Vasto – Municipium Romanum
Vasto is one of the most beautiful and ancient cities of the Abruzzian Adriatic coast. It is located on a hill (144 m above sea level) in the south of the region. The ancient city is a wonderful fusion of nature, history and culture. Vasto has well preserved beautiful monuments from different epochs illustrating its rich and dramatic history.
In my opinion, its main beauty is a magnificent bay which has a perfect semicircular shape. The Vasto belvedere should be a starting and finishing point of a walk around Vasto. When I stood at the belvedere I couldn’t stop admiring this perfect creation of nature. A webcam is installed at the belvedere to observe the bay.
Through all its history this bay was a mixed blessing for Vasto. Being a convenient natural harbor, it contributed to the prosperity of the city through the development of trade and navigation, and at the same time it attracted greedy conquerors and pirates of all stripes.
According to an ancient myth, Istonium (Histonium) was founded in the 10 century BC by the legendary hero of the Trojan War Etolian king Diomedes, who fought on the Greek side. Historical reconstruction has shown that the foundation of the first settlement on the site dates to 1184 BC, i.e. 10 years after the end of the Trojan War. I want this to be true because of my ancient love for Trojan history.
After victorious Samnite wars, the Romans turned Vasto into Roman municipium. Archaeological excavations indicate that in the Roman era in the center of the city there were a “Capitol” Hill, baths and amphitheater for watching naval battles that took place in the Bay. Even today, you can read the words «Vastum olim Histonium Municipium Romanum» on the town’s coat of arms. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the city had been transferred from one conqueror to another. It was ruined and again restored for several times. Lombards, Franks, Spaniards, Angevins, Bourbons had been rulers of the city.
The most significant and well-preserved architectural monuments belong to the Spanish era. The fortress Castello Caldoresco is located on a high promontory. It was built by the first Spanish ruler of Vasto Giacomo Caldora in the middle of XV century on the ruins of a pre-existing building. The castle surrounded by thick walls makes a very strong impression. In 1464, it survived a three-month siege by the troops of King Ferdinand of Aragon. Today the castle hosts a museum and exhibition hall.
The d’Avalos Palace, decorated with stone portals and charming two-arched windows, is a remarkable example of Renaissance architecture in Abruzzo. Nowadays the Palace hosts the Archaeological Museum and Pinacoteca. Inside the palace you can admire beautiful stucco decorations and frescoes of XVI century, marble cornices and majolica XIX century. In the courtyard are situated beautiful so-called “paradise gardens”. Contrary to long existing Adriatic tradition, you can find there not only flowers (roses, curly, bugenvillea, jasmine, geranium, lavender, rosemary), but also fruit trees such as grapes and oranges.
Near the d’Avalos Palace is situated the Cathedral of St. Joseph (San Giuseppe) which has a very interesting history and architecture. Originally there was situated the St. Margaret church (1262), then there was the monastery of St. Augustine and, finally, the building was granted to St. Joseph Convent in 1808. For many centuries, the churh was built and rebuilt, retaining elements of different styles in its architecture. It had inherited from the old church a magnificent medieval facade with a portal and rose-window (1293), and from the Augustinian monastery – the Latin cross layout and bell tower (1730). Inside the cathedral you can find masterpieces of great interest, namely, the triptych by the artist Michele Greco da Lavelona of the XVI century and the statue of Madonna della Cintura made in the beginning of the XVIII century.