Touristic Guide of Avezzano
Avezzano lies in the Fucino plain, once occupied by the lake and subsequently drained by Prince Alessandro Torlonia in the Nineteenth Century. Afterwards it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1915. In memory of this event and the 30.000 dead, a monument was erected at the foot of Mount Salviano, sculptured by the Marsican artist Pasquale Di Fabio.
Today Avezzano has been completely rebuilt according to seismic regulations with characteristic parallel streets and two-storey houses. Despite its rapid expansion over the last 50 years, Avezzano is not an anonymous conglomerate, but it is rich in cultural history, very beautiful landscape, many works of art, architecture, churches, commercial and cultural services and initiatives.
Places of interest in the town:
The Sanctuary of Madonna di Pietraquaria has always represented an important place of devotion for the people from Avezzano and Marsica and visited over the centuries by famous personalities like Carlo d’Angiò and recently by Pope Giovanni Paolo II. There is a celebration on 27th April every year with a long procession passed the stations of the cross along Mount Salviano up to the Sanctuary.
The church was erected in the late Medieval period in honour of the Madonna. It has been rebuilt many times up to its present rustic aspect.
The architecture of the town rebuilt after 1915 is in liberty style. Amongst the most interesting buildings are the Town Hall itself, considered a masterpiece and the Torlonia Palace surrounded by a luxuriant park which houses ARSSA (Regional Agency of Services for Agricultural Development) and the Museum of peasant culture and farm machinery. In the Archives of the Palace it is possible to consult documents relating the draining of the lake, from Roman times onwards.
The remain of the “Cuniculi” of Emperor Claudius, still to be visited on the Fucino plain, represent a masterpiece of hydraulic architecture.
Another building of interest is the elegant Law Court Building, projected by the architect Luigi Gallo and built in 1930.
The only remaining ancient monument is the Orsini-Colonna Castle, built in 1490 originally with 5 towers and a wide moat. Almost completely destroyed by the earthquake, it has been reconstructed incorporating the original gateway as well as a few windows finally decorated as was Renaissance style. Today its halls house public conventions, conferences and cultural exhibitions. On the top floor there is a Picture Gallery with a permanent collection of works of art selected from the various editions of the National Award for Figurative Arts held annually in Avezzano.
In Avezzano there are many modern churches, with the exception of the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew and the San Giovanni Decollato (Saint John Decapitated).
The building of the Cathedral was started in 1919 and finished in the 1930s. The façade is of smooth travertine marble void of ornament with 3 doorways which give onto 3 very high separate naves (one central nave and two side aisles) lighted by high stain-glass windows.
The church of San Giovanni Decollato rebuilt on its original foundations of the fourteenth century today appears internally in typical baroque style while the doorway is decidedly Fifteenth Century.
As already mentioned, today the city of Avezzano is not only provided with efficient scholastic institutions (the 8 senior, 4 junior and elementary and nursery) but also public buildings offering services to the community like hospitals, clinics, Cultural Centre projected by Paolo Portoghesi in an original spiral structure, the new Revenue Office Building, all in the Northern area of the town.
Furthermore there is a project for the building of a Fucino museum testifying a millenary civilization while a State Record Office has recently been opened which is rich in rare incunabula and documents testifying an authentic history of local and Abruzzo traditions.
Thanks to this cultural growth together with the economic development as a result of the presence of the many industries which form the Industrial Nucleus on the Fucino Plain, Avezzano aspires to becoming the capital of the Province.
History of Avezzano
On the night between the 13th and 14th January 1915 Avezzano and its nearby villages were destroyed by a catastrophical earthquake which cancelled this town of 12.000 inhabitants from the map.
After the earthquake Avezzano rose again and in a very short time it grew rapidly increasing demographically as no other town in Abruzzo.
In fact it was and even is today a town prevalently inhabited by people immigrated from many other different regions.
A part from the earthquake, the history of Avezzano is strictly linked with the drawing of the lake once attempted by Emperors Claudius who built the colossal Emissary and underground tunnels. It was finally achieved by Prince Alessandro Torlonia in the last century, who succeeded in conveying the water under the mountain through to the Liri River in the valley below.
