Getting there and away
Abruzzo is a region of the Italian Republic and therefore bound by all internal entry regulations, as well as those governed or required by the European Union and the Schengen Agreement. In addition to citizens of EU member states, holders of passports from some 50 nations do not need a visa for stays of 90 days or less. These include Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States.
Theoretically, all foreigners are required to register their presence with the police within eight days of their arrival in the country, but in practice few people bother; in any case, your hotel should take your passport and residence details for this exact purpose. Note, however, that if you are non-EU and get in a jam with the police, they can take your failure to report your arrival as evidence that you have already overstayed the legal period.
EU citizens and their families (including grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc in some cases) can stay beyond 90 days if they have employment, sufficient resources to live by, or an approved course of study. Even so, it will require filling out a form at the local police station. Non-EU family members will need to apply for a residence permit, a carta di soggiorno. After five years EU citizens and family members have the right to a permanent residence card.
For citizens of non-EU countries, extending your stay in Italy beyond 90 days can be rather difficult; the first step is applying for a carta di soggiorno through the provincial Questura (state police office) or through the Post Office. Italy currently offers around 21 types of entry visa, few of which are entirely clear in their regulations and limitations, let alone in their explanation of what’s required in order to secure one. The most common types of foreign visa are those based on study, work and elective residence.
Whichever sort of visa or permit you need, expect the rules to be infernally complex, onerous and confusing. For detailed information on these subjects (in English), see the site of the Polizia di Stato, or that of the Foreign Ministry. Note that information on these two sites is often contradictory.
Getting there and away
Abruzzo International Airport,10 minutes by bus from the centre of Pescara, is the main gateway to the region. Passenger numbers have risen by more than 400% over the last decade and an increasing number of international airlines are now using this small though often busy airport.
The city centre is only 3km away, reachable by taxi , by city bus 38, or the ARPA coach line, which continues on to Chieti.
Many will find it more convenient to fly to Rome and travel from there to Abruzzo. Rome’s Fiumicino airport is a 2½-hour drive from the centre of Pescara and only 45 minutes from the border between Abruzzo and Lazio. Numerous international airlines from the UK, USA and elsewhere service the airport.
If you do not have your own transport, there are various options for getting to Abruzzo from Rome. The quickest is via the airport train terminal to Rome’s Tiburtina station. From there, buses are available to the larger cities such as Pescara. To travel on by train you must head for Rome’s Termini station. Be aware that while the bus journey takes around 2½ hours, the train can often take 4 hours.
Alternatively, Rome Ciampino airport is approximately 15km southeast of the centre of Rome. It is a major hub for both Ryanair and easyJet, so you may well find yourself arriving here. From the UK, there are flights from numerous regional airports as well as from London. To get to Abruzzo from here by public transport, it is necessary to make your way into the centre of Rome and out again by either train or bus from Tiburtina station. Should you wish to hire a car, you will find all of the major hire firms situated south of the departure hall.
A number of coach companies operate services from various European countries to Abruzzo. Check out BusWeb for information on services including times, prices and booking options.
Travelling through Europe by train is an immensely rewarding way of reaching Abruzzo, and if you are coming from the UK it also means you can make stops along the way. Take the Eurostar across the Channel and connect with services to Italy.
Trenitalia, formerly known as the Ferrovie dello Stato, operates the country’s rail network. Pescara is a key stop for the Adriatic Frecciarossa express train linking Milan with the southern city of Bari, via Bologna and Ancona. Depending on schedules the Milan–Pescara trip takes 4–5 hours.
European rail passes are a great way to get around the continent and there are many different types. EURail provides a wealth of information on the various types of passes available. Trenitalia offers discount passes for over-60s (Carta d’Argento) and under 25s (Carta Verde). Be careful though – unless you intend riding an awful lot of trains, all these passes might not save you anything. Note that all the Freccia express trains (Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, etc) require a reservation, while regional trains do not; reservations are usually no problem, and come with the ticket you buy at the station. In Italy some city-centre travel agencies still sell Trenitalia tickets, which can be convenient. It is also possible to buy e-tickets online, or from ticket machines at the stations.
Summer tourist car ferry services from Pescara to the Croatian island of Hvar (Stari Grad) are run by SNAV. Journey times to Hvar are around 3 hours, 45 minutes. Tickets can be bought online and at Pescara’s port, from where the ferries depart.
Italy’s extensive network of motorways (autostrade) is well kept and equipped. It’s run by Autostrade per L’Italia who seem to put the money they rake in from the toll system to good use. It’s rare for Italians to fly domestically, though the increasing number of low-cost carriers is slowly changing this. Abruzzo is well serviced by autostrade. The A14, running straight through coastal Abruzzo, is the major Adriatic artery linking the southern city of Taranto with Bologna, from where it changes into the A1 to Milan and beyond. The A24 links Rome with the provincial capitals of L’Aquila and Teramo, while the A25 crosses the peninsula from Rome to Pescara. Use of the autostrade is tolled on a distance basis.
Car hire companies with offices in the region are the same as you would expect to find anywhere else in Italy: Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Sixt and Maggiore, an Italian firm. Most of these have branches in all the major cities and towns, and at Rome’s Fiumicino/Ciampino airports.
Some parts of Abruzzo have sparse public transport connections so, unless you are visiting only Pescara, this is the quickest and most convenient way of getting around.
Buses are the method of public transport generally preferred by the Abruzzesi. Services, as elsewhere in Italy, are very good: comfortable, airconditioned, quick, regular, efficient and economical, especially to and from the four major cities and beyond, but also between the smaller provincial towns and villages.
ARPA is the Abruzzo’s main bus and coach company, and goes almost everywhere. ARPA shares the routes with other companies, including Di Febo Capuani and Di Fonzo. Don’t worry about the different companies. In practice, it generally works like one single bus line; the companies use the same stops and stations, and services are complementary. Information and schedules are available at the stations and tourist offices.
Abruzzo, with its difficult terrain, is not particularly well served by trains. They can be very scenic, but the buses will almost always be cheaper and more convenient, and they reach far more destinations. As Abruzzo is on the main railway line connecting the Adriatic coast to the northern cities, travelling by train can make sense if you are moving between the coastal hubs. This coastal line has short branch services inland from Giulianova to Teramo, and San Vito-Lanciano to Lanciano. The other Abruzzo regional line connects Pescara to Rome, via Sulmona and Avezzano; from Sulmona you can change for L’Aquila (L’Aquila’s only rail service) and Terni in Umbria, or for Campobasso in the Molise.
Getting around by bicycle in the provincial capitals can be ideal – distances are relatively short. In Pescara, there is the added benefit of the strada parco (road through the park), which runs the length of the whole city between the Via Nazionale (the main thoroughfare through the city) and the Riviera. A disused railway line, the strada parco has been paved and is lined with trees and residential buildings.
Getting around the rest of the region by bicycle should not present a problem, although you should be aware that many country roads are in poor condition and will leave you wishing you had caught a bus instead. So, too, might the constant rolling hills right up to the coastline; you’ll need a certain level of fitness for longer bike trips.