The castle of L'Aquila is also known as Spanish fort, because it was a Spanish man, Don Pedro from Toledo, viceroy of Naples, who decided to build it in 1534... to defend the city from the French armies.
The architect behind it is another Spaniard, Luis Escribà, akthough the construction took centuries and none of them clearly managed to see it finished. The plan is the usual square one, but the bastions are very angular... something I had not yet seen. Like every castle this one is of course surrounded by a moat, too.
The fort is now home to the National Museum of Abruzzo, with plenty of small permanent exhibitions, and some temporary ones. It's a bit confusing - and the different sections are not so clearly distinct... but it's interesting nonethless. I like in particular the section dedicated to local hand-made tombolos, which here are not sandbars stretching from land to an island offshore, but a peculiar type of embroideries.
The Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio is a fantastic romanic church in the city... the largest in the Abruzzo area. Look at the white and pink stones in which it's built: it's the same stones that were used for the fountains of the 99 spouts.
It dates back to 1287, and was commissioned by an hermit known as Pietro del Morrone but whose real name was Pietro Angeleri. This hermit rose to fame really quicky who was "crowned" pope here on 29 August 1294, under the name of Celestino V. On 13 December 1294, for unknowns reasons, he decided to abdicate - he was the first, no other Pope had abdicated ever before.
On 19 may there are big celebrations in his honour, so that's really a good time to visit the city.
The fontana luminosa - or else fountain of light, was created by Nicola D' Antino. The base is made of marble and on top of it there are two bronze naked women. They are holding a particular vessel, which is typical of the Abruzzo region, called "la conca".
The fountain is great during the day and at night. In the daylight you can admire, on a clear day, the imposing Gran Sasso range, while at night it is lit up and apparently, suggestive games of light are performed.
Piazza del Duomo is the main square of the city, and it is its heart and soul... it's where people meet, and every day there is a market. It's an oval sqaure with two twin fountains and two religious buildings: the duomo of San Marco and the chiesa del Suffragio, You can also find a small tourist information office, which hands out very impractical maps and useful advice.
Still, when i visited it, on a sunday, I found it quite empty and "abandoned"... very few people were around, including a couple of drunkards and a young man with evident mental problems. Despite its beauty, the impression I had was one of disappointment.
The most beautiful church of the old town is the church of San Bernardino... orignally its plan would have been to look like the church of Santa maria del Fiore in Florence, but when the 1725 eartquake stroke the city and destroyed parts of t, a new plan was concocted.
The facade is the original one, since it was not damaged... it's interesting how the architect, icola Filottesio, also known as Cola dell'Amatrice - used three different reneissance styles on the three different levels of the church. To make it lighter, there are "empty" spaces. The image you have is one of perfect balance and harmony.
Inside the remains of the saint are kept... they are stored in a silver urn - but you can still see his burial mask madfe of wax
S. Vito di Tornimparte is a beautiful little church that tends to be overlooked... and for a simple reason: it stands right opposite the fountain of the 99 spouts, and people are so taken in by this monument, that they often miss this little white church with a fine romanic portal.
Tornimparte is a village of 2.966 inhabiotants in the Aquila province of Abruzzo, and the church was given this name because it was built by people from that village who had moved to L'Aquila. On the right side of the medieval facade there are some interesting symbols... they are all templar symbols
La Fontana delle 99 cannelle (the fountain with the 99 spouts) is a large fountain built in 1272 by the architect Tancredi da Pentima and it is the symbol of the city. it is in trapezoid shape and it has 99 spouts with 99 masks - it is believed that they are the masks of the lords of the castles who founded the city.
If this is your first stop in L'Aquila, pay attention to the wall that surrounds the fountain... you will see the same pink and white stones, quarried at Genzano di Sassi, lin the church of S. Maria di Collemaggio.
We only walked around L'Aquila for about an hour or so. It was a Sunday evening, and it was quite difficult to find a place to park. We drove around and around. Finally, we parked on a narrow side street and then walked to the Piazza Duomo which was filled with young people, families, and older couples.
We were looking for the Information Center. We had directions to it, but we never found it.
We were impressed with the Porticoed Shopping up and down a long, long street. The shops were upscale and very attractive.
The Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Maxim [patron saint of the city] and to St. George. Even though this church dates back to 1257, the present-day church has little left of the original because of the destruction caused by earthquakes over the centuries. The present facade has 2 bell towers in the neo-classical style. I did not see inside, but I'm told that it is baroque and follows a Latin-cross structure.
In front of the Cathedral is one of the twin fountains; the other is on the opposite side of the Piazza. The fountains were built and designed by Nicola D' Antino.
We were looking for a hotel and walked all the way to bPiazza Battaglione degli Alpini.This fountain is located in a very busy area, in the center of the Piazza. It has two female bronze figures (also by Nicola D' Antino). They are holding copper conca high over their heads. It's an impressive sight, especially at night.
For all the other wonderful sites that L'Aquila has to offer, you'll have to check out other people's pages here on VT.
"There's a fairly large town over there" were my words as I first set eyes on L'Aquila from the truck stop service station.
By the time I'd reached this point I was so far away from where I'd originally intended that I decided to plunge on further, through the 10 kilometre plus tunnel and find my way past Ascoli Piceno and onto near Gubbio where we were booked in for the night.
As my brother would say, "Sounds good in theory."
It was sometime around 1.30 in the morning when we arrived, but I had seen L'Aquila and made up my mind to return.
If a couple of naked women arching their backs is what makes the world go round for you then you're bound to enjoy this monument, the Fontan Luminosa, dedicated to "Alpini L'Aquila" on the Piazza Battaglione just 30 metres from my hotel.
That's the alpine club for the totally language challenged.
With "collemaggio church" is the symbol of the town.
it is large fountain where water comes out from the 99 sculptures of the lords who founded the town.
It is situated on 3 of the 4 sides of a wide square.
don't miss it!!!
Unlike many other towns in Italy, where traffic is generally banned from the old town and the portos are a standout feature as you enter the city, the ones here have passed their use-by date and today are more of an impediment.
The Porta Castello (1769), erected during the time the town was finalizing its shape after the great earthquake, is such an example.
The half bricks poking out of buildings must have some name but, of the people I spoke to, no one seemed to know.
The building on the right is where I had my evening meal in L'Aquila. It houses a local trattoria. It was smoky, as many on them are, but the food was good and I love the atmosphere of trattorias generally.
All this is in the Piazza San Biagio.
There aren't any important palaces along the sides of the square because this was the place for the common people. In the afternoons and on Sundays people walk around under the open sky, sitting on the border by one of the two twin fountains by Nicola D'Antino.
At the lower side of the square (called "piedi piazza", while the upper part is known as "capo piazza") there is the Cathedral, dedicated to San Massimo, an early Christian martyr, one of the four patrons of the city.
Some have called the neo-classical exterior "bland" and, I suppose, after you've been exposed to what the rest of Italy has to offer, that may have a ring of truth to it.
By the comments you may have already read, you may think piazzas hardly exist here. Well, they have their share, it's just that they're not as grandiose as other towns I had been in the previous couple of weeks.
It didn't stop them being just as busy as you can see here. While I was on my morning sojourn the frameworks were being clanked into position and the tents erected for the markets.
This is unquestionably one of the main piazzas in the town and, with the title "Piazza del Duomo", you would expect that anyway.
This huge square is where every morning - except on Sundays - a market is held with stalls of fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, and also local farmers selling their own products. There are also clothes, garden products and traditional crafts - especially copper - on sale.