There is a controversial theory on the origin of the name of Avezzano.
The theory generally accepted by the population is that formulated by Muzio Febonio, whereby the name of the town derives from latin “Ave Jane”, (after a temple to Giano Bifronte, greeted by passing people and which is situated at the gates of the town), becoming subsequently “Aveanum” and the Avezzano.
Instead according to Cesare Letta, professor of Roman History at the Pisa University, the name derives from a member of noble family, Avidius, living in Alba Fucens, of which Avezzano was then part, so “Avidianum”(the territory of Avidius). The theory is confirmed by two epigraphs found in the Alba Fucens territory.
Towards the end of the first millennium, several villages grouped together to form the first nucleus of Avezzano. The name of Avezzano as a residence of a feudatory appeared in a document of 1343 and the first official papers in which Avezzano is referred to as “universitas” (= community) appeared in 1360 and the years to follow and a parchment delimiting the boundaries between Albe and Avezzano (in the municipal archives) dates back to 1371. In the Nineteenth Century Brogi discovered the famous Statutes dated 1434, whereby it is finally possible affirm when the history of modern Avezzano began. In fact they prove that at that time Avezzano was already a large town and though subjected to the Dukes of Tagliacozzo, enjoyed a certain administrative and economic autonomy, at least up to the second half of the Fifteenth Century.
In 1561 Marcantonio Colonna converted the Castle taken from the Orsini, the previous owners, into a splendid palace donating at the same time a large extension of land along the Fucino lake to the town.
From the 1600s to the whole 1700s, the territory of Avezzano is dominated in succession by the Spanishs, the Austrians and the Bourbons, who ruled over the Reign of Naples.
Only after the unification of Italy, and being the theatre of the battle between the Bourbons and the Piedmonteses, Avezzano began to assume its modern physiognomy and dimension. But, above all, it was the drawing of the Fucino lake (and the subsequent decision to make Avezzano his official residence on the part of Prince Torlonia) to transform the town in a true commercial and economic capital of the area.
The customs and behaviours of the people, once conditioned and governed by the lake, changed in accordance with physical transformation of the territory.
A few years after the draining of the lake, the building of the railway line Roma-Sulmona and the creation of the sugar factory mark the start of its industrial phase.
Gallery of Modern Art
The Gallery of Modern Art is housed on the first floor of the reconstructed Orsini-Colonna Castle in a sober and simple atmosphere.
The pictures and the sculptures are a selection from the work presented for the “Avezzano Award” held from 1949 to 2001 (26 editions in all).
Although the space is evidently too cramped, the Gallery in not without attraction. The works of art from composed technique to collage are varied and impressive like the magnificent “cromonema” by Rocco Borella from Genoa, the “futurism revisited” by Mario Schifano of the 1960s, the large “padding” by Cesare Tacchi of 1965, the corroded polimaterial by Oscar Piattelli of 1989, the “abandoned town”, large and poetic painting by Enrico Benaglia 1980. Amongst the national pop art works there is an impressive “carved wood” by Gianni Ruffi of 1966, and an important example of the employment of the people’s figure taken from a “magazine” by Erminio Di Vincenzo of 1967.
There is a considerable sector devoted to historical abstractionism composed of works by Oreste Bogliardi,Alberto Bragaglia, Mauro Reggiani, Mario Padovan e Luigi Veronesi with a painting of rarefied composition with evident allusion to the cosmos. In the context of geometric abstraction there are interesting examples of artists from Abruzzo like Dante Simone, Elio di Blasio, Carlo Colonnello and Franco Summa: all are co-protagonists of the Italian gestalt period together with Silvano Collina exhibiting a reflecting steel “B.AS22” of 1966, Francesco Martinez with the aluminium “structure” on the same year and Getullo Alviani exhibiting fine “vibratile surface” in aluminium of 1964.
