Introducing Abruzzo & Molise
Straddling the central Apennines, Abruzzo and Molise offer some of Italy’s least-explored countryside. And it’s this wild landscape of stark peaks, silent valleys and dark forests that’s the real reason to visit. In few other regions can you find such solitude. But that’s not to say that tourism has bypassed the area. It hasn’t. The Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise attracts two million visitors annually, while further east the heavily developed Adriatic resorts swell with sun seekers every August. Inland, however, the pace is slower and the infrastructure less obtrusive.
Abruzzo and Molise boast three national parks encompassing 3350 sq km of mountainous terrain. Here a small number of wolves and bears roam free, and although you’re unlikely to meet one, it adds an edge to know that you might. A vast outdoor playground, the parks are a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts with wonderful hiking, skiing and mountain-biking.
Traditionally poor and neglected, neither region is as culturally rich as its more illustrious neighbours, but there are gems to be found. The Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L’Aquila and the Byzantine frescoes of the Abbazia di San Vincenzo Volturno, northwest of Isernia, are both striking examples of artistic expression. Isolation has also ensured the survival of age-old customs such as Cocullo’s bizarre snake-charmers’ procession and the manic bull-race in Ururi. In Scanno, you can still see elderly women wearing traditional costumes.
The two regions (known collectively as the Abruzzi until they were divided in 1963) are among Italy’s most earthquake-prone. Most recently, a quake in 2002 killed 29 people in the small town of San Giuliano di Puglia.