Where the name of Italy was born Part 2: From Roccaraso to Pesaro


This is the return portion of the itinerary: Where the name of Italy was born

The Marches and the Abruzzi are a part of Italy, not very well known to the international tourist. It is not just a question of doing justice to these areas by recommending them to the tourist; the tourist himself will make some fascinating discoveries because these areas are no less rich in art treasures and natural beauties than others much more famous.

There are mighty Roman ruins, beautiful churches, and abbeys, Renaissance palaces, picture galleries rich, particularly in works of the Venetian School (to know the rare works of Crivelli or Lotto, one must visit the galleries of the Marches). Then there is the majestic mountain scenery of the Maiella and the Gran Sasso, and the long golden sands of the Adriatic beaches.

There is yet another reason for visiting these parts. Everyone knows of the other peoples of Italy: the Etruscans in the north, and the Greeks in the south. But these peoples, even if they became acclimatized, were foreigners; they came from beyond the sea. The Marches and Umbria were populated and civilized by native people, the Italic. On this route, we shall pass through the ruins of an ancient city, Corfinium.

In 90 BC, the people of this city rose against Rome and made it the capital of their state, giving it a name destined to have a very long life – Italia. That ancient Italia was overwhelmed and defeated. But the name remained, and long outlived Roman power, to spread to the whole of Italy.

The itinerary: Part 2 – From Roccaraso to Pesaro

We climb to century RIVISONDOLI (1210 m. – 3969 ft.) a mountain resort, where we shall spend the night, or in nearby ROCCARASO. The next day we set out on the beautiful “ring road of the Abruzzi,” a long balcony commanding most breathtaking views. It runs along the massif of the Maiella 2800 m. – 9164 ft.) towards Lama dei Peligni (2298 ft.) and GUARDIAGRELE at 61 km. 37 3/4 mi.) from Rivisondoli, with two splendid churches, San Francisco and Santa Maria Maggiore, with a picturesque rustic porch along one side From Guardiagrele 30 km. (18 3/4 mi.) of the road bring us to CHIETI.

CHIETI, ancient Teate standing on a pleasant hill with fine views over the Maiella, the Gran Sasso and the Adriatic.

Outstanding monuments to visit: the Roman ruins of the city include three small temples of the late I century AD, the Roman theatre, the barbs of the I century AD with a large storage tank dug into the hillside.

The cathedral with a slender bell tower of the 15th century and a lavish Baroque crypt containing the silver bust of St Justin by Nicola da Guardiagrele. The Archaeological Museum rich in finds ranging from the VII century BC to the II century AD, including the famous statue of the “Warrior of Capestrano” of the late VI century BC and the well-stocked provincial library with precious incunabula and the Mss of “Il Piacere” and “La Figlia di Jorio” by Gabriele d’Annunzio.

You are leaving Chieti to drive towards the Adriatic, reaching, after 12 miles, PESCARA, the largest and most modern city in Abruzzo, the birthplace of Gabriele d’Annunzio. Worthy of a visit are d’Annunzio’s birthplace, the stela of the d’Annunzio Memorial Theatre, and the painting, by F.P. Michetti, of “The Daughter of Jorio” in the Palazzo della Provincia.

PESCARA has 6 1/2 miles of seaside promenade, wide sandy beaches, and a large number of bathing stations; it has become the most popular resort in the Mid-Adriatic. On the tenth day, take the splendid seaside drive that links Francavilla through the Pescara pinewood to the famous resort of MONTESILVANO. From here, you leave the coast to climb along the national highway up the eastern slopes of the Gran Sasso to LORETO APRUTINO, a pretty town on a hill. There are 12th-13th-century frescoes in the church of Santa Maria in Piano (13th cent.) The Acerbo Gallery contains ancient Abruzzo pottery. From here, it is a short distance to PENNE (19 mi. from Pescara), a city of proud Roman, medieval, and Risorgimento traditions. To be seen: the church of San Domenico and that of the Annunziata, the Cathedral, the church of Santa Maria in Colleromano; another 26 km (16 1/4 mi.) brings us to the turning for ATRI with a splendid Romanesque Cathedral (Gothic interior with fine frescoes-the most important cycle in the Abruzzi) and other Romanesque churches. From Atri, the road descends to the sea again (15 km. – 9 1/2 mi.) at Pineto degli Abruzzi, from which one arrives at GIULIANOVA. There may be time for a swim at Giulianova before climbing up again to TERAMO

TERAMO (25 km. – 15 1/2 mi.) an ancient Picenian city which later became Roman and then Longobard. Beautiful Cathedral with richly decorated Portal (1332), in which there is the frontal by Nicola da Guardiagrele and a superb Altar-Piece by Iacobello del Fiore (15th century).