Pasquale Di Fabio, distinguished painter and sculptor from Avezzano, is present with a dynamic “composition” of 1960 as well as other works “tachisme” by Salvatore Emblema, Giuseppe Misticoni, Vladimiro Tulli, Alessandro Trotti and Giuseppe Guerreschi by whom we can admire a fired gestural picture of 1959. Of particular value there are sculptures by Cannilla, Tito Bellei, Pancella, Conte, Cossyro, Luigi Di Fabrizio and the etchings by Antonio Virduzzo, Nino Cordio, Walter Valentini, Bruno Ceccobelli, the xylography of 1965 by Oronzo Tripoli and the beautiful lithography supported by centrifuge dynamics by Umberto Mastroianni, one of the most important engraver and sculptor of the 20th Century in Europe.
Figurative Art is also well represented by important works by Remo Brindisi, Antonio Di Fabrizio, Notte, Vangelli, Celiberti, Avenali, Memmo e Stefano Lustri, author of an intense metaphore “From the creation/birth of an object” of 1975. Close to this type of painting with lyrical tones, there are “on the road to Pietraquaria”, the hyper-chromatic oil painting of 1956 by Luigi Bartolini and “the Crucificion”, the only religious subject of the exhibition, essential tempera by Enrico Accattino, a fundamental artist in the history of Italian art in the 20th Century.
Of particular interest are pictures of the 1950s by affirmed art critics and historians like Franco Miele, Vito Apuleio and Virgilio Guzzi.
Attractive the unusual pastel by Bruno Donzelli oriented towards the avant-guarde of the last century. Influenced by pop-art is the painting by the versatile artist Domenico Colantoni. There are also suggestive Marsican landscapes by Raffaele Costi, Cesare Paris, particularly effective with his “mountain landscapes” of 1963, by Sigfrido Pfanu, by Marcello Ercole, unpredictable author of live landscapes in the 1960s, by Nino Gagliardi, Gino Amicuzzi, Toccotelli, Bianchi, Cervelli, Giancaterino, Fracassi, Frittella, Sarra, Carrino and Gaetano Pallozzi, all rich in colours and vigorous expression.
The Gallery also exhibits interesting example of the innovative national movements like “the structure” electromechanical animation of 1967 by Gianni Colombo, fundamental representative of kinetic art and the rare “bucranio” tridimensional construction in wood and material of 1966 by Pino Pascali, exponent of the so-said “Poor Art”.
Amongst the latest acquisitions from the Avezzano Award 2001 there are works by Matteo Basile, young artist, internationally known for his “plotter painting” and with the original “light boxes”. Alberto Di Fabio, international artificer of complex models expressing the rhythmic and meditative substance of painting material. Felice Levini, forerunner of the latest figurative tendencies deriving from mass-media. Marcello Mondazzi alchemic manipulator of corroded material, remodelled by him to indicate the pathways of the memory, Alessandra Giovannoni, Roberto Pietrosanti, Stefania Fabrizi, Salvatore Pulivirenti, Enrico Pulsoni, Stalker and Adrian Tranquilli. Daniela Perego exhibits a large-sized photograph in which she enlarges the figure of a body to perceptible limit. Impressive the “Ghost Buster”, a white book by Mario Folci with the names of 2132 immigrants and refugees who died in the attempt to reach Europe after the Treaty of Schengen. Finally the important tempera painting “archway” by Guido Strazza, an acclaimed master of the non-objective painting. It depicts bright blue surface cut over by signs and deep scratches.
This is just a small selection of the works of art and the name of those exhibiting in the Gallery.
The Lapidary Museum of Avezzano was founded in 1888 and holds a collection of numerous tombstones found in all over the Marsica and particular from the archaeological area of Alba Fucens. The collection was facilitated by many donations by private citizens.
The draining of the lake proved also an essential factor in making the collection and which brought to light many fragments of sculptures from Roman times as well as a series of Medieval and Renaissance architectural elements together with the tombstones objects.
The archaeological finds and whatever is antique exhibited in the Museum of Avezzano have arrived to the present day because they have remained buried under the lake or, when found, were considered of no practical use even to decorate the houses.
Following the earthquake and the bombing of II World War, many samples in bronze or pieces of pottery (including the medals and “ex voto” anchors) were stolen by so-said “collectors”.
The Museum of Avezzano received a new impulse in 1935, when Loreto Orlandi, municipal engineer, not only reorganised the collection, but increased it with new donations particularly from the area of ancient Marruvium.
