L’Aquila

Italy

L’Aquila is the capital of Italy’s Abruzzo region, 100km from Rome. It’s a beautiful town, set high up in the mountains, and it dates from the twelfth century.

L’Aquila is a city and comune in central Italy. It is the capital city of both the Abruzzo region and of the Province of L’Aquila. As of 2013, it has a population of 70,967 inhabitants. Laid out within medieval walls on a hill in the wide valley of the Aterno river, it is surrounded by the Apennine Mountains, with the Gran Sasso d’Italia to the north-east.

HIGLIGHTS

L’Aquila sits upon a hillside in the middle of a narrow valley; tall snow-capped mountains of the Gran Sasso massif flank the town. A maze of narrow streets, lined with Baroque and Renaissance buildings and churches, open onto elegant piazzas. Home to the University of L’Aquila, it is a lively college town and, as such, has many cultural institutions: a repertory theatre, a symphony orchestra, a fine-arts academy, a state conservatory, a film institute. There are several ski resorts in the surrounding province (Campo ImperatoreOvindoliPescasseroliRoccarasoScanno).

From tragedy springs hope. Ten years after a powerful earthquake killed 308 of its citizens and toppled copious historic buildings, L’Aquila is – just about – back in business. It’s certainly ready to welcome a new wave of out-of-town travellers, who come not just to admire the durability of the town’s churches and fountains, but also to study the meticulous renovation work that has returned many of the sights to their former glory – in some cases even surpassing them.

Main sights

Although less than an hour-and-a-half drive from Rome, and popular with Romans for summer hiking and winter skiing in surrounding mountains, the city is sparsely visited by tourists. Among the sights are:

Religious buildings

  • L’Aquila Cathedral: main church dedicated to Saint Maximus of Aveia (San Massimo), was built in the 13th century, but razed after the 1703 earthquake. The most recent façade dated from the 19th century, but the earthquake of 2009 and subsequent aftershocks collapsed parts of the transept and possibly more of the cathedral.
  • Basilica of San Bernardino (1472): church has a fine Renaissance façade by Nicolò Filotesio (commonly called Cola dell’Amatrice), and contains the monumental tomb of the saint (1480), decorated with beautiful sculptures, and executed by Silvestro Ariscola.
  • Santa Maria di Collemaggio: church just outside the town, has a very fine, but simple, Romanesque façade (1270–1280) in red and white marble, with three decorated portals and a rose-window above each. The two side doors are also fine. The interior contains the mausoleum of Pope Celestine V erected in 1517.
  • Santa Giusta: Romanesque façade with Gothic rose window
  • San Silvestro: 14th-century Romanesque façade with Gothic rose window

Secular buildings

  • Spanish fort (Forte Spagnolo): massive castle in the highest part of the town, erected in 1534 by the Spanish viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo. In 2016, home to the National Museum of Abruzzo.
  • Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”): a 1930s sculpture of two women bearing large jars.
  • Fontana delle novantanove cannelle (1272): a fountain with ninety-nine jets distributed along three walls. The source of the fountain is still unknown.
  • L’Aquila cemetery: includes grave of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, 19th‑century German gay rights pioneer who lived in L’Aquila; every year, gay people from all over the world meet at the cemetery to honour his memory.
  • Roman ruins of Amiternum: ruins of an Ancient Roman city
  • Rocca Calascio: castle used in the 1980s as the location for the movie Ladyhawke, which is likely the highest castle in Italy, if not, Europe.

Also nearby are several ski resorts like Gran Sasso d’Italia, the highest of the Apennines where in its valley the movie The Name of the Rose was filmed in the end of the 1980s. The town also contains some fine palaces: the municipality has a museum, with a collection of Roman inscriptions and some illuminated service books. The Palazzi Dragonetti and Persichetti contain private collections of pictures.

Contact

Comune dell'Aquila
email
protocollo@comune.laquila.postecert.it
address
Via San Bernardino - Palazzo Fibbioni - 67100 L'Aquila
phone
+39.0862.6451