L'Aquila sits in a quiet valley, safely enclosed within its medieval walls. The Apennine Mountains rise around this city, founded in the 13th-century, which is now the capital of Abruzzo and the province of L'Aquila. The winding streets, Baroque churches, Renaissance buildings, and beautiful plazas of this city will charm you. Home to the University of L'Aquila, a symphony, and a film institute, L'Aquila sparkles with culture. A short distance away lies the intense solitude of the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga. Over the centuries, earthquakes have shattered this city, traumatic events that brought buildings to the ground. But L'Aquila rebuilt. More than once. This city defines resilience.
Read on to learn about the best things to do in the area!
1. Fontana delle Novantanove Cannelle
Fontana delle Novantanove Cannelle, or the Fountain of Ninety-Nine Spouts, located in La Rivera, the oldest part of the city, visually represents the stories and myths linked to L'Aquila’s foundation and history. According to legend, in the 13th-century, ninety-nine lords joined together to create the city of L'Aquila. Construction of the fountain began in 1272. The fountain was intended to remind all who passed of the unity and power of the new city.
Fontana delle Novantanove Cannelle
Address: Parco delle Acque, Piazza San Vito, 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
2. Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio
The patterned pink and white exterior of The Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio makes it appear almost festive. Construction of this masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture began in 1288. Inside the basilica rests two Baroque altarpieces. Frescos from the 14th,15th, and,16th centuries color the walls of the building’s understated interior.
Santa Maria di Collemaggio
Address: Piazzale Collemaggio 5, 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
3. Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo
Located in the Forte Spagnolo, the Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo’s galleries display a dazzling variety of exhibits related to the history of Abruzzo. Exhibits include dinosaur bones, pre-Roman artifacts, religious art, Roman finds from Abruzzo, medieval and modern paintings, works by Abruzzese artists, and contemporary art.
Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo
Address: Via Arco S. Jacopo della Rivera 35, 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
4. Basilica di San Bernardino da Siena
Construction of the Basilica di San Bernardino da Siena began in 1454 and required eighteen years to complete. Girolamo Centiempo painted the stunning ceiling and several frescos in the basilica. Pompeo Cesura’s Adorazione dei Magi hangs in a chapel.
Basilica di San Bernardino da Siena
Address: Via S. Bernardino, 5 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
5. Fontana Luminosa
Fontana Luminosa, a quaint fountain in Piazza Battagliona, comes alive at night with a display of colored lights. A bronze statute designed by Nicola D'Antino in 1934 of two women holding a basket stands at its center. Views of the distant mountains of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park make this worth a quick stop.
Address: Piazza Battaglione degli Alpini, 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
6. La Chiesa di San Silvestro
The rose and white Romanesque facade of La Chiesa di San Silvestro dates from 1350. Earthquakes destroyed the church on a number of occasions resulting in marked shifts in architectural styles. La Chiesa di San Silvestro was named a national monument in 1902. Raphel’s Visitation originally hung on the walls of the Branconio Chapel. Spanish troops removed the painting in 1655. Raphael’s masterwork remains on display in the Prado. Stunning 14th, 15th, and 16th century frescos adorn the walls. The 2009 earthquake caused extensive damage and the structure remains under reconstruction.
La Chiesa di San Silvestro
Address: Via S. Silvestro, 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
The ancient Roman city of Amiternum lies a few kilometers outside of L'Aquila’s historic center. Ruins of a Roman amphitheater, theater, forum, and baths rest quietly waiting for exploration. Gaius Sallustius Crispus, otherwise known as Sallust, author of the The Conspiracy of Catiline and The Jugurthine War, was born here in 86 BCE.
Website: Amiternum (in Italian)
8. Rocca Calascio and Chesia Santa Maria della Pietà
Rocca Calascio soars above the Apennine Mountains from inside the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. A ruined fort, it is the highest ever built in the Apennines. Construction of the fort began in the 10th-century. An earthquake in 1703 caused extensive damage after which it was never rebuilt. While at Rocca Calasico, take a look at the quiet and simple beauty of the octagonal 17th-century Santa Maria della Pietà church on the road to the fort.
Rocca Calascio and Chesia Santa Maria della Pietà
Address: Località Rocca Calascio, 67020 Calascio AQ, Italy
9. La Cattedrale Metropolitana dei Santi Massimo e Giorgio
La Cattedrale Metropolitana dei Santi Massimo e Giorgio dominates the landscape of the Piazza del Duomo. Construction of the cathedral began in the 13th-century, around the time of the city’s foundation. An earthquake in 1703 destroyed the cathedral and a Neoclassical building replaced it. Dedicated to Saint Maximus of Aveia and Gaint George, exquisite Baroque details and magnificent paintings fill the cathedral. The earthquake of 2009 inflicted enormous damage on the structure, requiring its closing. As of July 2017, the cathedral has not yet reopened.
La Cattedrale Metropolitana dei Santi Massimo e Giorgio
Address: Via Roio 4, 67100 L'Aquila AQ, Italy
Why not stay awhile in L'Aquila
So find a favorite bar, that perfect local restaurant, and of course, a go-to place for your morning coffee. And while you’re at it, why not think about staying awhile in this wonderful city. L'Aquila’s manageable size makes it a great destination for really getting to know a place. Make it a home base for exploring the surrounding countryside. After a few weeks in L'Aquila, you won’t want to leave.
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