Abruzzo, the “green heart of Italy” is being too modest. With three National Parks, a regional park, dozens of protected areas, and with fully one-third of the region in green belts and preserves, more than any other region in Europe, Abruzzo can fairly call itself the “greenest region in Europe”. The National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga, in the craggy Apennines, provides sanctuary for nearly 150 protected species of wildlife. The Lake of Campotosto, in the Monti della Laga, is a favorite spot for birdwatchers, as thousands of migratory birds use the lake as a resting. The National Park of Abruzzo is another sanctuary for endangered species and, since its founding in 1923, has been a haven for some of the rarest animals in Europe, including the Apennine wolf, the Marsican brown bear and the Abruzzo chamois.

Something that’s not-so-rare in Abruzzo, anymore, is the non-Italian. In fact, statistics compiled for the Ecotur Report on Tourism by Istat*, ENIT** and the University of L’Aquila show that the National Park of Abruzzo attracted more foreign visitors than any other park in the country! Abruzzo is still thought to be one of Italy’s hidden gems, but that notion is changing. Abruzzo property values, even during the Italian economic turmoil, are in better shape than they are in much of the country, and this has not been lost on foreign investors and holiday home buyers. Foreign settlement in the region has grown to the point where parts of the regional capital, L’Aquila, are sometimes dubbed “Abruzzoshire”, a nod to Tuscany’s “Chiantishire”.

In terms of property for sale Abruzzo is a region of great contrasts. Moving inland from the urbanized coastal strip the population and industry thin out and the pace of life slows to match the bucolic setting. In addition to vineyards, if you are looking for other agricultural property, Abruzzo has small and mid-size holdings that specialize in regional products like saffron and licorice. Abruzzo even has a place within the generous green heart for some sweet treats, featuring “Torrone Nurzia”, the luscious chocolate nougat of L’Aquila, the waffle cookie “pizzelle”, and the “real” confetti (sugarcoated almonds) of Sulmona.

Although the devastating earthquake of April 6, 2009 threw the entire region for a financial loop, signs of recovery in Abruzzo are evident, and a new diversity of commerce is keying hopes of further economic growth. Attractive price points have allowed savvy non-Italians to purchase a property in Abruzzo. Popular choices have been rustic villas, with vineyards and working wineries, as people have chosen in Tuscany, but without the heavy Tuscan price tag. In Abruzzo, you may be able to produce your own vintages, something to stand with one of the world’s signature red wines, the famous regional Montepulciano d’Abruzzo .

Proximity to great hiking, skiing and fishing appeals to many newcomers, and the soothing effects of nature are felt everywhere in Abruzzo. Whether you are viewing Nature’s artful stalactites and stalagmites in the Grotta del Cavallone, located in the Majella National Park, or perhaps catching a glimpse of a Bald Eagle soaring over an Apennine massif, you will feel the warm beat of the Italian heart.

* Istat: National Institute for Statistics
** ENIT: The Italian Government Tourist Board