Having been here for a week, for the fourth time in my life, it's pretty easy for me to confirm how much Rome and my adopted hometown of Los Angeles are alike. In Rome, everyone immediately looks you up and down, even the cheesy bridge-and-tunnel kids with the badly gelled hair who live miles from Cinecitta; everyone's pazzo, doing something unusually complicated on unusually expensive cellphones, especially when driving; and style trumps all (addendum: most Romans, outside your immediate family and favorite Hugo Boss salesman, will be nice to your face and speak crap behind your back). Tired of these inescapable Hollywoodisms as well as the tourists in every corner of the city (and every Dior, D&G, and Armani store)--even in the small, unusually good dining rooms and bars of the former slaughterhouse district, Testaccio--I recently sought refuge in my father-in-law's alpine region of Abruzzi (home as well to half of Madonna's family). Good thing, too, because aside from the best saffron, game, sheep's milk cheese, and mountainous national parkland in Italy, Abruzzi (though it's been called "The Next Toscana," think more Colorado than Napa) also benefits from a lack of tourism. Which doesn't mean you won't find great restaurants and hotels here; just that they won't be overrun with tacky, in-your-face, fanny-pack-waisted Rick Stevesians and the guidebooks that they love--or worse, B-level American celebrities. After a fast two hour jaunt east from Rome, last week, I arrived in the small, rustic town of Campo di Giove, set deep under the imposing Majella mountains and just minutes from the medeival city of Sulmona, birthplace of Ovid and that Confetti (candied almonds) your significant other will likely adore as much as L. Locals, and there are plenty of young, single ragazzi still hanging in their hometowns--make sure not to say you are single as one friend did; you will get an invitation to a family dinner for the wrong reasons). Inadvertently stylish in 80's threads they don't care about (unlike some of the chic-geeks in Sulmona), these kids may win you over with genuine friendliness as quickly as, say, the freshly made annelini with speck and ricotta (which would no doubt be on tomorrow's Babbo menu if Batali ever scootered himself over), at the no-frills La Scarpetta di Venere. At this thin-aired pine-perfumed spot, on a recent night, the young locals gathered to watch Rome play Inter in soccer while scarfing down pizze (I recommend the local prosciutto as a topping; it's deeper in color and richer in flavor, with more substance, than the overbought Parma stuff you can find in any Dean and Deluca), taking turns saying hello to our Zia (yes, young people, in certain places still have respect for elders). In the morning, you might want to follow my lead and dodge a brown bear, a few wild boars, and a wolf (if I was kidding, this would be mentioned with some degree of whimsy), while riding the funicular up to Gran Sasso d'Italia (the rock of Italy), the highest mountain in the country, for fantastic hiking and even a look at a hotel built by Mussolini in Campo Imperatore. It's true: I have a home here--in the city you see above--and thank god there's no Wi-Fi. I, however, never mind a night at the albergo diffuso Sextantio, a recently finished preservation-minded design hotel built out of the intact medeival Abruzzese town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, right in the national park, where Philippe Starck bathroom fixtures sit in restored cave-like brick rooms for the socially conscious yet aesthetically driven travelers some of us know we have become. I'm OK with this kind of tourism; the place was purchased over ten years ago and painstakingly restored with natural materials allowing locals (those who remained) to enjoy a better quality of life each month. As the manager, Giovanni, tells me, it's not for everyone. You have "niche" clienti, I tell him. Yes, he says, nich-a. Like the philosopher? Not exactly, I say, but hotel managers who think philosophy at the drop of an Abruzzese wool cap definitely are a niche group. Ho capito, he replies: I GET you. Then we eat a few chunks of local pecorino, talking soccer, while an American in a rented Alfa drives by, almost hitting a deer, he is so focused on the combination of his G.P.S. system and the panino he bought at an Auogrill on the autostrade. Oh, Abruzzi, am I hurting you--and hence slowly poisoning my escape--with such a post? I will have to care for you as I introduce you around.--A.B.