The Abruzzo Region

Abruzzo - often called Abruzzi in English - us a region in the centre of the Italian peninsula, with a surface of 4,168 square miles, a coastline extending over 150 Km and a population a little over 1.3 million (in 2019). It is bordered by Marche in the North, Latium in the West, Molise in the South and the Adriatic Sea in the East.

Though geographically a region of central Italy, Abruzzi has always been linked to the history and social-economic reality of Southern Italy. The impervious territory hindered communications caused the fragmentation and isolation of its peoples until very recent times.

The Territory

In the 1960's the construction of highways from Rome, Bologna and Bari, and more recently the 10km-long tunnel under the Gran Sasso opened the region to the rest of Italy and Europe. The region includes the highest peaks of the Apennines, the Gran Sasso (Monte Corno 9,560 feet), Maiella and Velino-Sirente, deep canyons and valleys, national and regional parks, wide sandy beaches, an astonishing wealth of artistic and natural beauty. Citadels and castles appear in the middle of woods and pastures, in the parks with some luck you can see brown bears, wolves and chamois, and eagles, hawks and buzzards on the highest peaks.

The Emblem

emblem of Abruzzo The emblem of the Abruzzo region is a Samnite shield divided into three diagonal fields, white, green and blue respectively, separated by gold bars; this was the shield of one of the peoples that formed the Italic League in 98 BC, to obtain equality rights with Roman citizens. The white band represents the snow-capped mountains, the green the forests and hills, and finally the blue band the sea. In this way the emblem reflected the geography of the region.

Historical Provinces

When the Romans conquered Abruzzo, it became known as the "Quarta Regio". In 1272 Charles I of Anjou divided the territory into two provinces, "ultra flumen Piscariae" or Abruzzo Ulteriore and "citra flumen Piscariae" or Abruzzo Citeriore, with a common governor residing in Chieti; in 1641 a second Governor was established in Aquila and in 1684 a third in Teramo.

In 1807 under Giuseppe Bonaparte the province "ultra flumen Piscariae" was divided into the two provinces of Abruzzo Ulteriore I, with capital Teramo, and Abruzzo Ulteriore II, with capital L'Aquila, while Chieti remained the capital of Abruzzo Citeriore. The existence of three provinces under the name of Abruzzo also explains why the region has always be known in the plural, Abruzzi, and many place names maintain the plural (Anversa degli Abruzzi, Tione degli Abruzzi, Villa Santa Lucia degli Abruzzi, not to speak of the regional capital, L'Aquila degli Abruzzi), though it is no longer commonly used by Italians. Pescara, the fourth and last province, was added in 1927 with territories from the three provinces.


In ancient times Abruzzo was inhabited by several peoples, including the Equi, Marsi, Vestini and Praetutii, who were conquered by the Romans before the third century BC. After the decline of the Roman Empire the region broke up into small feudal states and during the early Middle Ages Abruzzo was for a long time under the control of the Lombard duchy of Spoleto. In the 12th century the Normans conquered the territory, which became part of the Kingdom of Sicily and under Frederick II of Hohenstaufen had Sulmona as the regional capital.

After the fall of the Hohenstaufen dynasty in the 13th century, Abruzzi and Molise in turn came under the control of the Anjou, the Aragonese, the Spanish Hapsburgs, and finally, in the 18th century, became part of the Bourbon kingdom of Naples, under whose rule the region was divided into Abruzzo Ulteriore I, Abruzzo Ulteriore II, Abruzzo Citra, and Molise. By the early 19th century small liberal groups were taking part in revolutionary activities, and in 1860 the region became part of united Italy. In 1948 Abruzzi was joined with Molise, to the south, to form the region of Abruzzi and Molise; but in 1963 the two regions were separated again.


  • The first, and most widely accepted theory, was proposed in its Italia Illustrata by humanist historian Flavio Biondo, who considers Aprutium as a corruption of "Praetutium", that is to say, the land of the Praetutii, a population that originally inhabited the ancient Phoenician colony of "Petrut", near present Teramo, later called Petrutia or Praetutia by the Romans.
  • According to another hypothesis, the name may derive from the Latin aper (=wild boar), whereby Abruzzo would be the region of wild boar
  • A third theory is from the Latin participle abruptum (=steep, rugged), that is, the region of steep rocks
  • A further one is from the phrase "a Bruttiis", namely the land that begins with the Bruttii, inhabitants of southern Italy (modern Calabria).

The name Aprutium, unknown, at far as we know, in the classical era, appears for the first time towards the end of the 6th century AD in a letter of Gregory the Great directed to one "Oportunus de Aprutio". At first the name referred to the area of, or only the city of Teramo, whose name in Roman times was Interamnia Praetutiorum. During the Lombard domination (7th century AD) Aprutium was one of the seven gastaldates (a kind of Lombard jurisdiction) south of the Tronto river (Aprutium, Pinne, Teate, Marsi, Amiterno, Forcona and Valva). Afterwards, under the Normans, the term began to be used for all the lands at the northern limits of the Kingdom of Sicily, and under Frederick II finally Aprutium included the territories of all seven Lombard gastaldates - a territory not very different from today - with Sulmona as capital.

The Economy

The ruggedness of the territory has long hindered the development of Abruzzo, until in the 1960s the opening of major highways connecting the cities of Abruzzo to Rome, Bologna and Bari, and more recently the Gran Sasso tunnel that shortened the distance between L'Aquila and Teramo opened to the region the doors of Italy and Europe. Economic resources are almost entirely related to agricultural production with mostly local products (cereals, potatoes, vegetables, vines, olive trees) and typical products that are exported to Italy and abroad (saffron, licorice, tobacco, sugar beet).

Important throughout the region is also the breeding of livestock and sheep, which once represented one of the primary sources of livelihood for the population, molding the culture through the age-old practice of transhumance - the movement of livestock from mountain pastures to the plains outside the region. Even pig breeding has reached a certain level of relevance and many kinds of salami, sausages and ham are produced locally. Fishing as well is one of the qualifying sectors of the economy of the region.

The Abruzzo region produces one fifth of the whole hydroelectric energy in Italy, thanks to the large plants at Campotosto, Sagittario and Alto Sangro. Underground resources include petroleum (Alanno), aluminum (Marsica), bauxite and hydrocarbons. Industrial development is limited, except for areas near the bigger centers: there are large factories in Avezzano, L'Aquila, Pescara, Teramo and Chieti. Tourism is an important and growing industry on the Adriatic coast and in ski resorts.

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Provinces of Abruzzo
Abruzzo region
Surnames in the Provinces of Abruzzo