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The Abruzzi Region: Discovering and enjoying one of Italy's best kept secrets

Does Italy have any beautiful regions that have not yet been discovered by curious and demanding tourists? But of course not! Yet scratch a little at the surface and you'll find that the Abruzzi region in central Italy is one of Italy's best kept secrets and a place where Italians themselves go to holiday - even from Tuscany. This stunningly beautiful region is well established as a place where the people of Rome go to get away from it all. The prices are incredibly low and the local customs remain unaffected by mass foreign tourism.

But if there's one thing in which the Abruzzi is rich it's the region's wonderfully varied countryside. The flat sandy coastline of the north gradually becomes steeper and more rocky the further south you go. While the green and rolling hinterland will remind you of some of Tuscany's most beautiful areas, the Gran Sasso (2914m) and the more gentle Maiella (2793m) mountains rise to the west. Such is the uniqueness of the Abuzzi region that it succeeds in uniting all the characteristics associated with Italy from the Mediterranean to the Apennin to the Alpine.

Access to the Abruzzi region in the past was difficult because of its mountainous location. And it is thanks to this isolation and a sensible development policy that the natural beauty of this mountainous region has remained intact. Indeed, the Abruzzi's inland areas are probably the only places in Italy that have remained unaffected by mass tourism. A third of its area is a nature reserve. With a little luck, you will also be able to see rare animals such as otters, golden eagles, bears and wolves in their natural environment in the National Parks.

And the rich landscape of the Abruzzi region opens the door to an almost unlimited number of sporting activities. Within an hour's drive you can travel from the mountain regions to the sandy beaches of the Adriatic coast. Be it hiking, horse riding, climbing, mountain biking, ski-hiking, cross-country skiing, swimming, diving, sailing or paragliding, you will find an incredibly wide range of sporting activities for that perfect active holiday.

Tradition and modernity are both very much alive in the Abruzzi region. Those interested in culture are spoilt for choice: there are temples and findings from the pre-Roman period, Roman digs, churches from the Middle Ages and hermitages in spectacular locations, as well as Palazzi and frescos from the renaissance period and important archaeological collections and art collections in the major towns. The Abruzzi region is also home to handicraft, fashion and design shops for that perfect day's shopping. From the famous ornament-rich Castellis Ceramic to modern designer shoes, there's plenty to discover here.

Gourmets will also find a wide variety of dishes that are not only mouth-wateringly delicious but which also offer genuine authenticity. Abruzzi cuisine enjoys a special place among Italian food. The number of farms that concentrate entirely on producing organic produce is truly amazing. The range of foods available reflects the diversity of the land. You will find handmade noodles, fine meat, cheese, salami, fish dishes, fresh vegetables and delicious desserts all made according to traditional recipes and at prices that really make eating out fun. Authorities in wine also know that the region has a great deal to offer such as the Montepulciano DOC and the Trebbiano DOC.

The people are warm, friendly and all too pleased to extend a encouraging welcome to those visiting the region. They are also an open people that have managed to maintain a direct contact with nature. This region boasts a grand landscape, a comfortable climate, beautiful art and architecture; it offers relaxation among warm and friendly people and excellent food. The Abruzzi region - come and discover one of Italy's best kept secrets.

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