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Abruzzo - Places to visit -L'Aquila

This rises 714 m. above sea level in a wide valley between mountains, crossed by the Aterno, in view of the Gran Sasso.

According to tradition, the town was founded in 1254 by Frederick II of Swabia, with the construction of ninety-nine dis tricts, each with its own church and square, exclusive to the people living in the ninety-nine castles of the countryside. However, though always linked to the fortunes of the Kingdom of Naples, it enjoyed great autonomy and grew in size, reaching its peak in the first half of the fifteenth century.

Subsequently, earthquakes, plagues and internal struggles caused its decline. In 1705 L'Aquila was almost destroyed by an earthquake which took six thousand victims and, in 1799, it was sacked by French troops. After the period under Murat (1806-1815), it was united with Italy in 1860.

L'Aquila in Abruzzo

This town, which is still surrounded by medieval walls, has a remarkable heritage of works of art and monuments.

Among the religious buildings are the Basilica of San Bernardino (15th century) with a notable faade and, inside, the marble mausoleum of San Bernardino, the church of Santa Maria di Paganica (13th-14th century, Romanesque), the church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio (13th century, Romanesque with Gothic influence), the church of San Silvestro (dating back to 14th century, in Romanesque style), the church of San Domenico (14th century, restored in 18th century, now an auditorium), the church of San Pietro di Coppito (dating back to 13th century), the church of Santa Giusta (13th-14th century) and the Duomo (13th-18th century).

Other monuments include the Castle, a majestic sixteenth century building, seat of the 'Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo', numerous palatial buildings of various eras and, especially, the 'Fontana delle 99 Cannelle' (a fountain with 99 spouts), built in 1272, perhaps the most famous monument in the town.

The economy is still based both on the commerce of agricultural products and on a flourishing craft sector (copper and wrought iron, lace, fabrics, wooden articles) while the industrial sector has been in difficulty, partly due to the isolated position of the town, which has only recently been linked to Rome by a modern motorway. There are, however, electrotechnical, building material, clothing and furniture factories.

The public sector is important and connected with the functions of regional capital.

L'Aquila in Abruzzo

Events: Perdonanza Papale (in honour of Celestine V, 28 August), Processione del Cristo Morto (Good Friday procession), Lampada della Fraternit (twinned with Siena in honour of San Bernardino, 20 May).

Famous People: Pompeo Cesura (artist and sculptor, d. 1571), Serafino dell'Aquila (poet, 1466-1500), Silvestro dell'Aquila (sculptor, 1450-1504), Luigi Dragonetti (patriot, 1791-1871).

Cultural Institutions: University and Conservatory, Academy of Fine Arts, State Archives, Teatro Stabile, Museo di Speleologia, Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo (archeological sections, collection of sculptures, paintings of various periods and ceramics, local handicrafts).

In the Province: Avezzano (agricultural and industrial centre), Sulmona (agricultural and industrial centre, its 'confetti' are famous), Cocullo (Processione dei Serpari, on the first Thursday in May), Corfinio (Basilica Valvense, 12th century, Romanesque), Gagliano Aterno (Convent of Santa Chiara), Roccaraso (ski resort) and Pescasseroli (Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo).

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