Abruzzo 2016 – Chapter 2 – Capestrano

05 Jul

Capestrano is a village placed on a hill (m.465) in the central part of the Valle del Tirino which in Roman times was called the Valley Tritana or Valley Trita. This little village too, still shows the wounds of the 2009 earthqualke, but it’s also a charming place….let’s take a walk while we learn a bit of local history….

In the Valley flows the river Tirino, called in Roman times “Tirinum flumen”, being originated from three sources (Capodacqua, Lago and Presciano) all located in the area.

That’s why the town has as its coat of arms a castle from whose bases are derived three sources (trium amnium) that have given to Capistrano its name, a contraction of “Caput trium Amnium” meaning principle of three sources. In the Valley, in the Roman era, there was the flourishing and populous city of Aufinium, a cultural center and home to a renowned school of philosophy so the Romans elevated it to “municipium” rank. The inhabitants belonged to the historic and well-known group of Vestini and were for long loyal to Rome.

During the second half of the sixth century the valley was occupied by the Lombards that caused deeply damage, disrupting the structure of its territory and taking away any possibility of recomposition. The houses were abandoned and the population forced to seek safety elsewhere. The Lombards’ rule lasted for at least two centuries, during which the Lombard element mingled with the local population. The actual origins of the village date back around the year 880 and it seems to have formed the cluster of small groups of people who had scattered in the valley after the destruction of the city of Aufinium. Initially the area was for many years under the rule of the Benedictine monks and mayor of the great Abbey of San Pietro ad Oratorium, that stood in the area a short distance from the village.

The first document in which is mentioned the name of Capistrano dates back to 1284 when Charles I of Anjou, in recognition for his loyalty in the conquest of the kingdom of Naples, moved the territorial command of the Tirino Valley to  Riccardo Acquaviva of St. Valentino. The town had originally a fortified structure as shown by some documents in which it was called “Oppida Capistrani”. The need to defend itself is confirmed by the fact that a small lookout tower was built at the pass of Forca di Penne where there were facing bands of Saracens.

Capestrano in the early thirteenth century was a marquis, with the adjoining of the Barony of Carapelle, and included Castelvecchio Calvisio, Calascio and Santostefano, all neighboring villages of the Valley. In 1584 it became a principality that included Forca di Penne, St. Pelagia, the fortress of Castel del Monte and the Barony of Carapelle. Later it passed under the dominion of the lords who ruled the area over the decades, the Accrocciamuro, the Acquaviva, the Piccolomini, the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany and, finally, the Bourbon of the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies. Ferdinand IV of Bourbon granted Capestrano the title of city. In 1860 it became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Walking can make someone hungry, right? Our choice was a restaurant facing the main square….

We had a salami and cheese chopping board as appetizer…..

then hubby had some saffron and asparagus cream gnocchi

while my choice was a plate of freshwater crayfish in a white wine reduction….

In a corner of the room there was a replica of the Warrior of Capestrano….

The Warrior of Capestrano is a tall limestone statue of a Picene warrior dated to around 6th century BC. (The Picentes were an Italic tribe who lived in Picenum in the northern Adriatic coastal plain of ancient Italy. The endonym, if any, and its language are not known for certain). The statue stands at around 2.09 m. It was discovered accidentally in 1934 by a labourer ploughing the field in the Capestrano. The statue has traces of pink paint and features a hat with a huge brim and a disk-type armor (kardiophylax) protecting the chest and back.The warrior bears a short sword, knife and axe. He has also a defensive device known to the Greeks as mitra (a short apron covering the back), a wide belt, necklace and armlets. A South Picene inscription incised on the pillar standing to the right of the warrior reads: “Makupri koram opsút aninis rakinevíi pomp[úne]í” (“Aninis had this statue made most excellently for Rakinewis, the Pomp[onian]”). The subsequent investigation showed that the vineyard where the statue was found was situated above an Iron Age cemetery. Together with the warrior, a female statue in civilian attire was found at the same site, the so-called Lady of Capestrano. Beside the copy of the warrior there’s another ancient riddle, called the Sator Square

Outside the restaurant, opposite to the square, there is the reason of our visit to Capestrano….

The Piccolomini Castle was built in the 13th century, on the hill next to the Tirino river and the Abbey of St. Peter ad Oratorium in a strategic position at 505 m above sea level. It was a feud of Tolomeo di Raiano in 1240, and was granted to the Acquaviva family in 1284 by Charles I of Angio (King Charles I of Sicily). Riccardo d’Acquaviva was thus named marquis of Capestrano. In 1462 the Castle passed on to Marquis Antonio I Todeschini Piccolomini d’Aragona (d. 1493), nephew of Pope Pius II, who enlarged the castle with new towers with battlements. In 1579 Marquess Costanza Piccolomini, daughter of Innico Piccolomini, sold the castle to Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1743 the Castle passed on to Charles III of Spain in his capacity as Charles III Bourbon, King of Naples and the two Sicilies. In 1860 the Castle passed on to the Savoyard King of Italy.

The Capestrano Piccolomini Castle is, despite numerous interventions, one of the most interesting of Abruzzo fortified complexes. Its events are related to the succession of important families, from the Acquaviva, Dukes Valentine, Piccolomini, until the advent of the Medici whom the castle belonged until the abolition of feudalism. The fifteenth-century residential building, now the Town Hall, includes the remains of a pre-existing medieval fortification which preserves the impressive prismatic tower that dominates the height of the rest of the building. It consists of two bodies forming a “L” of which the largest, south-west, forms the bottom side of the main square of the village, while the smaller closes the inner courtyard to the north-west. The fort has a dual function: the castle in the sense of a fortified manor house and castle enclosure.

The main façade, which looks out on the village square, is clamped between two round towers and is the result of a radical transformation carried out in 1924 which has inserted into a stern defensive walls a big entrance, surmounted by the emblem of the Piccolomini. On the first floor there are five windows of marble dating back to the Renaissance. The original entrance to the complex was instead placed on the east side, protected by a moat; now the remains are still visible with the holes of the drawbridge chains now replaced by a stone staircase. The inner courtyard of a great beauty, presents in the middle a fifteenth century marble pit, flanked by columns with leafed capitals. A beautiful stone staircase gives access to the upper floors. The interior, completely restored following the restoration of 1924, it is now largely devoid of artistic interest with the exception of two valuable salons now become the center of social activities.

As you can see, there’s a new King of the Castle now…..

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Posted by on July 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


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