The Medieval Hill Town of Capestrano
After the impressive Roman church of San Pietro ad Oratorium we visited a medieval hill town of Capestrano. I like very much its beautiful panorama which is unveiling slowly when you approach the hill. The town is situated at 505 m above the sea level and dominates the River Tirino valley. Capestrano is located in the natural park known as the “Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park”.
As Wikipedia states, owing to fertile fields and abundance of fresh water the area was inhabited since antiquity, as shown by many archaeological findings of the neolythic age. The name Capestrano has probably derived from the Latin Caput Trium Amnium, meaning an “origin of three rivers”. In Roman times the area flourished due to a busy exchange route from Aufinum (near present-day Ofena) to the Adriatic, which followed the Tirino river and then the Aterno-Pescara probably along an ancient Italic track. In the Middle Ages there were settlements at Capodacqua, S.Pelagia and Presciano ruled by the monastery of San Pietro ad Oratorium, founded by Lombard king Desiderius in 756 A.D. and preserving relics of St. Peter. In XI and XII century Capestrano had been developed around a sighting tower as a fortified borough.
The main site of the town is the magnificent Piccolomini Castle built in the 13th century. It has a rather unusual façade with two round corner towers. As a matter of fact, in former times the modern main front had been the most unassailable wall of the castle. Now the original façade is situated on the other side. It still keeps traces of a former drawbridge. In 1924, the fortress which had successfully defended itself from many assaults suffered from a very unfortunate modernization. A front door and 5 windows were cut in its inaccessible wall giving the castle a rather unordinary look.
The castle had a very dramatic history. In fact it had been transferred as a precious challenge prize from one noble family to another still more noble. Starting from the most prominent families of Abruzzo (the Acquaviva and the Piccolomini), via the Medici, Great Dukes of Tuscany, and finally to Bourbon and Savoy kings.
Now the castle is the residence of the city mayor. Nevertheless you can visit the castle free of charge. A tall square tower dominates the inner yard. It had been left from an earlier fortress preexisting on the site. The tower sets the fashion to the whole building which has a L-shaped structure. The inner yard also has an irregular form which is not square but rather trapezoidal one. Nonetheless this irregularity, the Piccolomini Castle is considered to be the most important urban fortress in Abruzzo.
From its fortified walls you can admire the spectacular panorama of the Tirino River Valley, hills and mountains. You can imagine valiant knights riding along the valley under Piccolomini banners and fair ladies waiting them near narrow windows.