On the next day of the journey, we leave Teramo early in the morning for 37 km. (23 mi.) of driving through mountains and gorges, which bring us to ASCOLI PICENO.

Ascoli Piceno - Photo © paul goyette
Ascoli Piceno – Photo © paul goyette

ASCOLI PICENO, an inhabited center since the Bronze Age, rich in Romanesque and medieval monuments. This beautiful city will come as a complete surprise to the foreign visitor, who may very well never have heard of it. Our program envisages seeing it on the afternoon of the eleventh day and the morning of the twelfth. We will begin at Piazza del Popolo, which for its sober elegance, is one of the most elegant piazzas in Italy.

On one side is the massive Palazzo del Popolo (13th cent.) with its Renaissance portal (inside there is an Archaeological Museum).

Through a perspective of two small battlemented 16th century palaces, we see at one end the sidewall, apses, and slim hexagonal bell-towers of San Francesco. Near the porch of this church, in Corso Mazzini, is the elegant Merchants’ Loggia (15th century), which continues the architecture of the facade, one side is open and used as a busy market, the other is closed, silent and peaceful.

In Piazza dell’Arringo rises the magnificent 17th century Palazzo dell’Arringo or del Comune with tall caryatids flanking the windows (inside a luxurious Art Gallery with works by, primitives, Carlo Crivelli, Titian, Correggio, Magnasco, Reni, Rubens, Canaletto).

Opposite are the Cathedral and the superb Romanesque Baptistery, built over a Roman temple. In Via Bonaparte stands the excellent Palazzo Bonaparte 16th century Lombard work. Taking Vial, Repubblica past the Public Gardens, we reach San Vittore, a pretty Romanesque church; along Corso Mazzini, we arrive at Palazzo Malaspina, an imaginatively built and slightly rough building of the 16th century, with a loggia supported on columns carved to look like tree-trunks.

Going right, along Via Sacconi we arrive at the River Trento by the ancient solitary Porta Tufilla through which, proceeding along Via Bartolomei, we come at Santa Maria Inter Vineas: here at hand there are the churches of San Vincenzo with its very rare Romanesque coffered facade and a Romanesque portal and San Pietro Martire. Go as far as the Roman Bridge and then turn back along Via Soderini with its elegant Lombard House, wander through the streets of the beautiful medieval quarter with its towers, the ancient severity of its house-fronts and the Romanesque church of San Giacomo, the Roman Porta Gemina, the Gothic church of Sant’Agostino, opposite which are the two Towers which give the street its name – Via delle Torri.

Leave Ascoli by Porta Romana and turn left off the Via Salaria after 8 km. (5 mi.) to climb between steep mountain slopes (to the left Monte Vettore 2422 m. – 7933 ft.) to Comunanza (34 km. – 21 1/4 mi.) and 9 km. (5314 mi.) farther on AMANDOLA with the beautiful 15th-century churches of Sant’Agostino and San Francesco (frescoes). The road then drops to SARNANO, a beautiful medieval town with the churches of Santa Maria di Piazza and San Francesco (inside a rare panel painting by Crivelli) and so to URBISAGLIA perched on a hill, with its massive 14th century Castle to reach finally at 49 km. (30 3/4 mi.) From Ascoli, we reach the ABBEY OF FIASTRA (1141). It’s a splendid Romanesque Cistercian Basilica. Another 10 km. (6 1/4 mi.) brings us to MACERATA.

