s absolutely breathtaking in its beauty. It’s traversed by the Apennine mountain range and reaches all the way to the eastern coast on the Adriatic sea, presenting travelers with a buffet of options, from mountaineering in the winter to lounging on sandy beaches in summer. No matter where in the region you visit, you’ll be struck by Abruzzo’s natural biodiversity; a full half of the region is protected parkland and nature preserves, and it’s estimated that 75% of Europe’s animal species can be found here.

Abruzzo comprises four provinces—Teramo, Chieti, L’Aquila, and Pescara—whose eponymous capitals make up the largest cities in the region. Because it’s sheltered by the mountains, the climate here is quite temperate, making it a great summer respite for those who don’t love the heat. It’s also a well-regarded ski destination in the winter, with a number of resorts offering ski-up facilities in the westernmost province of L’Aquila.

Unlike in many other Italian regions, Abruzzo’s local food traditions were historically sheltered from influence from other cultures, making the food here distinctly Italian but with a local characteristic all its own. In fact, it was in the small town of Villa Santa Maria that the first Italian cooking school was established in the 16th century, giving the town the nickname “The Home of Chefs.” Every October, it hosts the Sagra dei Cuochi, the “festival of chefs,” where tens of thousands of Italian chefs gather to share ideas and, of course, plenty of food!

Getting Around

As it’s just a couple of hours east of Rome, it’s easiest to get to Abruzzo by flying in to the Italian capital. The region does have its own small airport in Pescara (PSR), on the Adriatic coast, which is served from major European cities like Paris and Prague as well as from other parts of Italy. The region’s four provincial capitals are regularly serviced by train and bus, but to get the most out of your trip, we recommend renting a car or hiring a driver to access the smaller mountainside towns, remote coastlines, and protected parks that make Abruzzo so special.

Eat

   La Grotta dei Raselli

Built around an ancient natural cave, this charming restaurant owned by a husband-and-wife team serves typically hearty Abruzzo dishes like spaghetti chitarra (known locally as chitarrina), wild boar and rabbit, and the highly prized local lamb. Meals typically end with a plate of biscotti and a housemade digestivo made with the wild mountain herb gentian. Call ahead to book a table in the cave itself for an unforgettably romantic experience.

Via Raselli, 146, Guardiagrele
+39 0871808292

   Villa Maiella

Owned and operated by multiple generations of the Tinari family, this Michelin-starred restaurant has a stunning patio with a view of the Majella mountains that’s perfect for a sunset aperitivo. Move into the warm yet minimalist dining room for a tasting menu of beautifully composed dishes inspired by Abruzzese tradition that use native herbs, vegetables, and pork from their own farm in the Majella park.

Via Sette Dolori, 30, Guardiagrele
+39 0871 809319

   Insight Eatery

With glass walls overlooking the iconic Trabocchi Coast, this airy modern restaurant is an homage to the longstanding fishing tradition of coastal Abruzzo, reimagined by a chef who spent over a decade cooking in New York City. The menu can be enjoyed à la carte or in a five- or eight-course tasting flight, all with creative dishes that make full use of the amazing bounty of the sea just outside.

Contada Vallevò, 266, Rocca San Giovanni
+39 3293820346

   Ristorante Da Paolino

In the gorgeous small town of Pescocostanzo, this classic trattoria serves as a perfect break after touring the well-preserved Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Start with salumi and some of the beloved local pecorino (sheep’s-milk) cheeses, then move on to hearty pastas made with local chestnut flour and buckwheat.

Strada Vulpes, 34, Pescocostanzo
+39 0864640080

   Il Tavolino di Pò

In a rundown castle in the medieval village of Notaresco, this trattoria is dedicated to using local ingredients (km0, as it’s known in Italy). Pecorino cheeses, gnocchi with foraged porcini, and handmade chitarra pasta served in the local teramana style with tiny meatballs are just a few of the delicious dishes to try. Be sure to request a tour of the castle’s ancient ice house, which can be reached through the restaurant’s basement, for a dose of history with your dinner!

Vicolo Rozzi, 9, Notaresco
+39 320 8177027

   La Bilancia

Nestled among olive groves and vineyards sits an unassuming little hotel whose restaurant is a temple to traditional Abruzzo cuisine. Run by a husband-and-wife team since 1974, the restaurant specializes in food from Teramo, including lamb and porchetta grilled in a huge wood-fired oven and vegetables from their garden. Put yourself in your server’s hands and prepare for a comforting, homey meal like none other.

