It was my first time in Abruzzo and I think fifth time in Italy.
In my mind, I’ve always seen Italy as this great place for Renaissance architecture although I think in reality, it’s often very far from the palazzos that I imagined.
Abruzzo was similar.
With the buoyant wine industry and the region’s proximity to the north of Italy, Abruzzo is actually considered wealthy. We stayed in Pescara which I understand is the equivalent of Newquay in the summer. In the winter (it snowed while we were there), it’s a bit more akin to Norfolk.
That said, we never got the chance to visit nearby Chieti which is apparently much more of an “old town” with better architecture.
The wines, like the country, was rough and ready.
Powerful tannings backed by a fruitful force was the characteristic which really defined their noble grape, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It was interesting to see a spectrum of vineyards (the good and the bad, the large and the small) and to taste their respective interpretations of the grape. In the main, it was a grape that you really needed to get accustomed to.
Surprising, however, was the white wines made from Pecorino, another indigenous grape variety. This one was not unlike Chardonnay, but generally fruity with a touch of elegance. Perhaps it was just a better match to all the Pecorino cheese, seafood and cured meats we were having.
The food in Abruzzo was probably the best thing by far. The cuisine is peppered with saffron and baccalà and full of rustic charm. The flavours, while delicate, always delivered what the ingredients actually tasted of.
Between the late nights followed by 7am rises, merry-go-round of enamel stripping tastings and stomach-turning winding road, the food was always the thing to look forwards to.