Traditional and historical isn’t limited to architecture in Abruzzo… the entire way of life in this part of Italy is carried out much the same way as it was 40 or 50 years ago. The region is nationally famous for its old-timey ways.
In fact, its wealth of castles and medieval towns (especially around L’Aquila) has earned it the nickname “Abruzzoshire” (a reference to “Chiantishire,” the name sometimes used to refer to the Chianti area of Tuscany).
And, of course, this is still Italy, rural though this particular region may be. You won’t have any trouble finding “high culture”—museums, archeological sites, galleries, fashion shows, and haute cuisine. And if what Abruzzo has to offer isn’t enough, Rome is less than two hours’ drive from some parts of the region; Milan, Venice, and Florence are all about four and a half.
Italy is said to be home to over 60% of the world’s ancient Western art and architecture—time to get out and see it…
Thousands Of Years Of Civilization
Settled in Neolithic times, this part of the world is no stranger to pilgrims.
The ancient people of Abruzzo included the famous Samnites, Marrucini, Vestini, and Marsi—fearless warrior races that fought against Rome’s expansion. By the time of the Civil Wars, they had banded together in an attempt to unite against the world power.
The region was highly active in Roman times but was sliced out into many more little regions than exist in today’s simplified geography. You may recognize a couple of the more important city names of the time… Ancient Aprutium was more or less Abruzzo. Ancient Picenum was Pompey the Great’s homeland. Ancient Corfinium was an important stronghold in the time of Caesar and Pompey’s civil war.
Some claim Abruzzo could be where the country’s name originated. The name Italia may have been coined in ancient Corfinium… literally—the oldest dated coin with the name Italia minted on it was found there (dating to the 1st century B.C.).
“Forte e gentile“… strong and gentle. That’s how Primo Levi, a 19th-century Italian diplomat and journalist, described the region and its people. It’s now a common motto quoted about the area.
In more recent history, Abruzzo has fallen off the national map. Up until just a few decades ago, it was one of the poorest regions in the country.
Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has seen steady economic growth. In the ’90s, its growth surpassed that of any other region and boasted the highest per-capita GDP in the country. The construction of new highways—making it easily accessible from Rome—opened it up domestically and brought in state and private investment the region had never seen before, in turn improving local education levels.
These days, the per-capita GDP well outpaces that of the rest of southern Italy (a healthy 84% of the national average), and Abruzzo is the richest region in Southern Italy.
Abruzzo represents the “real Italy”—this is a traditional, rural region offering a slow-paced, low-key pace of living… perfect for retirement or those looking for a peaceful way of life. Aside from Pescara or Chieti, the towns and villages here offer small-town living and neighborly values that are hard to find these days.
Above all, Abruzzo offers a chance to step back into the past and live a simpler, tranquil life—a lifestyle that you might have been able to enjoy in 1950s America… but with lots more wine and pasta.
Opting For The Rural Lifestyle
Abruzzo is ideal land for going off-grid. The weather is temperate year-round, the earth is fertile, and the land is largely divided into small plots for individual owners. Living off the land is a great way to enjoy the fresh air, control your own schedule, and embrace peace and quiet.
Most residents with any amount of land grow some kind of produce—whether it’s just a few fruit trees, an olive grove, a vineyard, or rows of crops. In most cases, they sell their harvest to producers after taking however much they think they can eat themselves—making some easy pocket money while reducing their own food costs.
Karen and Dave, two Abruzzo expats, moved to their 2.5-acre plot 12 years ago and became completely self-sufficient. Over the years, they’ve had just about every kind of farm animal there is to have in this part of Italy.
Ultimately, they settled with a small farm of chickens, rabbits, sheep, and pigs, and a few rows of produce they turned over each season. They built pens for the animals, had a grazing paddock, a large smoker ideal for cheeses, plus a small but fully equipped slaughterhouse. Their monthly expenses were limited to toiletries and their car. “We were fat, dumb, and happy,” Dave quips.
One tip from an experienced couple: Don’t try to keep goats. They’re impossible to manage. At one point they played host to five goats that refused to be handled or milked. For a few months, the couple dealt with them by one lassoing, the other tackling, then dragging them by the lasso to the milking station… but they mostly just ended up getting injured. The milk and cheese wasn’t enough of a payoff for the occasional broken bones!
Dave and Karen took self-sufficiency to the extreme. But you could very easily draw the line at producing a few fruits and vegetables from crops, collecting eggs and milk, and producing cheese, maybe even olive oil or wine—all very achievable and family-friendly. Even producing small, erratic amounts of any of the above could give you a nice discount on monthly food costs—whether you’re nibbling away on it yourself… or selling your produce.