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Capestrano Castle

Capestrano Castle Capers

by Sam Dunham

The fortified market town of Capestrano set in the Gran Sasso & Monti della Laga is probably every Italian model town maker’s dream, with a baroque piazza, lofty towered , and narrow winding alleyways that rock you back to where you begin.  It’s steep in places but hey that is why they built a here; at 505 masl Capestrano has a great vantage point down the beautiful Tirino Valley and was one of the key positions used by marauding forces in the final sacking of Rome.

It makes a great stop off on the way to the Cantina at Santa Stefano in the evening to eat a locally sourced grazing platter with a difference (it includes delicious local lentil soup, not just a plate of cold cuts here!).  The road from here up via the back of Roca and down into the Campo Imperatore is wonderful with every rolling hairpin bend beckoning for another picture stop.

The best time to visit in  Capestrano the Spring & is after 4 when the sun begins to soften and the shadows lengthen and a walk around its cobbled medieval streets pulls you back to its glorious past of the Feudal Marquis of Capestrano.

Wild Window Boxes at  Piccolomini CastleIt was in the Middle Ages that Capestrano was a town noted for its exclusivity – you got in through being important, a solider or if a peasant only delivering your tithe.

Intriguingly it’s one Central Italian town that overspills with a history of how the Italian nobility ‘got around’; it seems that the nobility of long ago weren’t so picky as Italians today and as long as you could bring favour and influence it didn’t matter if you were Abruzzi, Central or Southern.  King Charles III of gave the castle to the local Marquis whose family names had lengthened in importance by the C15th to Marquis Antonio I Todeschini Piccolomini d’Aragona, and who was the nephew of Pope Pius II.  By 1579 the castle was now known by its official  title today the ‘Piccolomini Castle’ and  had been sold onto the Medicis (hence its secondary nickname of the Medici Castle).  They then passed it on to Bourbon King of Naples & the 2 Sicilies in the C18th and in 1860 was passed to the Savoys… yep a slut of a castle!

This C12th castle these days is home to the local Commune so it’s quite well scrubbed up as castles go and really worthy around and savouring its history and it’s free!

Capestrano WarriorDon’t come here expecting to find the famous Capestrano Warrior “Guerriero di Capestrano” that today is  kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Chieti.  For those who haven’t heard of this before, it is a C4th BC limestone funeral passage statue that is almost 3 metres high and was discovered locally by in the 1920s by a man working on his vines.  This sandled & armoured figure is remarkably well-preserved, arms folded across the chest, he wears a short apron and carries a short sword, knife, and axe.  A wide belt encircles his classical nipped-in waist; on his head in a separate piece the figure wears a wide-brimmed helmet.  You will see him featured a lot in your travels in Abruzzo, unsurprisingly he has become a bit of a local icon over the last 100 years.

Strange but true – this dinky-toy like town is twined with Budapest!  We can only think it is due the notoriety of the famous Franciscan Monk from here, St John of Capestrano, who died fighting the Turks in Central Europe.  Not sure why else a capital city would choose a small Abruzzo town…

Further Reading

Official Capestrano Website

The Unpredictable Monster – this is a piece written after the earthquake by Capestrano resident, Fabrizio Scalabrino about the impact of the terremoto on the town – thankfully small.  What is incredibly refreshing about this article is it talks about the ‘Non-Italians’ that were tragically killed by the earthquake who had been working for Fabrizio.  His article indirectly helps to reinforce the notion that like all industrialised nations Italians rely on immigrants to do their petty manual tasks, that these immigrant workers live on peanuts in often sub-standard housing.  It portrays the Italian reality rather than the racist bouncing ball bomb of Berlusconi who seems to think his rotten portrayal of immigrants is where all is at.

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Gillian Fuller
Guest
Gillian Fuller

I know this is unusual but I have lost touch with my friend Pauline Fromer who lives in Capestrano. She bought two houses, which she is converting into holiday accommodation. So I thought you might know her and ask her to get in touch with me please!! We know her from South Africa. Kind regards,
Gillian Fuller

Gillian Fuller
Guest
Gillian Fuller

I know this is unusual but I have lost touch with my friend Pauline Fromer who lives in Capestrano. She bought two houses, which she is converting into holiday accommodation. So I thought you might know her and ask her to get in touch with me please!! We know her from South Africa. Kind regards,
Gillian Fuller

Patricia Addis
Guest
Patricia Addis

A nice article on Capestrano. Having a father and mother from Capestrano, I am delighted to see it written up with emphasis of its history. Much more than I have seen in other places. My first visit in '75 was spent completely in Capestrano. Since then I visited twice more and looking forward to many more visits. I have spoken with Fabrizzo since the earthquake, I am so glad that he has brought his fine articles to the press.

james and debbie Els
Guest
james and debbie Els

really enjoyed reading this article on capestrano. We visited the village in march 2008 – we gazed down the tirino valley toward ofena and then above and beyond to the gran sasso range shortly after a rain storm when the sun re-emerged – it was an almost spiritual moment. We followed our heart and have brought a property in the village intent on embracing the culture, language, people and history of this beautiful region. We've also had the pleasure of getting to know fabrizio and family referred to in your article – this has enriched our experience.