Driving across Abruzzo: a guide to Marsica
Discover Marsica, the heart of the green region of Europe. Beautiful landscapes, excellent food and a tradition of history and art.
This land of history and ancient culture is named after the Italic population of Marsi, fierce opponents and then allies to the Roman Empire (hence the Latin saying “Nec sine Marsis, nec contra Marsos triumphare posse”).
Located in Abruzzo, not far from Rome and well connected by the scenic Strada dei Parchi, the territory can be discovered at one’s own pace.
Among the beech forests of the Apennines stands the town of Tagliacozzo, the scene of medieval battles between Swabians and Angevins; today it is a lively mountain resort which excels in beauty, like its splendid Piazza Obelisco:
After a few kilometres, we reach the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Alba Fucens, situated on a hill across from the old Via Tiburtina, where a magnificent amphitheatre is still preserved.
Not far is Avezzano, an active commercial and industrial centre of about 50,000 inhabitants. The large town, earlier destroyed by the disastrous earthquake of 1915 and then by the bombings of World War II, has always found the strength to rise again. Overlooked by the majestic Mount Velino (2487 m.), it used to be a stronghold of the aristocratic families of the Colonna, Orsini and Torlonia; the latter are linked to the draining of Lago del Fucino, a carsic basin converted to agriculture in the second half of the 19th century.
Also in Fucino, where today beets, carrots and potatoes are grown and exported throughout Europe, we find Celano, who gave birth to Tommaso di Celano, biographer of St. Francis. The centre is also famous for its Castello Piccolomini, a Renaissance manor enriched and restored over time.
Going further, we encounter the ancient Marruvium, the main centre of the Marsi on the shores of the lake, and later on an important bishop seat, today called San Benedetto, and especially Pescina: a small town in the Valle del Giovenco, it was the birthplace of Cardinal Mazarin, secretary of Louis XIV of France and successor of Richelieu, and especially of the Italian writer Ignazio Silone one of the most famous intellectuals of the post-war period.
Exiled during the fascist regime, Silone published his first books abroad, enjoying great success with his novel Fontamara, a denunciation of social oppression of the lower classes, which was translated into many languages.
In 1980 the novel was made into a famous film, featuring the actor Michele Placido.
Going back to the mountains, we can visit Ovindoli, famous ski resort and vacation spot during the summer; the facilities are a destination for sports fans who can also appreciate genuine local products, such as cold cuts, cheeses, wild boar meat and homemade pasta.
Continuing on our journey we can delve into wildlife and quickly reach Pescasseroli and the Abruzzo National Park, which partly extends over Lazio and Molise.
Surrounded by dreamy landscapes, the park is home to unique specimens of fauna, including the Marsican Wolf, the Marsican Bear, golden eagles, falcons, hawks, deer and ibex, and protected species of flowers and plants such as gentian, famous for its digestive properties.