The Abruzzo (or Abruzzi) is the Italian region covering the highest and wildest part of the Apennines, the mountain range that forms the backbone of peninsular Italy.
Abruzzo is in the central section of eastern Italy, stretching from the Central Apennines’ watershed to the Adriatic Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean.
As much of Italy, Abruzzi is mountainous and coastal at the same time.
The highest peaks of the Italian peninsula – excluding continental Italy in the north, crowned by the Alps which have Europe’s tallest mountains – are indeed in Abruzzi: the groups of Gran Sasso d’Italia which reaches the altitude of over 2,900 metres, and Maiella at nearly 2,800 metres above sea level.
Abruzzo National Park
In the southern part of the Abruzzo region is the vast Abruzzo National Park (“Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo”), extending for about 50,000 hectares (over 123,000 acres), covered with beautiful beech forests. Founded in 1922, it is Italy’s second longest-established national park and includes within its territory 25 towns.
Abruzzo National Park is home to rare species of large animals like the Abruzzi brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus), the Apennine wolf (Canis lupus italicus), the Abruzzi chamois deer (Rupicapra rupicapra ornata), the lynx (Linx linx), the most difficult animal to find, and the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). All in all this is the habitat of over 60 species of mammals, 300 of birds and 40 of reptiles, plus innumerable insects and other invertebrates.
The Park is criss-crossed by numerous side valleys, and possesses a wide network of footpaths and mountain huts, all of which makes it highly suitable to walkers and climbers.
The Abruzzo National Park can be explored on foot, horseback or bicycle.
The central point and hub of the Abruzzo National Park is the little town of Pescasseroli, which is right in the middle of the Abruzzo National Park.
Pescasseroli is located in a wide plain at 1,167 m. above sea level in the upper valley of the river Sangro, with a dry and healthy climate. This is where the Abruzzo National Park has its administrative headquarters. Pescasseroli makes a great base, a resort for both summer holiday visitors and winter sports enthusiasts, and is ideal for active, nature-loving families. There are some 150 walking trails around Pescasseroli.
For a nice mountain stay, here are among the best-liked hotels in Pescasseroli.
- The 4-star Hotel Daniel Pescasseroli, surrounded by unspoilt nature and wildlife, 1 mile or less to ski slopes, ski schools and ski lift, with outdoor swimming pool, free parking, gardens, apartments, rooms with balcony overlooking the mountains.
- The 3 star Hotel Orso Bianco Pescasseroli, in a quiet location 1.2 miles from Pescasseroli ski runs and less than a mile from Pescasseroli’s center, with free parking, rooms with balcony, family rooms, sun deck, terrace, garden.
- The 3 star Hotel Alle Vecchie Arcate Pescasseroli, in central location near Pescasseroli’s main square, with street parking, family rooms, economy rooms, garden courtyard with outdoor furniture.
- The 3 star Hotel Edelweiss Pescasseroli, with nearest ski slopes 1,000 yards from the hotel, with spa and wellness center, extensive grounds which include garden, terrace, outdoor fireplace, sun deck, free parking, free ski storage, family rooms, rooms with balcony.
Majella National Park Abruzzo
The Majella, sometimes called the Mother Mountain of Abruzzo, is the second-highest mountain massif of the Apennines after the Gran Sasso of Italy. It is in the most impervious and wild part of the Central Apennines.
Between Majella and Morrone, the lower valley of the river Orta takes on the characteristics of a canyon, creating a truly extraordinary scenario.
Majella’s limestones were deposited mostly from 100 million years ago on the bottom of a tropical sea rich in life, as evidenced by numerous fossils; its orogenesis is recent (Pliocene, 5 million years ago).
There is here at work the karst phenomenon (“carsismo” in Italian), formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. Karst is a sign of chemical activity exerted by water, especially on calcareous rocks, activity of both dissolution and precipitation, giving life to a specific, highly distinctive type of soil, karst soil, characterized not only by widespread presence of calcareous rocks but also by underground drainage systems with sinkholes, dolines, caves and water which easily filters deep into the subsoil.
On Majella there are more than 100 caves.
With the progress of research, it has emerged that this type of soil is one of the most interesting landscapes on earth.
Due to karst, the mountainous territory of the Majella National Park appears arid at high altitude but is rich in underground waters that flow abundantly in the valley springs.
The artist and landscape architect Janet Swailes, whose home is in the North Pennines hills in England, visiting the Majella, wrote in an article, or rather a poetic prose, for Italia & Italy, the Magazine of the Italian Cultural Institute for Scotland and Northern Ireland her experience of the contrast between La Majella and the Pennines:
My first impression of La Majella was the dimension of the spaces, something awesome and new to me. The great vertical voids of the valleys, sketched out and defined by the shoulders of the mountain, falling away in layers of distance. Perching in between the valleys and the mountain slopes, the villages, constructed contradictions of enclosure and exposure. Within that experience was something familiar, the comfort and exhilaration of experiencing an edge. The enclosed and open lands of the Pennines, (where the extending horizontal and not bottomless vertical dominates). Standing between the two experiences, two worlds and understanding the importance of that structure within my own make up.