Those interested in further details of the collection can find them in the book “The Municipal Lapidary Museum” by Fiorenzo Cavalli, available free of charge at the Town Hall.
Syndacate for Industrial Development of Avezzano
The Syndicate for the Industrial development are established under the laws N° 634 of 1957, N° 555 of 1959 and D.P.R. n.1374 of 1962. The target was to provide the South with an instrument to launch the economic and industrial development.
The creation of the syndicates promoted and facilitated investments for the establishing the industrial activities. The aim was to organise the territory creating a system of facilities particularly indicated for the establishment of industries and to institute “poles of attraction” within the vast Southern territory, in which to concentrate investments.
The industrial area, situated in the immediate outskirts of Avezzano, is in a particularly strategic position, right in the centre of Italy and of the main lines of communication.
At the present time more than 60 companies in all fields are on the area of the Industrial Nucleus with a total of 4.400 workers. There are companies at national and international level, like Micron technology, leader in the production and research of memory chip and semi-conductors, the IXFIN (today OLIT) and the SAES Group in the electronic field.
The very important Burgo Paper Mills as well as Kidco Services, an international company for the production of television programmes by satellites and other.
In the centre of the Nucleus there is “the service area”, in phase of completion, which includes a multi-screen cinema “ASTRA” with 8 halls, the four stars Grand Hotel dei Marsi, an Ice Rink and recreation fittings able to house events of national interest.
In this service area an Exhibition Centre is in building over a covered area of 3.650 s.metres with a parking space of 3.500 s.m. On the inside there will be temporary and permanent stands for products and services completed with a restaurant and a bar on the ground floor. Trade fairs can be organised together with exhibitions aimed at promoting and increasing international exchanges on behalf of the small and medium concerns existing in the territory.
In an area of about 28 hectares on the Industrial Nucleus there is also the old establishment of the ex-Sugar Refinery of Avezzano which unfortunately closed its activity in 1987.
The authorities have proposed a plan to create a multi-function centre for culture, museums, cinema and theatre with relative facilities.
The opening of a Centre for the Sorting of Goods, situated close to the motor-way Roma-Pescara certainly will contribute to the growth, both in terms of occupation as well as in terms of economic wealth in the Avezzano area.
AVEZZANO AND THE COMPLEX HISTORY OF THE FUCINO AREA TODAY
From a geographical, historical and social point of view it is impossible to mention Avezzano without including the Fucino and Marsican territories.
After the draining of the lake, the fertile land obtained extends over an area of 13.087 hectares and constitutes the focal point around which the entire economy of the area and its surrounding converges.
From the 20,770 inhabitants in the Marsica in 1861, when the works for draining the lake had just began, 100 years later in 1961 they are 64.540 despite the loss of 28,267 lives in the earthquake of 1915.
To counteract this loss and the people dead during the I World War, there was an influx of workers who were called in cause for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the area and who subsequently remained and made their residence there, joining the mass of the farm labourers present on the Fucino latifundium. But the situation was in crisis and 11,248 tenants and 2,000 farm labourer without land gravitated on 14,000 hectares of territory.
To face the problem of unemployment, the Torlonia family, still owner of the Fucino plain, was forced to concede 150,000 working days for the clearing and rehabilitation of the land which appeared to be abandoned to its lot.
Unsettlement and tragical events followed the dramatic situation of unemployment in the surrounding villages hitherto living of the products of the lake.
Faced with the problem which threatened to overthrow public order the Government of the State intervened declaring Fucino an area for confiscation to be later divided amongst peasants, farmhands and sharecroppers, ex- farming contractors and ex tenants who were left without land to cultivate after the confiscation.
A special office was therefore instituted with the purpose of uniting the 1,400 hectares of land, dividing it into lots (a minimum of one hectare to a maximum of 4 hectares) and sharing it out with an appropriate 30 years contract to the 10,000 farming families.
During the 40 years following the distribution of the land to the local farmers, the economy in Avezzano and the Marsica has shown an exceptional development: The agricultural output on Fucino has ever increased. Certain types of product have disappeared . In fact typical products like sugar-beet, potatoes and wheat, at first cultivated together with the traditional carrots and vegetables, have today supplanted the latter.
