Lush Abruzzo, an Italian Region Unchanged by Time

Abruzzo brims with ancient history, palatial landscapes and familial cuisine.

By: Basil Russo, ISDA President

ISDA’s La Nostra Voce presents its fourth in a series of editions exploring the regions of Italy from which many of our members trace their ancestral roots.

The Abruzzo region has produced many well-known Italian Americans, including Dean Martin, Rocky Marciano, Mario Lanza, Bradley Cooper and Ariana Grande.

History: Many cities in the Abruzzo date back to the time of the Roman Empire, including Corfinio, Chieti, Atri and Teramo. After the fall of the empire, the region came under the control of several foreign powers, until it became part of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies in 1815, and later became part of modern day Italy with the Italian Risorgimento in 1860. In 1963, the Province of Campobasso was split from the Abruzzo to form the Province of Molise.

A Roman amphitheatre in Alba Fucens is more than 2,000 years old. (Abruzzo, Italy.)

Geography and population: The Abruzzo region is one of the most beautiful regions of Italy, stretching from the snow-covered Apennine Mountains to the clear blue Adriatic Sea. Nearly half of the region is made up of three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature preserves, making it the largest green region in all of Europe. The Abruzzo is divided into four provinces, Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo, and has a total population of 1,315,196, making it one of the most sparsely population regions in Italy. The largest cities in the Abruzzo are Pescara with a population of 119,217, and the region’s capital L’Aquila with a population of 69,439.

Fontana luminosa (the “light fountain”) mightily stands in the capital city of L’Aquila.

This article first appeared in La Nostra Voce, ISDA’s 28-page monthly newspaper, which chronicles Italian American life, culture and traditions. Make the pledge and subscribe today!

Artisans: Exquisite and world-renowned castelli ceramic pottery is created by Abruzzi craftsmen. The art was originally developed by the Benedictine monks in the Abruzzo in the Middle Ages. Today, castelli ceramics are displayed in the world’s most prominent museums, including the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan museum in New York and The Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Istoriato charger, Faenza, ca 1555.

Food: The cuisine in the Abruzzo is considered to be among the best in Italy. Regional dishes include spaghetti alla chitarra–a homemade pasta in a tomato sauce flavored with pork, pepper, goose or lamb; gnocchi carrati–made with bacon, egg and pecorino cheese; and sang e fagioli–a bean and noodle soup with tomatoes, garlic and peperoncini. But the Abruzzo’s greatest culinary treats are its wonderful desserts: confetti–sugar coated almonds, which are still given to guests at all traditional Italian American weddings; torrone nurzia–a sweet chocolate nougat with nuts; and pizzelle–a flat wafer cookie flavored with anise, which is among the most popular Italian American pastries.

Pizzelle have become a go-to dessert among Italian Americans, especially during Christmastime.

Wine: The Abruzzo is known for its exceptional wines. Montepulciano DOCG and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC are considered to be among the world’s finest wines.

A sprawling vineyard tucked beside the Adriatic Sea in Abruzzo, Italy.

Conclusion: While many regions of Italy have changed over time, the Abruzzo remains beautiful, rustic and traditional due to the fact that nearly 50% of its land is protected from development because it remains part of Italy’s national park system.

The people of the Abruzzo and their homeland, have come to be known as forte e gentile, which means strong and gentle. This saying, which evolved over time, best describes the character of the Abruzzi people, as well as their region.

Nearly 600,000 people from the Abruzzo region of Italy emigrated to the United State between 1880 and 1920, making it the fourth highest region of immigration in all of southern Italy. They and their descendants have played an important role in the growth and development of our great country, and many of them are proud members of ISDA.

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An Italian shepherd takes the reins of a horse, as he herds a flock of sheep in the Apennine Mountains in Abruzzo, Italy.

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