Abruzzo And Molise, Italy
Abruzzo holds a record: 30 per cent of its territory is protected by environmental legislation. No other region in Europe can boast as much. Not without good reason is it known as "the region of parks". Three national parks, a regional park and many protected sites and nature reserves.
In a region like this, it seems natural that the regional capital is called L'Aquila ("The Eagle"). Dominated by an imposing sixteenth-century castle (which houses the National Museum of Abruzzo), L'Aquila has splendid civic and religious monuments from the medieval and renaissance eras.
On the coast of Abruzzo (which features popular seaside resorts) one of the most popular locations is Pescara, birthplace of Gabriele D'Annunzio. The house where he was born is now a small and evocative museum.
At Chieti there is an important National Archaeological Museum, well-known for the modernity and effectiveness of its exhibitions (for which it has won prizes). The "show piece" of the museum is the Warrior of Capestrano, a funerary statue of the sixth century B.C., found in the province of L'Aquila in 1934.At Teramo the stupendous fifteenth-century Antepedium (inside the cathedral) made by the great goldsmith of Abruzzo, Nicola da Guardiagrele, should not be missed.
But Abruzzo is surprisingly rich in architectural and artistic treasures, almost as much as it is full of natural treasures and folk traditions (such as the "Festival of the Serpents" in Cocullo, which brings thousands of people to this tiny village on the first Sunday of May).
We shall hazard a slogan for this small and delightful region of the southern Adriatic: "Pay a visit, before it becomes fashionable". Sure enough, as it is no hard matter to predict the mass discovery of this land where everything has retained the "flavour" of old times: from the splendid landscapes to the folk traditions, from the gastronomic attractions (fabulous cheeses, among the many other typical products) to the community life, from the hospitality of the inhabitants to the unspoilt sea, from the craftsmanship (the bells of Agnone are famous) to the quiet life in the villages of the interior. It is a genuine pleasure to visit Molise.
Let's start from the regional capital, Campobasso, with its evocative tangle of historic streets and the fifteenth-century Monforte castle. In Termoli, the Mediterranean sunshine lightens the ancient walls constructed by Emperor Frederick and the massive sixteenth-century castle that looms over the sea.
Everywhere in Molise, nature seems to keep watch over history, preserving memories. As in the esplanade at Sepino, whose archaeological zone testifies to the ancient Roman colony, and in the vicinity of Pietrabbondante, where another interesting archaeological site recalls the remote existence of the Sannites, an ancient Italic people which dared to challenge and fight the power of Rome. And again, in the province of Isernia (the second city of Molise, with a beautiful Cathedral and fourteenth-century fountain), where the ancient abbey of S. Vincenzo al Volturno rises, solitary and majestic.
A visit to Molise really is worthwhile, then. Before it becomes fashionable.
Contents courtesy of: ENIT, National Italian Tourist Board
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