Abruzzo is a region in Italy, East of Rome with an area of 10,763 square kilometres or 4,156 square miles. It is divided into four provinces: L’Aquila, Teramo, Chieti and Pescara. The capital city is Pescara and the languages spoken are Italian, Abruzzese dialect and its various versions.
Geographically, it is divided up into three areas: the Apennines mountains in the West, the foothills in the middle and the coast in the East. The wonderful thing about the Abruzzo landscape is the close proximity of the mountains to the sea.
One third of Abruzzo Italy is dedicated to national parks or nature reserves and because of this it is known as “the greenest region in Europe”. These national parks and nature reserves were created to aid in the survival of rare species such as the golden eagle, Apennine wolf and the Marsican brown bear.
Abruzzo’s economy is largely reliable on agriculture and animal husbandry, although Abruzzo is mostly unsuitable for mass agriculture, due to the character of the landscape. In the mountains the sheep are still cared for by shepherds, in the pastures within the national parks, as they have been for centuries. On the coast, the fishermen bring in a selection of frutti di mare (fruits of the sea) and sell direct to the locals waiting for them at their docks, as well as the local restaurants and retailers.
The land plays a big part in the lives of the Abruzzese people and it has shaped who they are. Near the coast the people enjoy a diet rich of seafood, and in the mountains they eat a meat-based diet of mutton, pork, wild boar, beef and goat.
In summer the Abruzzese people flock to the many beach resorts with their lounge chairs and umbrellas, and in the winter they enjoy the skiing and the fun to be had in amongst the snow and the mountains. . okay, the truth is that mostly they will be eating a comforting meal by the fireplace!
“Forte e gentile” (strong and gentle) is a phrase often used that best describes the beauty of the region, and also the character of its people.
The hospitality and generosity of the Abruzzese people has humbled us time and time again. From their hearts, they are welcoming, and go out of their way to make visitors comfortable. They are down-to-earth people, and believe that although they may not be wealthy, their lives are full of riches.
They are proud of their region and its beauty, and if they can sit down to a good meal with a glass of vino (wine) in the company of their relatives and friends, they are quite content with that!
They are very expressive people, and prone to breaking out in song if the moment spurs them, hugging and kissing on both cheeks in greeting is normal, even for strangers.
Their relationships with family and friends are their highest priorities, and visiting each other and gathering together in public places is a day to day occurrence.
They value their Catholic faith and their traditions and it keeps their culture alive, for a small population the festivities to celebrate their culture and way of life are abundant!
Food is central to the Abruzzese way of life. They are masters at turning simple ingredients into delicious meals and all over Italy it is said that in Abruzzo “si mangia bene”! (In Abruzzo, you eat well)! And a meal wouldn’t be complete in Abruzzo, without a glass or two of vino.
The most well known food that is unique to Abruzzo Italy is arrosticini. They are sheep meat skewers, seasoned with salt and cooked alla brace (over the coals). Sounds simple, but the quality of the meat from this region is what makes the arrosticini taste so delicious. There are long narrow barbecues made especially to cook arrosticini, and the people gather around, talk and laugh, drink vino and eat the arrosticini straight off the coals.
Near the coast a dish called brodetto di pesce is a staple meal. Tiny fish and various other seafood delights are cooked in a light tomato sauce made from sweet tomatoes, and eaten with crusty bread. Fritto misto is also common, which is a mixture of fresh, gourmet-sized seafood dusted in flour and shallow fried.
The land of Abruzzo Italy is abundant with gourmet treasures, like olive oil, truffles (80% of Italy’s truffles come from Abruzzo) porcini mushrooms and wild cherries that are found in the forests. Saffron is grown in the land around Navelli, and is considered the best quality saffron in the world. An array of cheeses are made from the milk of sheep, cattle, and goats that graze freely in the pristine mountain terrain.
The porchetta (whole, deboned and stuffed pig cooked for around six hours) is sold by the kilo on the streets, cornetti (Italian croissants) are served straight from the oven with a cappuccino for breakfast, and the local gelato (icecream) is not to be missed!
The foothills in Abruzzo Italy are perfect for viticulture. There are three main types of wine produced in Abruzzo: Montepulciano, which is the most famous and a world class, award-winning wine, Trebbiano di Abruzzo and Pecorino, which both are white wine varieties.
Wonderful liqueurs are also made in the region, Centerbe made from one hundred different herbs, Nocino made from green walnuts, Ratafia made from wild cherries, and Genziana which is a bitter digestive made from the root.
Time moves slowly in Abruzzo Italy, and the Abruzzese relish every moment. With Marco and I, you will meet the local people, who take the time to talk, laugh and sing. You will be able to take in the scenery of both the mountains and the sea, and enjoy the best food you have ever tasted. You will feel the rhythm of this ancient land, where living comes first, and worriment last.
Abruzzo Italy is full of hidden and unspoiled treasures, come and discover them with us.