"Somewhere in the middle of nowhere" L'Aquila by iandsmith

L'Aquila Travel Guide: 44 reviews and 100 photos

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Suddenly my hit rate skyrocketed. Still, that's what an earthquake will do for you. Still, as you can read further on, L'Aquila did have a history of earthquakes and, situated between mountain ranges as it is, it should come as no surprise, tragic though it is. The rest is what I wrote originally.
What it lacks in outstanding piazzas, L'Aquila makes up for by its situation, i.e. located in a semi-circular bowl of mountains that happen to be the highest outside of the Alps.
It's a thriving town of over 60,000 people and, when I first chanced upon it, I was hopelessly lost, having got on the wrong freeway out of Rome. I didn't think it looked much from the autostrada but, as the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover.
This time I had done some research and pinpointed the place as somewhere I needed to visit. I was never disappointed with that decision.
Though the Romans were in the area, the foundations of this city were laid by Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in the mid 13th century. Its greatest expansion came immediately after under Conrad IV until his death in 1254.
According to legend, the people who executed Frederick's plans were the inhabitants of the 99 castles situated in the Aquilan basin which also led to the famous fountain.

The fountain and beyond

The city was largely autonomous and Pope Alexander IV transferred the bishopric from Forcona to here. Its links to the church doomed the town however and in 1259 Manfred beseiged and destroyed the town, afterwards abandoned for 7 years. It was then that Charles I of Anjou, having taken over the kingdom of Sicily, called for its reconstruction. Captain Lucchesino oversaw the work and the city was divided into quarters and Pope Peter of Morrone was crowned there in 1294, taking the name of Celestine V.
When the house of Aragon tried to sieze the throne of Naples from the house of Anjou, L'Aquila stayed loyal and was beieged for 13 months until the Aragonese were defeated. Queen Joan II recognized their loyaly and conceded priveleges destined to augment the town's economic and social development so that it became the second most important city in the Kingdom of Naples.
In the 15th century it got a mint, a university and a printing house (via a pupil of Gutenberg).
The continuing struggle by the French and the Spanish for Naples led to the city losing its independence and, in 1532, the Spanish victors erected the castle.
115 years later the town rebelled against the Spaniards and the people were punished with sanctions.
The 1703 earthquake devastated the town but it rose again and participated in the revolutionary movements for an independent Italy so that in 1860 it became capital of the region.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Old town well preserved, good shopping, plenty to see, few tourists
  • In a nutshell:Definitely worth a visit, don't pass it by
  • Last visit to L'Aquila: Mar 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (18)

Comments (7)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2009 at 3:21 PM

    After watching the earthquake coverage on television I was curious to see your photos of what L'Aquila used to look like. From your intro I learned that the town was already devastated by an earthquake in 1703 earthquake, but it rose again.

  • prleprle's Profile Photo
    Apr 9, 2008 at 5:29 AM

    excellent page, as ussual!

  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo
    Sep 8, 2006 at 5:40 PM

    What interesting tips, with personal stories as well as the history. I had to laugh at the tilting camera and fountain. Glad to hear you are enjoying your new motor home---happy travels.

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Apr 8, 2005 at 6:16 PM

    Ian, what an interesting introduction! Enjoyable commentary with personal wit, historic events, and useful observations. I always enjoy lingering and reading each word; if not, one misses the depth of it all...(I know you are smiling now...)

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Aug 13, 2004 at 10:18 AM

    Just me.

  • mario_spring_83's Profile Photo
    Jun 11, 2004 at 6:37 AM

    Hi Ian! Really helpful and accurate tips....i didn't know some things you wrote about my hometown....unbelievable!!! ciao:)

  • unravelau's Profile Photo
    Jun 10, 2004 at 5:15 PM

    Always enjoy your take on towns and this on L'Aquila is no exception..........one dispute......we do have castles in Australia Ian, but they weren't built by the Romans........LOL. Thank you.


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