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Abruzzo, a journey through history between sea, mountains, flavours and unspoilt nature in parks and protected areas

A region in central Italy, Abruzzo has two souls and one heart. Predominantly mountainous and hilly, it overlooks a beautiful stretch of the Adriatic Sea. Here, you will find the highest peaks of the Apennines, such as the Gran Sasso and the Majella massif, as well as the only Apennine glacier, but also some of the most popular beaches.

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Photo by: Ivan Masciovecchio

Trans-Siberian Railway of Italy

An itinerary of undisputed charm, a journey through the historical, cultural and natural beauty of the magnificent territory of the Central Apennines. Traveling slowly through the hills and valleys of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, and the Majella Park with its mystical hermitages, touching some of the most beautiful ancient villages in Italy, the Railway of the Parks is the ideal itinerary for those in search of new experiences and emotions. Considered the most scenic rail route in the boot, the Trans-Siberian Railway of Italy or Railway of the Parks will lead you through medieval villages, unspoiled nature and beautiful landscapes in motion. The railway stands out for its touristic value and for its technical characteristics: touching slopes of 28% in some parts of its path, it is considered a masterpiece of railway engineering. The ancient Sulmona-Isernia section reaches a length of about 128 km. Along the way, the carriages cross scenic bridges and viaducts and pass through 58 tunnels, the longest of which, under Mount Pagano, measures 3109 meters. It departs from Sulmona between 8:45 and 9:00 a.m. with a same-day return trip. Depending on the season, the train stops at some destinations rather than others, know that any time of year is perfect to make this trip because the destinations are all enchanting and of equal beauty. Campo di Giove, Palena, Rivisondoli-Pescocostanzo, Castel di Sangro, Roccaraso, are some of the places touched by the train on its journey through the Abruzzo National Park and the Majella National Park, hence the name of the Parks Railway.
Art & Culture
Ortona, Chieti, Abruzzo / Italy - 08/13/2020: Aerial view of the ancient Aragonese Castle on the shore of the Adriatic Sea

Aragonese Castle of Ortona

The Aragonese Castle of Ortona: a manor house overlooking the sea Its spectacular location overlooking the sea gives it much of its charm. The Aragonese Castle of Ortona, in the province of Chieti, softly overlooks the shores of the Adriatic Sea, facing the long Costa dei Trabocchi, with its imposing architecture. An unmissable journey through 15th-century history linked to the Aragonese domination of the Abruzzo region. Restored after a period of decay The marvellous fortress, as we know it today, dates back to the period between 1450 and 1470, when it was transformed from earlier mediaeval buildings. It was supposed to protect Ortona from the Aragonese assault, but failed. The quadrangular shape in full Renaissance style was chosen by Alfonso of Aragon, who wanted to rebuild the fortress overhanging the sea and make it more strategic in order to protect the town's harbour. Ortona passed into the hands of Margaret of Austria in 1582, who bought it for 54,000 ducats to convert it into a modern, economically flourishing town. Building innovation concentrated on the built-up area, leaving the Aragonese stronghold almost intact. The village was run by local administrations that took little interest in the castle's fate, condemning it to a long period of decay. Further damage to its structure occurred in the 20th century: it was hit by bombing in 1943 and by a landslide in 1946. Today it has regained its splendour thanks to careful restoration work undertaken in the 2000s. A history enlivened by a dark legend It is impossible to tell the story of Ortona's Aragonese Castle without mentioning the so-called “Legend of the Return”. The story goes that a rich merchant was received at the king's court, met his beautiful daughter, and fell madly in love with her. The king did not wish to give his daughter's hand in marriage to a sea dog. He therefore promised the merchant to grant him permission to marry his daughter only if he brought him something unique and remarkable as a gift. Several months passed and there was no sign of the merchant. The princess could not rest until the stormy sea, moved by compassion, led her back to her beloved at the bottom of the sea. In the morning, fruits that had never been seen before appeared on the beach in Ortona. Green and round, they were called monkey brains or Osage oranges. They were an extraordinary gift for the king. Still today, near the castle, fishermen swear they can hear the wails of the princess on stormy nights. During the Second World War, Ortona was renamed by Winston Churchill as the Stalingrad of Italy: crossed by the Gustav Line, the fortification that divided the peninsula in two, with the Nazi-Fascists to the north and the Anglo-Americans to the south, it was attacked and bombed for about six months. Antique furnishings, museums and evocative routes A visit to the Aragonese manor of Ortona holds its own charm: in one of its towers you can visit a small but delightful museum with period pictures and furnishings that belonged to the noble families who lived there over the centuries. Cyclists and hiking enthusiasts can enjoy a convenient route that leads from the castle to the cycle path along the Ortona coastline.
Eremo di sant'Onofrio al Marrone, Sulmona, Abruzzo, Italy

