Castelvecchio Calvisio, Abruzzo. The greenest region in Europe. One of the best regions in the world for the quality of life
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One of the best regions in the world for the quality of life

Abruzzo region borders the Marche to the north, the Adriatic Sea to the east, Lazio to the west and Molise to the south. The Abruzzo region is mainly mountainous for 65% and hilly for 34%. The flat area covers only 1% along the narrow coastal line of 131 km.

Abruzzo region between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine peaks

Considered the greenest in Italy, Abruzzo region best summarizes the incomparable environmental and landscape qualities of the Italian peninsular. It is mainly divided into two parts: the coastal one on the eastern side with the beaches of the Adriatic, and the mountainous one on the western side with the Gran Sasso d’Italia, the Majella and the Sirente-Velino. These mountain massifs are the highest of the entire Apennine chain.

The mountainous conformation of Abruzzo region

Bordered by the Apennines, Abruzzo region encloses one of the wildest landscapes in Italy: silent valleys, abandoned hill towns, and vast mountain plateaus once inhabited by wolves, bears, and chamois. The predominantly mountainous configuration of the hinterland is its most fascinating face. Abruzzo region mountains are interspersed with fertile valleys and grandiose plateaus. Agriculture covers the hilly landscape of vineyards and olive groves. While niche products such as saffron are grown in the L’Aquila region.

National parks

Three national parks with numerous protected areas cover more than 30% of the region, an extension with the highest concentration in Europe. The national park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, the Majella national park, and the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga national park with the various protected areas preserve over 75% of the animal and plant species of the European continent. An environmental peculiarity that makes Abruzzo one of the best regions in the world for the quality of life.

Historical background

From the Italics to the Romans

Abruzzo was inhabited since the Lower Paleolithic as evidenced by some necropolises of the 10th century BC. Subsequently, from the 8th century BC about then, the region was populated by the colonies of the Osco-Umbrian italics. In 304 BC these highly bellicose populations were subdued by the Romans after the second Samnite war when many of them entered into an alliance with Rome. In the Augustan division of Italy, Abruzzo was almost entirely included in the Regio IV (Sabina Samnium).

The Lombards in Abruzzo region

Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the region was conquered by the Lombards. With the name of Aprutium, the territory is included in the duchy of Spoleto (Umbria) and, subsequently, it will be part of the so-called southern kingdom, of which it will follow until 1860. During their domination, the Lombards partly retain and reorganize the local administrative system. In addition, they build countless small fortified garrisons, mostly tiny forts, and watchtowers, to control the territory.

From the Franks to the establishment of the Giustizierato d’Abruzzo

During the Lombard domination, several Cistercian abbeys and monasteries were built. After the Franks of Charlemagne and Pepin the Short, the Normans annexed the region to their domain with William I king of Sicily thanks to the investiture obtained by Pope Adrian IV. With the end of the Norman dynasty, Abruzzo passed under the domination of Frederick II of Swabia. In 1233 Frederick II created the Giustizierato d’Abruzzo which draws the boundaries of the regional territory, part of the Kingdom of Sicily, with Sulmona as capital.


During the Middle Ages, in 1254 L’Aquila was founded on the old Roman city of Amiterno. Almost completely in ruins and no longer manageable, Amiterno had to be rebuilt entirely with a new center. According to legend, 99 castles of that area and the Aterno valley come together to create a new city in a short time, building streets and churches that take their name from those of the founding castles. Following its alliance with the Angevins, L’Aquila was shot down by Manfredi in 1259 and resurrected as a free municipality. In 1268, at Tagliacozzo, Corradino, the last Swabian, was defeated and taken, revealing the consolidated presence of the Angevin dynasty.

Angevins, Aragoneses and Spaniards

The Angevin domination in the south ends in 1442 with the arrival of the Aragons to the Kingdom of Naples. Many castles in bad shape in the region are repopulated, rich and noble Neapolitan families buy various territories favoring trade. In 1550 the war broke out against France which aimed to control the Kingdom of Naples. Louis XII was defeated in 1503 and from 1504 the south of Italy, insular and peninsular, became a possession of the Spanish sovereigns until 1713.

Abruzzi’s fiefdoms of Margaret of Parma

In the first half of the 16th century, the coasts of Abruzzo were looted incessantly by the Ottomans. While the Abruzzo hinterland returns to live a period of cultural and, thanks to the development of transhumance, economic growth. A well-being also favored by Margaret of Parma Duchess of Penne who since 1568 settles in her Abruzzo fiefdoms obtained by her father Charles V. With a direct administration aimed at the growth of the region, the Duchess gives a significant boost to the local economy and culture. Margherita of Parma died in Ortona in 1586, she was 64 years old. The fiefdoms she administered will then be identified as the Farnesian States of Abruzzo.

Spanish domination

The period after Margaret of Parma saw an impoverishment of the region due to constant clashes between local lords who dominated the main cities. And in 1684, by order of the Spanish viceroy of Naples, the Abruzzo lands are divided into three provinces: Abruzzo Citeriore with Chieti as capital, Abruzzo Ulteriore with L’Aquila as capital, And Abruzzo Ulteriore II with Teramo as capital.

Pestilences and earthquakes

But the greatest damage to the region is caused by pestilences and earthquakes. Mainly the plague of 1656 upsets much of the region by decimating thousands of lives. While during the early 1700s, Abruzzo was hurt by terrible earthquakes, seismic events that seriously damaged medieval towns and villages. One of the cities affected is L’Aquila which will take nearly fifty years to fully recover.

From the Spanish to the unification of Italy.

After the Spanish war of succession, in 1713 Abruzzo became, for a short time, an Austrian domain with Charles VI of Habsburg and then passed to the Bourbons in 1738. Except for the French occupation attempt of 1799, Abruzzo would pass from the Bourbons domain to the kingdom of Italy in 1861.

The earthquake of L’Aquila

In recent years, Abruzzo leaps under the eyes of the world, when on April 6 2009, at 3:32, a strong earthquake struck L’Aquila. The regional capital is devastated by killing more than 300 people and leaving 65000 homeless.

Abruzzo map