I didn't know what I didn't know until I went and saw.
There are seaside cities with beaches and seafood and mountain towns with sheep and cheese. There are medieval castles and ancient hilltop towns. There are beechwood forests inhabited with wolves and bears and huge national parks. There are water sports and snow skiing. The Gran Sasso mountain looms in the background while the blue Adriatic cools down the coast.
Montepulciano is the most important red grape in the region. It is the second most planted red grape variety in Italy after Sangiovese. It makes a robust juicy red wine that has always been considered as a great wine with pizza. Abruzzo has long been known as an area for bulk wine but that image is changing as more producers are becoming quality conscious and bottling their own wine. We tasted many complex and elegant renditions with pairing potential that went far beyond red sauced entrees.
The region is also known for their rosato that is made from the Montepulciano grape, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, it is the darkest of the Italian rosés. The fuller body and lightly tannic structure make it an excellent partner both with simple prosciutto plates and heavier fish dishes.
The local white wines were an unexpected treat. They were delicious on their own and were a great match to the raw and other lighter seafood options. Trebbiano, the main white variety has gotten more interesting as vineyard practices have improved. The whites made from Pecorino were crisp, fresh, and perfect for the hot months ahead. Cococciola, a rarer variety is a crisp, lively white wine that would be an excellent aperitif at any summer soiree.
All of the wineries we visited are recommended. I have posted on each one at www.Wine-Thoughts.com. Some are more tourist friendly than others so check their websites before attempting to visit, most require appointments.
We stayed at Hotel Villa Maria in Chieti which is a Best Western resort. My suite was spacious with a large sitting room and a comfortable work area. It had a king-size bed in another room and a roomy, modern bathroom. It was very clean and nicely appointed. It also had a large private patio and a huge closet as well. The hotel appears to have a rather nice spa but I did not have a chance to try it out. I did enjoy breakfast every day outside on the terrace with lovely views of the sea.
A sunset dinner at a trabocco is a must do if you visit Abruzzo. Trabocco are connected fishing piers with numerous places for nets, poles, and pulleys along with a large hut. Many of these huts have now been converted into restaurants. We dined at Trabocco Punta Cavalluccio, the food was phenomenally fresh and I highly recommend it. For another seafood option, I would also recommend Ristorante Da Bacone in Pescara. We also enjoyed two paired menus at renovated castles, there is more on those two meals through the link to the winery posts above.
Speaking of castles, there is more than one to see in Abruzzo. We stopped by the formidable looking Ducal Castle of Crecchio to stretch our legs between stops. This particular castle was built by the Lombards in the eighth century.
There are also several museums to visit. We took time out to see the exhibits at both the Genti d'Abruzzo Museum which is an ethnographic museum and the Casa Natale di Gabriele D'Annunzio museum which is the birthplace or first home of one of Italy's most celebrated poets. Both are located in Pescara.
I thoroughly enjoyed my short trip to Abruzzo. The most important thing that I learned was that I need to return again soon. There is so much to see and do and so many delicious things to eat and drink.