History of Abruzzo – The Modern age

abruzzo02The Spanish domination, which lasted until 1707, was followed by that of Austria until 1734 and, until the occupation by Napoleon of the Kingdom of Naples in 1806, that of the Bourbons, restored by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In the Napoleonic period administrative, judicial and economic reforms were carried out and, above all, feudalism was abolished.

From then on political and cultural life, as well as the economic life of flourishing Abruzzo was transferred to the coastal strip. This process was more and more concentrated on Pescara. It was here that, during the Risorgimento, the main episodes of uprising against the Bourbon monarchy were recorded, like, for example, the heroic resistance of the fortress of Pescara when the Parthenopean Republic was eliminated in 1799 and the rebellions in Penne in 1837.

Whereas, inland, in the mountainous Abruzzo, widespread episodes of civil struggles against the new political direction were evident. These events resulted in the ultimate loyalist resistance of the Fortress of Civitella del Tronto and then developed to take the form of brigandage after 1860, harshly put down by the unified State During the decade following Unification the region was witness to the main event of an economic nature: the draining of the Fucino Lake.

This wag initiated in 1852 by a French company but then administered by Alessandro Torlonia who secured the ownership of the land as compensation for the expenses incurred.

During World War I, after the retreat of Caporetto, Abruzzo offered hospitality to the refugees and to the military command which moved into the Abruzzo territory hit by a disastrous earthquake in 1915. Fascism found favorable ground on which to spread in Abruzzo because of the large gap which existed between the social classes, especially between the land-owners and the farm-laborers, the latter survivors of a war which had seen their already miserable way of life deteriorate even further.

The conditions were so favorable that the regime chose to hold the Matteotti trial in Chieti. In the winter of 1943-44, during World War II, the region suffered the devastation left by the retreating Nazi army and the slaughter it carried out amongst the civilian population although Abruzzo and its Brigata Majella participated actively in the liberation struggle.

Post-war reconstruction work was late in getting started. Though it happened slowly, the development of the region started to take place only at the beginning of the Sixties to then reach the height of its expansion between the mid-Seventies and Eighties, the expansion was such that Abruzzo reached the same level of economic development as the center and North. The Neoclassic period did not leave any valuable testimonies in Abruzzo apart from the funeral monument to Matteo Wade in Civitella del Tronto, defender of the fortress in 1805, at the wishes of Francesco I of Bourbon.

It was only after Unification that there was a notable cultural revival: the scene obviously being dominated by Gabriele D’Annunzio, though the painters Francesco Paolo Michetti, Teofilo Patini, Filippo and Giuseppe Palizzi and the sculptor Costantino Barbella were all important too. As far as architecture is concerned, it is worth remembering the interesting liberty forms which were widespread at the beginning of the 1900s in many residences, especially in the coastal towns such as Pescara, Giulianova, Francavilla and Ortona, many of which are still well-preserved.