Short Abruzzo History

09 September 2010 Published in Abruzzo Itineraries
San Tommaso Church in the Orta Valley San Tommaso Church in the Orta Valley © Copyright Delicious Italy

A short history of Abruzzo should first make it clear that the region is located at the extreme north of the south of Italy. It has always been a wild land and suffered from constant instability due to its geographic position. The original inhabitants were the Sabines and Piceni in the north, the Equi and Vestini in the centre, and the Marsi, Peligni and Frentani in the south.

The Romans only conquered the territory in the 3rd century BC and the town of Corfinium near Sulmona was the capital of the Italians during the first Social War (91-88 BC). The Italians actually renamed Corfinium 'Italia'.

The fall of the Roman Empire led to all sorts of invaders as each attempted to control the region. The Longobards incorporated Abruzzo into the Duchy of Spoleto in the 10th century while the Normans a century later dragged it into their affairs with Sicily. The Spanish got there in 1600 and left the region in rags and famine before the Bourbons arrived in 1738. 

The region rebelled with Garibaldi's men over 20 years of the 'Risorgimento' until Abruzzo was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia then Italy itself in 1860.

Visitors to Pescara on the coast might notice how much of it was built in that squared off modern style so popular with right wing leaders of the time. In fact, the province of Pescara was created in 1927 and it must have been boom time for the city. This rare positive period for the town should be contrasted with its destruction (twice) by the Longobards, sieges by the Turks and Austrians (successfully defended) and fall to the Bourbons in 1799.

Best Abruzzo Museums to visit

There are over 70 museums in Abruzzo. They range from 'A' for the Museo Civico 'A. De Nino' at Alfedena, to 'V' for the Museo del Cervo at Villavallelonga. Subject matter ranges from sugared almonds, fish and wool to Renaissance maps, Byzantine ceramics and religious artefacts of every type.

But if you have to visit only one museum of Abruzzo heritage it must be the Museo delle Genti d'Abruzzo in Pescara. This ethnographic museum chronicles the life and manners of the people of the region from the prehistoric times to the middle of the last century. It is full of objects such as stone age tools, italic warriors ' helmets, childrens' toys, fabulous traditional costumes and the celebrated statue of San Michele. The museum is housed in the old Borbon barracks beside the port.

The following are perhaps less well known and those we like the best.

Museo del Lupo, Civitella Alfedena

The Wolf Museum is located next to the visitors center at the National Park of Abruzzo and is dedicated to the Apennine wolf.

Museo della Civiltà Contadina e Pastorale, Avezzano

The museum of peasant life is located in the same building of the 'Azienda Regionale' for agricultural development.

Museo Civico di Cerchio, Cerchio

The museum at Cerchio is located inside the ex Agostiniani convent and contains paintings from the Neapolitan school and other sacred art.

Museo Musicale Abruzzo, Ortona

The Francesco Paolo Tosti Archive documents the story of music and musical performance in the region. The Istituto Nazionale Tostiano.

Museo Naturalistico 'P. Barrasso' in Caramanico Terme

This the place to learn about the magnificent Majella Park. Also forming part a natural wildlife itinerary, the museum hosts an archeological space with many rare historic archaeological and geological items. Near the museum is an otter breeding wildlife area, part of a more extensive project to reintroduce the fauna of the park.

Archaeological Museum of Chieti

At last but not least the very important Archaeological Museum of Chieti which is home to the Warrior of Capestrano.