The little known capital city of Abruzzo, L’Aquila is truly a hidden treasure simply waiting for you to discover her wonders. L’Aquila is the capital of one of the most beautiful sections of Italy and the natural surroundings are only a portion of what makes the town so attractive and interesting.
The Young City
By Italian standards, L’Aquila is a rather young city. It was founded in the thirteenth century when Frederick II of Hohenstaufen called on the inhabitants of ninety-nine castles in the surrounding area to consolidate into a strategically allied position. The town became a stronghold between the Middle East and Northern Europe. The formation of the town and its ninety-nine founders are remembered throughout the city, particularly in the fountain of 99 spouts located in Piazza di Porta Rivera.
Discovering the Town
Full of interesting landmarks and must-see areas of interest, the town of L’Aquila is too much to cover in a day, especially on a single walk. Indeed the best way to see the whole of the town it to spend multiple days exploring its sights and surrounding mountainous region. Set off with a particular destination in mind, but pop into open doors or areas that spark your curiosity and you might find yourself in a medieval courtyard or the midst of another wonderful surprise.
Santa Maria di Collemaggio
A definite must-see in the town, Santa Maria di Collemaggio is an architectural masterpiece of pink and white stone façade, 14th century frescos, pure gothic interior and the only Holy Door found outside of Rome. But the history of the church is just as interesting.
Pietro Angeleri was a reclusive monk who lived the life of a hermit for three years. He sent a letter of protest to the Cardinals in Rome and then was rather unexpectedly elected Pope. He changed his name to Celestine V. As a new pope, he extended a pardon to everyone who made the pilgrimage to his parish church. Three months later he became the only Pontiff to ever relinquish his throne and Celestine/Angeleri begged to return to his hermitage. The new pope, Boniface VIII, locked him up in Fumone Castle instead where he died two years later.
After his death, his body was returned to his beloved church and the town of L’Aquila has a wonderful celebration of the general pardon every year on August 28 and 29 with two large processions complete with period costumes.