MACERATA, an ancient city in a pleasant hill setting between the Potenza and Chienti valleys. Its most curious monument is an old sports ground, the Neo-Classical Sferisferio (1829) built for the game of “pallone” once very popular in the Marches, and where opera seasons with famous international singers are new held every summer. From here to the Baroque Cathedral (excellent triptych by Nuzi in the interior) near which we find the 18th century Madonna della Misericordia. Leaving Palazzo Marefossi to the right and the ancient University (1290) to the left, we reach Piazza Liberia with the Palazzo della Prefettura and the Merchants’ Loggia (1490) and the Torre di Piazza. There are elegant buildings in Corso Matteotti, including the 16th century Palazzo Ferri with rhomboid rustication. In the Art Gallery (Piazza Vittorio Veneto), beautiful primitive paintings and an expressive Madonna by Crivelli. The next morning we go down into the valley of the Potenza to Villa Potenza (6 km. – 3 3/4 mi.) near which are the vast ruins of the Roman Helvia Retina, destroyed by the Visigoths.

Turning to the right, one goes down into the valley, as far as RECANATI, birthplace of the great 19th century poet Giacomo Leopardi: there is a group of noteworthy churches here, including San Domenico, with frescoes by Lorenzo Lotto, Santa Maria di Montemorello next to be noted for a group of works by Lotto, paintings by primitives, Guercino, etc. Going farther down the valley (11 km. – Tam.) brings us to LORETO.

LORETO, a little town dominated by its Sanctuary, built by Sangallo, Andrea Sansovino and other architects (1518-1522) and containing an enormous wealth of works of art, in the church, the treasury and the adjoining Museum-marbles and bronzes by Benedetto da Maiano, Bandinelli, Sansovino etc., frescoes and panel and canvas paintings by Melozzo da Forli, Signorelli, Pomarancio, Garofalo, Lotto, Maratta, Rein, Domenichino, Caracci, Magnasco-and majolica work, tapestries and jewellery. After 4 km. (2 1/2 mi.) we reach PORTO RECANATI on the Adriatic. We then take the coast road which skirts the great spur of Monte Conero, to Sirolo and its beautiful Romanesque church of Santa Maria di Portonovo by the sea. After 35 km. (21 1/2 mi.) we reach ANCONA.

ANCONA, a city with numerous monuments from all the periods in its long history. Entering by the Baroque Porta Pia at the southern extremity of the port, we go towards Piazza Garibaldi. We find the beautiful Portal of Sant’Agostino (1475), built within easy reach of this point on to a house when the church was demolished. The central Piazza della Repubblica with its Neo-classical Theatre, the Palazzo della Prefettura with its graceful courtyard, the ancient and curious “Fountain of the 33 Jets” and many rugged arches and severe medieval house-fronts. Broad steps lead us to the Baroque San Domenico to see Titian’s Crucifixion and Guercino’s Annunciation. Then we go to the Romanesque Church of San Pietro. It has a valuable sculpture and the Piazza del Senato with the magnificent Palazzo del Senato. It was in the National Museum of the Marches, one of the most important archaeological collections in Italy, particularly as regards pre-Roman Adriatic cultures.

Near here, in a beautiful palace overlooking the sea, is the critical Art Gallery with works by Primitives and also by Crivelli, Lotto, an exceptional canvas by Titian, etc. Opposite this palace the theatrical Church of the Gesu by Vanvitelli. Ask the way to the Romanesque Santa Maria della Piazza. It’s the most beautiful church in Ancona; it has a facade composed of a striking series of superimposed Romanesque loggias. Close at hand is the Gothic Merchants’ Loggia with a unique Renaissance sculpture. Then go the whole length of Via Vanvitelli to the Cathedral of San Ciriaco. There is no other cathedral in Italy that boasts such a position, overlooking a precipice into the sea on a secluded peninsula. It is of Greek Cross plan with a marvelous porch resting on two carved lions. Lastly, at the end of the jetty, there is a Roman Arch built in honor of Trajan, who created the port of Ancona.

On the last day of our journey, we leave Ancona and turn off at 11 km. (7 mi.) to visit the ABBEY OF CHIARAVALLE (1172) 5 km. (3 mi.) Inland. After another 12 km. (7 1/2 mi.) comes IESI where Frederick II of Swabia was born, with its beautiful Palazzo della Signoria (15th century) and an excellent Art Gallery.

