A car is advisable for getting around this remote mountain terrain. There's a Nova (www.novacarhire.com) desk at Ciampino and an Avis (www.avis.com) at Fiumicino.
Rome's airports are the main gateways to Abruzzo. Ciampino is served by Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com); Alitalia (www.alitalia.com) and British Airways (www.ba.com) fly in and out of Fiumicino. On the other side of the Apennines, Ryanair also flies to coastal Pescara.
L'Aquila has a train station, served by Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) routes to the rest of Italy, usually via a change in Terni. From Rome, the journey will take just over three hours.
Italy country code: +39; L'Aquila: (0)862.
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss; A Kiss from Maddalena by Christopher Castellani.
Do go / Don't Go
The slopes will be snow-covered from December until early April. The warmest temperatures are in June and July. Evenings up in the mountains are chilly.
Altitude-cultivated pulses and tubers, chilli, precious saffron and pecorino cheese take centre stage in Abruzzese cuisine. Munch on milk-fed mountain lamb, fresh from a local plain. It will either be roasted (abbacchio), cubed and on skewers (arrosticini), grilled on charcoal or in a casserole. The regional pasta is maccheroni alla chitarra, named after the guitar-like device that shapes the sheets into strips. The best wine is the fruity, dry red, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.
You're more likely to find a mule pulling a cart of passengers than a cab in these rugged rural parts. Ask your hotel for advice.
Service charge will most likely be included, but it's customary to round up the bill if you're happy.
A shepherd's crook to move mountain sheep out of your way; fleeces and fluffy blankets; wildlife-spying binoculars.
Abruzzo is where the sought-after spice, saffron, made its Italian home. Brought here by a Spanish priest 450 years ago, the crocuses it's extracted from flourish on the Navelli plain.
There are lots of open-air, local-produce markets in Abruzzo, including one twice-weekly in Sulmona's Piazza Garibaldi every Saturday and Wednesday. Don't go home without checking out the gold shops, or picking up a supply of confetti (sugared almonds). In summer, Castelli has an outdoor ceramic market with artisans at work on site.
Drive up to the top of Campo Imperatore, a high peak-encircled plain filled with wild flowers. It's a scenic drive that's been captured in countless TV ads (as well as dubious '80s Rutger Hauer vehicle Ladyhawke). The remote refuge hotel inhabited by Mussolini in the last months of World War II is also nearby.
May On the first Thursday of the month, the residents of Cocullo celebrate their patron saint, St Dominic, by toting a statue of him through the town - all very normal, except that it's covered in live snakes brought by pilgrims as offerings to the serpent-loving saint. There are the more conventional festival staples of fireworks and a banquet, and the party doesn't end until the traditional breakfast picnic at the foot of the town's hill. We don't know what happens to the snakes…