Abruzzo - Background information

Natural history
People and culture



Most of the region comes under the control of the Lombards and their Duchy of Spoleto.

843 The region is renamed Marsia.

Swabian control of the region. Frederick II of Swabia creates Justitieratus Aprutii, a separate administrative area that takes in almost the entire region, with Sulmona as its capital.

1254 L’Aquila is founded.
1266  Charles of Anjou arrives in the region.
1268 Battle of Tagliacozzo ends Swabian control.
1294 Pietro da Marrone is named Pope Celestine V.
1458  University of L’Aquila is founded.

The region (part of the Kingdom of Naples) comes under Spanish control.


Castelli ceramics become important to the prosperity and development of the region.

1647  Unsuccessful revolt against Spanish rule.

Three provinces formed: Abruzzo Ulteriore I (L’Aquila), Abruzzo Ulteriore II (Teramo) and Abruzzo Citeriore (Chieti). This provincial structure lasted until 1927, when the Province of Pescara was added.

1703   A major earthquake destroys part of L’Aquila.
1790s  The cities of Teramo and Pescara resist French troops.
1854  Ambitious project to drain Lake Fucino begins.

The last Bourbon town, Civitella del Tronto, falls to the Kingdom of Italy.

 May 1915  Italy enters World War I.
 June 1940  Italy enters World War II.

Natural history

Abruzzo offers some of the most accessible, diverse and visually stunning natural landscapes anywhere in Europe. As one of Italy’s ‘wildest’ regions, its natural features have captured the imagination since the Romans discovered them during their attempts to cross the Apennines. In modern times, the region has been at the forefront of efforts to protect the country’s natural heritage and pioneered the idea of conservation in Italy. As a consequence it is home to Italy’s oldest national park,
the National Park of Abruzzo.

Flora and fauna

Campo Imperatore, Abruzzo, Italy, Elisa Bistocchi/DreamstimeAbruzzo is home to a variety of unique fora and fauna © Elisa Bistocchi/Dreamstime

Species such as the beautiful yellow-and-black orchid, Apennine edelweiss, Marsican bear, Apennine wolf and the enigmatic Apennine chamois headline an impressive list of unique fora and fauna found in the Abruzzo region. The Abruzzese have lived alongside this diversity of plant and animal life for thousands of years, developing a keen understanding of some of these species and the need to preserve them for future generations. Other species owe their survival to the landscape of Abruzzo itself. Many parts of the region are inhospitable to a permanent human population, which has in turn reduced human contact with many of the species that make these corners of the region their home.

People and culture

It is no easy task to collectively define the Abruzzesi. Their strength of, and conviction in, local identification means that even their closest neighbours inhabit a world somewhat foreign to their own. Indeed, geography – both the region’s place in Italy and its own mountainous terrain – plays a large part in perceptions of local identity.

The Abruzzesi, like many Italians, are not terribly patriotic or nationalistic when it comes to the Italian state as a whole. Unlike in some other countries, if, say, an international swimming race featured an Italian, an Abruzzese would certainly support the Italian, but faster than you could say ‘on your marks’, the inevitable question would arise, ‘Which part of Italy are they from?’ This is deemed to be important and it would certainly have a bearing on how a participant would be perceived, whether positively, negatively or even indifferently. 

Although the concept of an ‘Italian’ geographical area goes back a few thousand years, this strong identification with a region rather than the nation is not entirely unusual for a country unified from a collection of disparate states only a century and a half ago. Indeed, it is often perpetuated and encouraged, especially in popular culture. Affari Tuoi, the Italian equivalent of television game show Deal or No Deal, for instance, not only sees the contestants’ boxes numbered, but also identifies clearly which region they are from.

It is thus not surprising to see this way of thinking, played out at a more local level, forming a significant element of the Abruzzese character. Within the region itself, the majority of Abruzzesi are fiercely loyal to their immediate surroundings. To the cosmopolitan Romans, the Italic tribes of Abruzzo were seen as wild mountain people. This was in part because of the region’s topography: towns developed, thrived and functioned largely in isolation and independence from each other, even forming their own local dialect. The people grew an affinity with their surroundings because they depended on them far more than on trade with people from other towns, and their land was crucial to their survival. Before they had access to paved roads and shiny Alfa Romeos, the Abruzzesi travelled on donkeys, or horses if they could afford them. While trade was important to the functioning of the region, travelling to the next town could take a full day of uncomfortable riding through harsh, untamed mountainous territory. 

The Abruzzesi are exceptionally family-oriented.

The implications for modern Abruzzo are clear: generations of relative isolation have created a general ‘rivalry’ between the towns and cities of the region. Mostly these rivalries are harmless and are played out through humour. An Abruzzese won’t treat a person differently because he or she is from three towns away, which, especially to the older generations, might be considered the back of beyond. At its most evident, the strong rivalry between, for instance, residents of Pescara and those from Chieti, a mere 15km away, amounts to nothing more than a few sniggered words over, for instance, driving ability or taste in clothing. Generally speaking, to the Abruzzese, everything is far away. While the average Australian and American might think nothing of a 30km commute to work, travelling 10km to the next town seems like a chore to the Abruzzese, let alone what lies beyond the Apennine range.

The Abruzzesi are exceptionally family-oriented. Immediate and (very) extended families tend to be no more than a 10-minute drive away, and it is not unusual for at least three generations to live under the same roof, which is why many Abruzzesi children develop close bonds with their grandparents. Nonna and nonno are an endless fountain of love and kisses, not to mention toys, food and pocket money. The whole family eating together might consist of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins and cousins of cousins. Should you be asked to eat with an Abruzzese family, it will be one of the most fascinating and rewarding experiences of your travels in the region.

The Abruzzese tend to have an intense love affair with the region’s gastronomy, convinced that theirs is the best food not only in all of Italy but in the entire world. 

Back to the top

Abruzzo articles

View all

Alternative European beach destinations

Branch out from the same overcrowded summer destinations with our guide to the best alternative beach holidays. 


The world’s best Roman sites (outside Rome)

Rome may have been the epicentre of the Roman Empire, but the reach of this vast civilisation was far greater than just the Italian capital.


Making the most of a long weekend in Abruzzo

You've made it to Abruzzo but you've only got a weekend to spare. Here's how to make the most of a long weekend in the region. 


Related books

View all