The decision to buy a house in Abruzzo was an easy one for me—it was figuring out the exact location that took time.
I studied maps for hours, scraped for scarce information about towns and villages on Google, emailed estate agents, and visited dozens of places. I got stuck in cul-de-sacs on narrow cobbled streets of medieval villages and was lost on windy mountain roads with GPS telling me to drive on a perilous dirt track.
In the end, I bought a house in a small village in the heart of the La Maiella National Park. Here, I’m surrounded by hiking trails yet only 15 minutes from a highway and 40 minutes from the Abruzzo International Airport.
After 11 years, I can finally say I know the region like the back of my hand. It’s diverse, affordable, and beautiful.
What are you looking for in your own search for a new home overseas? Tranquility? Like-minded people? Easy connections with European destinations? You can find all of this in Abruzzo. (On the other hand, if you prefer fast-paced, stressful city life, this is not the place.)
Embracing Tranquil Country Living
Abruzzo remains unblemished by mass tourism and major housing developments, so finding a place where you can wake up to the sound of birds chirping and spot deer grazing on a nearby meadow is easy.
In the north and south, you’ll find scarcely populated areas with sleepy villages and farmhouses surrounded by acres of farm and olive groves. The municipalities of Arsita, Bellante, Farindola, Villa Celiera, and Civitella Casanova are located near the majestic snow-capped mountain peaks of Gran Sasso and have vast stretches of unspoiled countryside, beautiful wildlife, and hiking trails.
Around here, you’ll need to embrace traditional living. Locals will want to know everything about you, give you advice on how to grow vegetables, and speak the dialect with you.
In small villages, you’ll do your grocery shopping at small weekly markets or from street vendors’ vans—these guys blast Abruzzese traditional music from loudspeakers on arrival to let everyone know it’s shopping time.
Winters can be snowy and harsh in the mountains. If you prefer milder weather, look at the southern tip of the Chieti province. The tranquil towns of San Buono, Scerni, Pollutri, and Furci are all within a 20- to 30-minute drive of the Adriatic coast—everyone has a small vineyard and snowfalls are rare here.
Mingling With Expats
In the last decade, more foreigners have been settling down in Abruzzo. The towns of Casoli, Palombaro, Lanciano, Sulmona, and Penne have active English-speaking communities that are always ready to help newcomers and regularly organize get-togethers.
In the area around Avezzano, you’ll find many international families who moved here to work for the big telecommunication companies in town. However, be prepared to pay more here—rent and property prices can be significantly higher in areas popular with expats.
Any expat based in Abruzzo will tell you that speaking Italian will make your life much easier. Even in the bigger cities, your chances of running into a local who will speak English with you are slim. Whether you’re shopping for groceries, dealing with your builder, visiting the doctor, or opening a bank account, expect all business to be conducted in Italian. On the positive side, you’ll find plenty of good private teachers here who can help you to learn the language. Some town halls also run free Italian courses for foreigners.
For a long time, Abruzzo remained isolated with poor transportation links to bigger cities and the rest of Europe. While rural areas are still notorious for poor public transport services, most parts of the regions are well connected.
Want to be near the main bus hubs, train stations, and the Abruzzo International Airport? Look toward Pescara—it has good train connections and numerous buses that will take you to major Italian cities. Rome is four hours by train and just two-and-a-half hours by bus—only 20 euros (US$23) for a return ticket. When you feel like a weekend escape, low-budget airlines fly to Milan, Turin, Catania, Brussels, Barcelona, Warsaw, Krakow, Düsseldorf, and London.
Smaller towns such as Sulmona, Tocco Da Casauria, and Torre de’ Passeri have frequent buses and trains to Rome. The main motorways cutting through the region are well maintained, and roads, in general, are in decent conditions (with some exceptions in the mountainous areas where landslides happen on a regular basis).
Enjoying The Amenities
Despite the distinctly provincial air about it, Abruzzo offers plenty of modern amenities and comfortable living. If you want to be closer to civilization, choose bigger towns closer to the coast. Pescara, Atri, Popoli, and Chieti all have quality hospitals (with highly qualified specialists), primary and secondary schools, post offices, numerous bars and restaurants, supermarkets, parks, public swimming pools, and gyms.
No matter which part of Abruzzo you choose, one thing will be impossible to find: ethnic food. Pescara has a few poor-quality Chinese restaurants and a couple of decent sushi restaurants. Big supermarkets have sections with ethnic ingredients (that’s where you’ll also find American barbecue sauces, baked beans, and peanut butter), but nothing will help you to sate your hunger for a good bowl of pho, curry, or burritos.
Now and then, I get together with a group of fellow expats for a home-cooked Indian meal or Pad Thai. After gobbling up the flavorsome dishes that we all crave so much, we’ll sit in an olive grove or by a swimming pool… with the majestic Apennines as a backdrop… and talk for hours about how lucky we are to live in such a wonderful corner of Italy.