Contrada Palazzo, 11, Loreto Aprutino
+39 085 289321

   Margherita 1

The Abruzzese lamb skewers called arrosticini are what you’ll find on every table at this no-nonsense local spot, and with good reason: they’re absolutely delicious. Originally made from mutton the region’s shepherds could no longer sell, arrosticini are an extremely traditional dish that’s best enjoyed simply, with fresh bread, olive oil, and a glass of local wine.

Viale Regina Margherita, 3, Pianella
+39 085 972204

   Trabocco Punta Cavalluccio

Owned by one of southern Abruzzo’s oldest fishing families, this former trabocco, an ancient fishing structure built over the water, has been turned into a picturesque place to enjoy the freshest seafood while literally surrounded by the sea. Be sure to call ahead for reservations, as seating is limited and the restaurant is only open from April through October.

Strada Nazionale SS.16, 66020, Rocca San Giovanni
+39 3385980985

   Vin Cafè dal Corvo

With a massive list of local vintages, this friendly wine bar near the Basilica of Santa Maria del Colle is the perfect place to stop for an afternoon break or aperitivo. Snack on a delicious variety of typical local salumi and cheeses on the piazza while you people-watch in this well-preserved historic village that’s a favorite tourist destination among Italians.

Via della Fontana, 11, Pescocostanzo
+39 084640038

Do

   See the Trabocchi Coast

Along the Adriatic Sea in the southern province of Chieti are the trabocchi, ancient fishing structures that were built out over the water on stilts for easier access to the catch of the day. While these centuries-old structures are no longer used for fishing, the spindly wooden walkways and nets that stretch out from the coastline stand as beautiful, ghostly reminders of the past. A drive along the coastal highway will give you an excellent vantage point, and you can even stop in at some that have been refurbished into seafood restaurants!

   Tour a Winery

Long undiscovered by the international community, Abruzzo is finally becoming known for its delectable yet accessible wines—it was named Wine Region of the Year in 2022 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The juicy red montepulciano d’Abruzzo (not to be confused with the Tuscan red blend known as vino nobile de montepulciano), deep rosé cerasuolo, and crisp white trebbiano d’Abruzzo are prized among wine lovers for their high quality and affordability. Take a tour of one of the region’s picturesque vineyards and taste through the delicious vintages to become a lover of Abruzzese wines yourself.

   Iuvanum Archeological Park

Originally home to one of the Italic tribes that resisted Roman conquerors in the Pyrrhic War of the 3rd century BCE, this broad park houses multiple fascinating ruins of temples, a forum, theater, and other sites of everyday ancient life. A well-appointed museum showcases some of the site’s more delicate discoveries, like inscribed tablets, votive statues, and household objects. Be sure to download the app to help you navigate the ruins—it cleverly uses your location to show you the buildings as they would have appeared millennia ago.

Località Fonticelle, Montenerodomo
+39 0872960109

   Basilica of Santa Maria del Colle

The exterior of this 15th-century church is unassuming, but inside is an abundance of Renaissance-era art and ornament, making it one of the most quietly breathtaking stops in the picturesque town of Pescocostanzo, in the province of L’Aquila. Rich marble, wrought iron, carved woodwork, and vivid statuary are all worth a close look, but the real show-stopper is the intricately frescoed ceiling of the church dome.

Via Falconia Diomede, 1, Pescocostanzo
+39 0864641430

Stay

   Castello di Semivicoli

To feel like you’ve truly stepped back in time, book a stay at this lovingly restored castle operated by the Masciarelli winery, which is run by a mother-and-daughter winemaking team. The 11 rooms and suites have historic atmosphere while still feeling comfortable, while the grand common spaces include a wine bar, outdoor pool, and secret garden for enjoying your morning cappuccino. During your stay, you can easily arrange a personalized wine tasting in the ancient barrel room or tour of the nearby Masciarelli vineyards.

Via San Nicola, 24, Casacanditella
+39 0871890045

   Villa Corallo

This grand estate in the northernmost province of Teramo sits in an abundance of green parkland, making it feel like you’re perched within a lush personal garden at all times. With luxurious rooms outfitted with Carrara marble, Frette linens, and other posh upgrades, it’s a perfect oasis to relax in after road tripping around the region. Don’t miss a dinner at the hotel restaurant, Le Macine, which sources much of its produce and heritage beef and pork from the on-site organic farm.

Via Metella Nuova, 37, Sant’Omero
+39 0861887002

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