Bordered by a craggy spine of the Apennines Mountains to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east, the Abruzzo region lies just a two-hour drive from Rome’s Fiumicino international airport. Remarkably little-known, it offers a combination of Tuscany’s rolling landscapes and Umbria’s verdant scenery.
Abruzzo is a blissfully relaxing destination, in part because sightseeing duties are minimal. The Museo Nazionale d’Abruzzo in L’Aquila, the region’s capital, is fascinating, as is lively Pescara, a city on the Adriatic coastline. But my strongest memories are the honeyed smell of yellow-flowering broom, the bleating of lamb and goat herds, and the villages of cream-colored houses spilling down distant hillsides. The pleasures of a trip are waking every morning to birdsong, admiring the routinely spectacular views and exploring the region’s superb cuisine during long, lazy lunches. With three major national parks and one regional one, this sparsely populated region remains a tract of Italy where time has largely stood still.
Once dismissed as rustic, wines from Abruzzo are becoming much better known, due to a small constellation of talented producers. Luigi Cataldi Madonna has been responsible for the revival of interest in Pecorino, an Abruzzese grape variety that had been largely forgotten. The late Gianni Masciarelli was another one of the province’s most visionary winemakers, with a winery in San Martino sulla Marrucina and vineyards in all four districts of Abruzzo. His Marina Cvetic Iskra, a blend of international grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) with Montepulciano and Trebbiano, won a 90-point rating from Robert Parker in 2004. Emidio Pepe is the Abruzzese winemaker perhaps best known in North America, where his vintage Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines can sell for hundreds of dollars.
Pescara Beach Club
The lively, pastel-hued city of Pescara on the Adriatic Coast really comes into its own during the summer. Its many lidi (beaches) fill with Italian vacationers who love spending the day at one of the stabilimenti, or private beach concessions that rent loungers, have restaurants and offer such amenities as Wi-Fi, showers and changing rooms. For newcomers to Italian beach life, the best club at which to test the waters is Ammiraglia, owing to its excellent restaurant.