An underdog city of good honest restaurants and half-discovered mountain magic, Sulmona sits strategically on a plateau in the middle of three national parks making it, unequivocally, the best base for outdoor excursions in Abruzzo. It's easy to reach from Pescara or Rome, and simple to navigate once you arrive (trails fan out from the city limits).
Abruzzo's largest city is a heavily developed seaside resort with one of the biggest marinas on the Adriatic. The city was heavily bombed during WWII and much of the city centre was reduced to rubble. It's a lively place with an animated seafront, especially in summer, but unless you're coming for the 16km of sandy beaches, there's no great reason to hang around.
On Abruzzo's southern coast, the hilltop town of Vasto has an atmospheric medieval quarter and superb sea views. Much of the centro storico dates from the 15th century, a golden period in which the city was known as 'the Athens of the Abruzzi'; it is also distinguished as the birthplace of the poet Gabriele Rossetti.
Overlooking the Aterno valley, Chieti is a sprawling hilltop town with roots dating back to pre-Roman times when, as capital of the Marrucini tribe, it was known as Teate Marrucinorum. Later, in the 4th century BC, it was conquered by the Romans and incorporated into the Roman Republic.
Parco Nazionale della Majella
History, geology and ecology collide in 750 sq km Parco Nazionale della Majella, Abruzzo's most diverse park where wolves roam in giant beech woods, ancient hermitages speckle ominous mountains, and 500km of criss-crossing paths and a handful of ski areas play to the hyperactive.
Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga
About 20km northeast of L'Aquila, the Gran Sasso massif is the centrepiece of the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, one of Italy's largest national parks. The park's predominant feature is its jagged rocky landscape through which one of Europe's southernmost glaciers, the Calderone, cuts its course.
A one-horse hamlet in the hills west of Sulmona, Cocullo is the unlikely setting for one of Italy's weirdest festivals. The Processione dei Serpari (Snake Charmers' Procession) is the highlight of celebrations to honour San Domenico, Cocullo's patron saint and protector against snake bites.