Lay of the Land
For the purposes of this book, Central Italy includes the regions of Umbria, Marche, and Abruzzo — basically the areas from Rome's immediate northeast to its immediate southeast. Each of the three regions in Central Italy has its own history, but because of their close geographic proximity, they share similar timelines and were all ruled by the Roman Empire, Charlemagne, Napoleon, and the Papal States at various points. Much of the land in this part of Italy is hilly or mountainous, with sloping plains that run along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Thus, tourism here includes ski resorts as well as sandy beaches, each with its own season for you to enjoy. Medieval cities and towns also draw countless tourists, all of whom can sample the locally produced wines and olive oils.
The Appenine Mountains run through Abruzzo, Umbria, and Marche and are believed to have been created by the same tectonic shift from which the Alps emerged. The region continues to suffer from earthquakes today, especially Abruzzo, where the most recent fatal shake, in April 2009, killed 307 people and damaged many historic buildings.
Getting Here and Around
Major highways and train lines connect this region to nearby Rome, which means you can easily fly into the capital city and then take a rental car, bus, or train to the region's smaller cities. From Rome to Ancona, which is about the farthest possible distance within this region, the train ride takes three to four hours, depending on whether you catch an express or local line. The views of the hillsides are lovely and make the train ride as picturesque as it is efficient. In the Marche region, there are highways and train lines running north-south right along the Adriatic coast, with spectacular views of the waterfront.
There is also a regional airport called Aeroporto di Ancona Falconara in the city of Ancona. It welcomes regional flights from Italian cities including Rome and Milan, as well as flights from other parts of Europe. The airport's website, which has an English version, is at
No matter how you get to this region, if you plan to stick to the cities and towns, then you should be able to get by with public buses and trains as opposed to a rental car. Bus and train routes become less accessible if you want to explore some of the more rural areas in this part of the country.
A Different Tourism Style
While this part of Italy includes Medieval towns, historic churches, and similar attractions that you can find elsewhere around the country, it is also relatively untouched by the masses, who tend to gravitate toward Tuscany when they want to escape Rome for a few days. The locals consider much of this land a beautiful place to travel through, so you can enjoy the solid network of roads and train routes without having to worry about following gigantic tour groups all the livelong day. In other words, if you want to combine your historic sightseeing with out-of-the-way restaurants, park trails, and working local ports, then Central Italy is a good place to be.