This revolution, while producing an exceptional increase in revenue for the farmers creating grounds for the spontaneous birth of cooperatives between them, has on the other hand, together with the limits on the production imposed by the European Community, brought to the elimination of one of the two important sugar refineries in the area.
Mount Salviano (Regional Nature Reserve) is one of the most popular places with the people of Avezzano to visit. The name Salviano recalls a medicinal plant Salvia Officinalis which, despite the change in climate after the drainage of the lake, still grows profusely. Its medicinal properties were already known to the ancient civilization of the Marsica.
The itinerary departs from the outskirts of the town and leads up along the ridge of the mountain where one can admire the Palatine Plain ( scene of the battle between Corradino di Svevia and Carlo d’Angiò in 1268) up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Pietraquaria .
During the excursion it is possible to see squirrels which are the symbol of the reserve as well as buzzards. The wild plants include the yellow sage (Phlomis Fruticosa) with its beautiful flowers. It is possible to come down a pathway through a pine forest past fifteen shrines representing the mysteries of the Rosary.
The gorges are to be found 13 kilometres from Avezzano in the Regional Park of Sirente-Velino.
They are a rare example of karstic canyon dug out by the torrent La Foce and stretch out between the Serra dei Curti and Celano in the west to the Etra mountains in the east for a length of 5 kilometres practicable only in the dry period ( from the end of spring to the beginning of autumn).
It is advisable to leave from Ovindoli – Val d’Arano (25 kilometres from Avezzano) and to wear a helmet because of the danger of falling stones. A road leads through the valley up to a fountain (m.1325) from where there is an indicated track leading through sparse beech woods staked with mountain maple, holly and manna ash to an incredible view over the gorge from where you descend rapidly through pine forests past the Monastery of Saint Marco down to the torrent bed and the ‘Lover’s Fountain’ (m. 1030).
Continuing along the track under shady trees of willow, poplar and alder you pass through narrow passageways between high precipices cut out by the torrent and thick woods of hornbeam and manna mash where rock plants like Campanula fragilis cavolinii, Aubrieta columnae, Minuartia capillacea are to be seen. Leading up to what becomes the most characteristic part of the canyon you pass through high precipices over great honey-combed boulders up to a last bottleneck through a pinewood and finally to the outlet of the gorge ( m. 780) and remains of a medieval village.
During the excursion in addition to the typical fauna you may be lucky to see a golden eagle, a raven, a sea crow or the rarer alpine crow, the nuthatch or the kestrel.
Mount Velino is the highest peak (m.2486) together with its “twin mount Cafornia”(m. 2424) dominating the Marsican landscape. Its territory stretches from the Monte Velino Nature Reserve to the Sirente-Velino Regional Park and the itinerary suggested departs from Rosciolo (12 km. from Avezzano) to Vallone di Sevice. At the beginning of the track, where you leave the car, there is an ancient church, Santa Maria in Valle Porclaneta (m. 1077) which merits a visit.
From Vallone di Sevice the track becomes steeper winding through a vegetation of laburnum, bushes of dwarf-juniper and crowberry to a beech wood on the edge of which the red pond lily grows. It then passes through mountain pastures of scrub blooming in spring with yellow gentians and so on up to an old sheep fold. The pathway now begins to rise steeply through sorb, rowan and mountain ash up to the Sevice fountain (m.1975) and on to reach the mountain refuge (Capanna di Sevice – m. 2119). From the refuge the track divides into two, one in the direction of Mount Sevice (m. 2355) and the other through the high plain along the crest where there are visible signs of the glacial Pleistocene era. At this high quota on the characteristic gravel-slides there is sparse vegetation and even various plants dating from the Ice Quaternary Age. Proceeding towards the North you come to the “Valley of the Brigands” so-called as having been a refuge for bands of brigands in the 1800’s!
The climb to the final peak (m.2486) is very demanding and takes at least 4 hours.
During the excursion you may have the luck to see several rare species of animal like the golden eagle (two couples are nesting in the area), the raven, the gryphons, the alpine finch or snow bird, the Greek partridge, the hare, the stag and even the Apennine wolf.
(text by Ufficio Europa)