Chiesa di Sant'Onofrio

Discovering the Hermitage of Sant'Onofrio al Morrone Mountain scenery with a strong scenic impact, watercourses bordering scenic roads, the green of the woods alternating with imposing rocky scenery: climbing up the Gran Sasso d'Italia and arriving in Sulmona, we can explore the timeless beauty of the Hermitage of Sant'Onofrio al Morrone, a small Abruzzo jewel. Sant'Onofrio al Morrone Hermitage: history of a pearl set in the mountain Perched on one side of the mountain, with a vantage point overlooking the Peligna Valley and the Gran Sasso and Sirente-Velino mountain ranges, the Hermitage of Sant'Onofrio al Morrone was built by Pietro Angelerio, the future Pope Celestine V, who lived part of his life there while fleeing from Boniface VIII. It was the last of the hermitages built after 1290 by the then Fra Pietro. Abandoned in 1807 as a result of the suppression of several religious orders, it came back into use when a number of hermits, both lay and religious, moved there. Tradition has it that Fra Pietro received the news of his election to the papacy while observing a penitential fast in honour of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Peter. The Crucifix in front of which the saint was praying allegedly nodded his head and Peter reacted with these words: “I assent to the vows of the Sacred College and accept the Supreme Pontificate. May the Lord help me to bear its very heavy yoke”. After his abdication, Peter returned to Sant'Onofrio and remained there in hiding until February 1295, when he left for Apulia and then sailed to Greece. Declared a national monument in 1902, the Hermitage was partially destroyed during the Second World War before being carefully reconstructed. Today it is considered to be at the heart of one of the most important religious journeys in Abruzzo. Among works of art and mystical atmospheres It only takes a day to appreciate the marvels of the Hermitage of Sant'Onofrio al Morrone, beginning with the oratory, skilfully frescoed by Maestro Gentile da Sulmona in 1200. In the background we can admire a crucifixion scene depicting Mary and St. John at the foot of the Cross, while at the entrance St. Benedict is portrayed between the hermit Fathers Mauro and Antonio. The precious 15th-century wooden ceiling and the ancient white stone altar are noteworthy: in the middle is the stone crucifix that, according to tradition, Celestine V blessed during the mass celebrated in pontifical clothes before travelling to Naples. Also of great historical interest are the recently restored cells and rooms that have accommodated religious and secular hermits over time. Hiking enthusiasts can reach the panoramic viewpoint overlooking the Peligna Valley: there is a refreshment point and picnic area where they can rest and enjoy the view. A place of worship and propitiatory rites It is not only an evocative destination in which to find calm and introspection, but also a place of worship and a destination for pilgrimages and propitiatory rites. At the Hermitage of Sant'Onofrio di Morrone, the rubbing (lithotherapy) of sore body parts on the rock walls is a tradition. The grotto beneath the hermitage is rich in the waters to which the faithful attribute thaumaturgical powers. The collection of rubble, dust and plant twigs gathered around the sanctuary is also popular. It is possible to watch stone throwing on the terrace, symbolising the negative influences, sorrows, temptations and sins from which people want to separate themselves forever. For more information Pacentro Information Centre - Tel. +39.0864.41304 - +39.349.8474470
Art & Culture

MAXXI L'Aquila

The MAXXI in L'Aquila: a crossroads of contemporary cultures Never call it a branch: inaugurated on 3 June 2021, MAXXI L'Aquila is indeed the second headquarters of the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, but it is much more than a branch. The idea for the museum is very recent: it was born in 2014, after the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini visited Palazzo Ardinghelli, which had been severely damaged by the earthquake of 6 April 2009. Following restoration and a series of works, this 18th-century building was adapted to house the new museum dedicated to21st-century art, architecture and photography. A symbol of renewal The Maxxi L'Aquila is located in Piazza Santa Maria in Paganica, in the historical centre, and stands as an important sign for the entire city that still bears the scars of the earthquake of 6 April 2009. The ambitious project aims to turn this museum hub into a crossroads of communication, encounters and collaboration between several contemporary expressive languages, and also between all those working in the art world, from galleries to foundations, from research institutes to other museums, so that all the leading organisations, both national and international, may have a voice. A meeting place, in short, modelled on the MAXXI in Rome, where visual arts, photography, architecture and performance art dialogue with each other. Palazzo Ardinghelli: a National Monument The halls of MAXXI L'Aquila alone are worth a visit. Palazzo Ardinghelli, in fact, was among the first historical buildings in the city to be built after the 1703 earthquake, thanks to the family whose name it still bears today. Erected on a palace of Renaissance origin and completed in 1743, today it has a late Baroque facade due to later reconstructions: it was only finished in 1955 and makes the building one of the finest examples of L'Aquila Baroque. The element that characterises the architecture, together with the façade, is the courtyard, from which a monumental staircase of Borrominian derivation originates, frescoed by the Venetian Vincenzo Damini in 1749. The inner courtyard, which runs through the building between Piazza Santa Maria in Paganica and Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, makes the museum a public space available to the city. In 1902, the Palace was declared a National Monument. In front stands the church of Santa Maria Paganica, which gives its name to the square of the same name. A museum in flux MAXXI L'Aquila, at least for the moment, does not have a permanent collection, but is often the venue for workshops, talks, in-depth activities and educational projects that allow for a continuous and lively exchange with the local area, but also with anyone who happens to visit it. A real museum in the making, where nothing is static but the result of constant, ongoing interactions between artists and visitors. If you are passing through L'Aquila, make sure to drop in: at any time of year you will find something worth seeing. MAXXI L'Aquila is open on Thursdays from 16:00 to 20:00 and from Friday to Sunday from 11:00 to 19:00. Keep an eye on the official website to check out special openings and events not to be missed. Find out more

A plunge into nature between sea and mountains

Abruzzo is the perfect opportunity to journey into authentic nature, from mountains to hills, through the Punta Aderici Regional Nature Reserve and the Abruzzo National Park, home to brown bears, golden eagles and Apennine wolves: a plunge into beauty, relaxation and an incredible mix of panoramas that reach the heart. Including some of the most picturesque villages in Italy.

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