The mountainous heart of Italy

The Abruzzi mountains that form Italy's green spine rise from the plains less than an hour's drive from Rome, yet the peaks are snowcapped year round (and offer quick ski getaways for Romans in winter).

Large swathes of the Abruzzo are covered by one of two vast national parks: the 2,014 km2 (777 mi2) Parco Nazionale Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga (www.gransassolagapark.it)—one of the largest protected areas in all of Europe, dominated by the mighty, snow-capped peak of the 2,912-meter (9,554-foot) Gran Sasso massif (deep under which is burrowed one of Europe's top physics laboratories)—and the 496 km2 (192 mi2) Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo (www.parcoabruzzo.it), which is so big it spills over into Lazio and Molise.

So just leave Rome and head into the mountains. Exit off the autostrada (highway) and just meander along the back ways into the heart of the mountains where narrow roads barely wide enough for one car cling to one side of a narrow, twisting canyon 800 feet above the surging waters of a mountain stream.

Places in Abruzzo

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