Sited right where the north of Italy meets the south, Abruzzo is a region of contrasts.
With the towering Gran Sasso range and the Apennines in the east, and the dramatic 130km of Adriatic coastline to the west, Abruzzo can’t fail to offer you the best of both worlds.
The region also has the bonus of being around 40 per cent cheaper than more touristy parts of Italy.
Visit the mountain villages of L’Aquila
Most of this area is above 750m, its hillsides and mountains dotted with hundreds of little towns and villages, all of which offer traditional homemade produce of the highest quality.
Indulge in glorious nibbles of just-pressed olive oil, crusty bread, fresh pecorino and aged bresaola, not to mention wild saffron and dollops of the flavoursome Abruzzo black lentils, washed down with the local red wine, Montepulciano d’Abbruzo.
Explore the tiny village of Santo Stefano, which brims with character, then marvel at the glorious 13th-century duomo (cathedral) and wind-carved sandstone valleys of Atri, before ending the day in the lovely Castel Del Monte, a medieval town which raised its profile recently after being used as the location for the George Clooney movie The American.
Wolf watch at Impianezza
Gran Sasso and Majella national parks merit exploration, along with the other 30 protected nature reserves.
In summer, the area is a magnet for hikers and bikers while the winter pistes offer challenging runs to experienced skiers.
Check out the Apennine wolf sanctuary at Impianezza, near Popoli, where €8 bought me a ticket to get up close and personal with the animals.
Explore the coastline of Abruzzo
Back at sea level, the principal town on the coastal stretch is Pescara. Razed during World War II, it’s now the modern heart of the region.
Main drag Corso Vittorio Emanuele II is the place to go for designer bargains.
The coastline is also a study in contrasts, from the wide sandy beaches in the north near Pescara, Martinsicuro and Francavilla al Mare, to the wild and rugged landscape in the south.
Check out the Romanesque town of Vasto
The coastal jewel in Abruzzo’s crown is Vasto, only an hour south of Pescara.
This is a stunning Romanesque town with a glorious bay and beaches, and is literally brimming with antiquities and ancient charm.
Julius Caesar thought highly of it, and its lofty position within the Roman empire can be seen in the oodles of granite and marble remains.
Even the town museum is a beautiful old building, decked out with ornate original marble and offering breathtaking views of the bay from its top floor.
Abruzzo provides visitors with a taste of vintage Italy without the crowds. It’s a region where time has stood still, and long may it continue to do so.
What you need to know about Abruzzo, Italy
When to go The warm summer months are the best time to visit, but it’s possible to ski in winter.
Getting there Ryanair flies direct to Pescara from London Stansted.
Getting around Hire a car to see the region. See easycar.com/tntmagazine for a 5 per cent discount.
Visas South Africans need a Schengen visa. currency Euro. 1 GBP = 1.12 EUR.
Language Italian. going out A pint of beer costs about ¤1.50. accommodation Hostel dorm beds are from ¤25, double hotel rooms start from ¤75.