Back on the coast road, we reach SENIGALLIA with its Cathedral, its 15th century Palazzo Comunale and the 17th-century church della Croce, Three km. (1 3/4 mi.) farther on is the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie with a Renaissance cloister and a Perugino Madonna.

Then we retake the coast road, which is 34 km along the coast (21 1/4 mi.) brings us back to Pesaro.

Recommended itineraries in Italy

A few items from Abruzzo

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.

Grazing In Abruzzo
Bruce Franchini (Director), Lidia Bastianich (Actor)
Lidia loves the region of Abruzzo! She describes the people there as welcoming, giving and jovial, and the hearty food of the region has left her with such fond memories. In the Abruzzese kitchens, Farro, a kind of wheat berry, is cooked as a whole grain and is manufactured in many shapes-both by small artisanal pasta makers and larger pasta companies. She makes this pasta with arugula and ricotta. Following her main course of Lamb with Olives, she creates the deliciously fun Scrippelle-which look like fettuccine-and tosses them in a hot caramel, citrus and apricot sauce for dessert.

Abruzzo. History and art guide
by Latini M. L. (Author)
Although it is a bit too synthetic, to the detriment of the overall readability of the text, the work provides an exhaustive description of the artistic heritage of Abruzzo, inserting points for observation not always recognized. Recommended.

Abruzzo 1st Edition
by Michael Kenna
Abruzzo, located in southern Italy, is known as the green region of Europe because of the system of parks and nature reserves covering more than one-third of its territory. In Abruzzo, Michael Kenna found a cultural identity that elsewhere, for the most part, has been lost to globalization and instant communication. Kenna photographed medieval ruins, ancient villages and a countryside rich in traditional cultivation. As curator Vincenzo de Pompeis writes in the book s introduction, 'Abruzzo's heritage, together with its impressive natural scenery, brings to mind romantic connotations that have historically attracted many international landscape artists, particularly in the 19th century. Michael Kenna fits perfectly into this rich historical vein of celebrated landscape artists who have worked in Abruzzo. Kenna's work often evokes the influences of Romanticism. In his photographs of historic rural landscapes, for example, there is an air of melancholy, which accompanies memories from the past. His images of ruins stir up feelings of passing time, of the constantly evolving ties between history and nature.' This gorgeous new monograph by renowned landscape photographer Michael Kenna is published to coincide with a major museum exhibition in Loreto Aprutino, Italy. Richly printed in duotone on matt art paper, and presented in an olive-green cloth slipcase with black debossed text on one side and a tipped-in image on the other, Abruzzo presents 65 images from the series, published here for the first time.

Michelin Map Italy: Abruzzo, Molise 361 (Maps/Local (Michelin))
Michelin created its first travel guide over 100 years ago to promote road travel and inspire driving confidence. Today, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers travelers an extensive range of travel guides, maps and online travel resources. These products deliver the same Michelin promise of quality and consistency consumers expect from one of the world's most trusted brands.
Publisher of travel guides, maps and atlases, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers a complete travel portfolio. Where to go, how to get there, where to eat & stay, and what to see & do ... all in one collection with extensive international & domestic coverage, especially for Europe. Our series includes Michelin (Red) Guides, Green Guides, Must Sees and Michelin maps and atlases.

Canti Della Terra D'Abruzzo
Ettore Montanaro
Buy MP3: all 51 at the same time, or each one individually.

Italian Folk Songs from Abruzzo 1927-1930
CD and MP3 reissue of the freat italian folk duo. Comes with rich notes and photos of the couple as well. Pasquale and Clara Sciascia immigrated to the U. S. from the Abruzzo region of Italy, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1927 to 1933 they recorded 44 songs fro the Victor, Columbia and Brunswick record companies. The Sciascias were the first to record a number of Italian and Abruzzese folk songs, 14 of which are reissued here for the first time in 90 years. The songs feature wonderful duet singing and exquisite string band accompaniment. Also included are notes on the couple and their music, photos, and the transcribed and translated lyrics. Includes 20 page booklet.