Two years ago we stopped there just to have lunch (a few pics are from back then). The main attraction (Santucci Palace) was close so we just left, but with the feeling we were losing something good…….
Last month Navelli was the last stop of our visit to Abruzzo…..
Navelli is located about 700 m above sea level and 34 km from the city of L’Aquila, on the southwestern slope of a hill that dominates the Navelli Plateau .Navelli plain runs parallel to the valley of the river Aterno, and together with the plains of Capistrano, the Peligna, the Rocche and the Cinquemiglia , is the complex of Abruzzo’s interior highlands between the alignment of the Monte Velino – Sirente – Monti Marsicani and the Apennines on north-west and on south-east the succession of the Monti della Laga, the Gran Sasso, the Majella, the Morrone Mountains and the Monti della Meta. Navelli plain was originated by tectonic dislocations.
The first settlements in the Navelli area date back to the Vestini around the sixth century BC , when the area below the present town was the vicus Incerulae; of these origins there’s an inscription in Vestino dialect preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, dating from the third century BC that mentions an Italic temple dedicated to Hercules Jovius in the site of the today Church of Santa Maria in Cerulis. The current village was founded by the union in the Middle Ages (VIII-X sec.) of six villages: Villa del Plano, Villa of Piceggia (or Piaggia) Grande, Villa of Piceggia (or Piaggia) Piccola, Villa of Saint Lucia, Villa del Colle and Villa Turri. Of the original villages in the plain remain some medieval churches, such as Santa Maria in Cerulis already mentioned in 787 on the Chronicon Vulturnense .
The original villages gathered around a castle, built on the hill that still lies above the village, already mentioned in 1092 in a bull of the Monastery of San Benedetto in Perillis . The fort was equipped with a tower that, during the Renaissance, was transformed into the bell tower of the parish church. On the ruins of the castle, then, it was built in 1632 the Baron’s Palace (or Santucci). The houses were built in the Middle Ages in the area of “Villa of great Piceggia”, expanding during the Renaissance towards the “small Villa Piceggia”: the two areas, the medieval (the current “big Beaches”) and Renaissance ( “Small beaches “), are still discernible in town.
The Navelli castle belonged to the Diocese of Valva and in 1269 helped found the Comitatus Aquilano in Quarto Santa Maria . To quell the conflicts related to the payment of tithes, in 1424 the diocese of Valva was ruled by that of L’Aquila, according to a rule by Pope Martin V. In 1423 Navelli held out against the troops of Braccio da Montone, surrendering without being conquered; to honor the village resistance to the siege, it was granted by Queen Giovanna II of Naples to include in the emblem of the village “Navellorum Merit Crowned Fidelitas”. On 4 and 5 December 1456 a disastrous earthquake destroyed many towns, some of which have never been rebuilt, so the population arrived in Navelli. In 1498 the Navelli Castle was surrounded by walls; one of the five gates of the country (the Gate Villotta or South Gate) was later incorporated into the Palazzo Onofri.
The fortified Santucci Palace, also known as Baron’s Palace, is now a place for exhibitions and events of many sort. The gate was close when we passed by, but on our way back a custodian was there to fix things for an upcoming exhibition and he was kind enough to let us have a look….
The initial core of the building dates from the eighth to the tenth century, when as a result of the “phenomenon fortification” the people gathered around a castle built on the hill of Navelli. The castle was surrounded by a curtain wall, now totally incorporated within the village. The actual palace was built on order of the feudal lord Camillo Caracciolo, on the ancient castle ruins in 1632. This building was the residence of various feudal lords of Navelli that followed caracciolo until the end of 1700 and it changed its name, according to the family that lived there, such as “Castle Trasmondi-Tomassetti” from the name of the last feudal families of the country, before the abolition of feudalism in 1806, then called Palazzo Santucci, from its last owners’ name, and now it’s an estate of the municipality of Navelli.
Aquila saffron is an Italian product with protected designation of origin, produced exclusively in the province, particularly in the Plateau of Navelli. Along with the sheep-farming and tourism, one of the main income of the area…..
That was the end of our short vacation, and it was our third time in Abruzzo, but there’s so much more to see and to savour there, so I’m pretty sure there will be another trip sooner or later…