Located on top of a charming hill, you know, we are at 600 m. above sea level, with an eagle’s nest position, the small village of Civitella del Tronto is one of the most interesting in the whole region because of the architectonic beauties enclosed by its ancient wall.
This medieval town, built on a travertine rock, is part of the National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga, and it is overlooked by an imposing fortress, that gives it the fame.
This fortress, with its 500 meter long and a surface of 25,000 square meters, is such an incredible engeneering work, perfectly integrated in the surrounding landscape, which encloses both the Gran Sasso Mountain and the Adriatic Sea and represents the second largest of its kind in Europe after the one in Salzburg, Austria.
Indeed the fortress is the last Bourbon bastion before the Unity of Italy in 1861 built in a strategic position to control the borders between the Kingdom of Naples and tha Papal State..
The first building dates back to the Middle Ages but it was renovated by Philipp II of Spain in the second half of the 16th century, playing a key role in the political affairs of the italian peninsula and then, further important changes had in 18th century untill its fall, when took place the last battle between the army of the Kingdom of Naples and the armies of Garibaldi.
It was subsequently abandoned and destroyed in part by locals.
Now, after long renovation works, the fortress is open to the public and visitors can see the ruins of the Governor Palace, the little Church of St. James, ancient toilets and bedrooms…in short how a soldier was living in the fortress !
Inside there is also a museum where you can see ancient weapons and dresses.
At first sight Civitella is worth a visit just for the huge squat fortress but this town is more than that.
Below the fortress there is a pretty village with its stone medieval buildings and narrow paved streets ; in particular you cant’ miss to pass through The Ruetta, said to be the narrowest street in Italy, was in ancient time also a trap for enemies and now a control for you to keep the perfect shape !
Keep walking, losing among these small streets, where maybe a cat comes to guide you, you could come across into the monument in honour of Matteo Wade, that unluckly is not really indicated, even if, in my opinion is worth to to be seen. Matteo Wade distinguished for his bravery to fight against French troops and to remember this Irish man, a local artist made this memorial, that we see still today.
A curios fact : this memorial was confused with a work by Canova and troops of Piedmont, when occupied the fortress, smuggled that to take it to Turin but on the way, near Ancona, somebody understood the mistake and abandoned the memorial on the way, allowing to bring it back in Civitella.
After breathing good mountain air and admired the landscape, we could keep going with the attraction nearby the downtown.
A spectacular show waits for you in the Gole of Salinello, natural reserve, which lies between the “ Montagna dei Fiori” and the “Montagna di Campli”. These two peaks of the Laga chain are so similar in size and shape that they are known as “monti gemelli”,that is the twin peaks. The “Gole” is one of the most spectacular calcareous canyons in the Apennines, whose beech and oak woods are home to the Golden Eagle, the Sparrow-hawk, the Peregrine Falcon and the Kestrel, and echo with the sound of the Salinello stream rapids and falls
But not only a natural view….among the Gole an ancient and rare secret is hidden : the cave of Sant’Angelo.
This cave counts among one of the most interesting rupestrian cavities of the Italian prehistory and has represented an important place of cult for many centuries and is today still a place of a pilgrimage in honour of San Michele Arcangelo.
The archaeological excavations which were conducted as from the 60’s have allowed to dig up testimonies dating from the Neolithic (5th millennium B.C.) to Iron Age (1st millennium B.C.) while rests of the mediaeval period belonged to the a hermitage settled there around the 13th century.
The numerous human bone rests belonging mainly to young individuals, seem to back up the theory according to which fertility rites were celebrated in the cave
Last but not least, I think it is worth a visit the the Abbey of Monte Santo, surrondedn by greenery, offers a beauiful view on the town of Civitella in a peaceful and mystic atmosphere.