From the pre-Roman age through its establishment as part of the Roman Empire, through the myriad of changes through the the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque periods to the Modern Ages, Abruzzo has adopted, adapted, persevered and profited from the numerous races and cultures that had come to have dominion over time. You will be able to see first-hand evidence and traces of Abruzzo’s colorful history as represented in art, architecture, cuisine and through various other archaeological discoveries throughout the ages. AbruzzoPresto! will take you for a walk in Abruzzo time – past and present!
We have provided a brief history of Abruzzo from the pre-Roman age through the modern ages in case you are interested in reading on…
The pre-Roman age
Nomadic populations of hunters and harvesters lived in the valleys of the Abruzzo region which opened up towards the sea for as long as history can record. The Neolithic period, about 2,000-5,000 years ago, revealed an agricultural economy spread among several small villages. At the beginning of the Metal Age sheep-farming developed progressively with the arrival of people of Asian origin who subsequently took over from the Neolithics, thus generating a new cultural world that was made up of elements of agricultural and pastoral extraction and which provided the basis for the Italic civilization. You will be able to see the astonishing statue known as the ‘Warrior of Capestrano’ (500 BC) at the Museum of National Archaeology in Chieti which is representative of the sculpture during the Italic period.
The first Roman legions crossed Abruzzo to aid Lucera (Apulia, 325 BC). The subsequent conquest of the region was achieved at the cost of a number of wars with the local inhabitants. During the Augustan era, the whole of the present day region (apart from the area around Teramo) formed part of the larger Roman territories of Sabina and Samnium. Roman settlements proliferated throughout Abruzzo. The Roman presence made itself known. Networks of roads were improved and new settlements built, while existing towns were provided with spas, amphitheaters, baths, theaters, temples and other important public works. You will discover numerous testimonies to the Roman era as you tour the historic villages and towns dotting the Abruzzese countryside.
The Middle Ages
The fall of the Roman Empire brought to a temporary halt to any building activity in Abruzzo. Then the Lombardi arrived in the 6th century and colonized the territory on a massive scale. Later, under Charlemagne in 843, a resumption of construction work on a large scale took the form of buildings of great importance, many of which still exist today. In fact, between the 8th and 10th century dozens of abbeys and religious edifices were built which you can still find scattered throughout the region. Around the year 1,000 the Normans began advancing, and after a century took control of the whole region. One still finds the influences of the Norman’s architecture throughout Abruzzo. Subsequently, in 1233, Frederick II of Sweden administratively reorganized the region and establishing Sulmona as its capital city. In 1254 L’Aquila was founded which, under the Angioini dynasty and for the following two centuries, became the principal city in the Kingdom after Naples.
Abruzzo, 12th-17th Centuries
All the cultural and political life of the region had flourished for three more centuries. The Angioini dynasty (of the Kingdom of Naples) was followed by that of the Aragonesi when, in 1442, the Kingdom fell into the hands of Alfonso d’Aragona. Castel d’Aragona in Vasto will be one of the visits along your seaside tour of Abruzzo.
After a brief period of French domination, Abruzzo followed the fate of the Kingdom of Naples which had passed into the hands of Ferdinando the Catholic in 1504. The cities of Abruzzo, L’Aquila in particular, sided with France but was drastically punished by the Spanish monarch. Under Spanish domination, numerous fortification works were built. Among such works were the Castle of L’Aquila, and the Fortress of Pescara.
The Baroque period, which developed after the plague of 1656 and the two earthquakes of 1703 and 1706, took the form of a period of reconstruction and developed both in the erecting of new buildings (such as the churches of Santa Caterina and Sant’Agostino in L’Aquila) and more often-in the internal decoration of existing antique medieval churches. Nearly all of them were enriched with costly Baroque ornaments, still visible today.
The Modern Age
The 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, concentrating mostly on Pescara.
During World War I, fascism found favorable ground on which to spread in Abruzzo because of the large gap which existed between the social classes. The conditions were so favorable that the regime chose to hold the Matteotti trial in Chieti. Later, in the winter of 1943-44, during World War II, the region suffered the devastation left behind 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. Evidence of the German occupation during the war can still be readily found throughout. Post-war reconstruction happened very slowly. Development of the region started to take place at the beginning of the Sixties to then reach the height of its expansion between the mid-Seventies and Eighties. In the Nineties until present day, the Italian Government established several national parks, including the National park of Abruzzo, the Gran Sasso National Park, and the Maiella National Park, all of which are featured on our tours.