The Ancient Vestine Capital
Penne is a very ancient town. First Neolithic settlement at the site dates back to the sixth millennium B.C. Beginning from III century B.C. the city had been the capital of the Italic tribe Vestines, as shows its ancient name Pinna Vestinorum. In 89 B.C. the Vestines were defeated by the Romans in the Social War and had been put under the authority of Rome. The town was known as Pinna during the time of the Roman Republic. Already Marcus Pollio Vitruvius wrote about the wonderful “Aqua Ventina”, a famous thermal spa which existed there since ancient times.
In the Middle Ages Penne was under the Lombard rule being a part of the Spoleto Duchy. In 1130 Penne had become a part of Sicily Kingdom.
In 1538 the town was granted by Emperor Charles V to his illegitimate daughter Margaret of Parma as a wedding gift when she married Ottavio Farnese. Margaret who was one of the most influential women of the Renaissance epoch had chosen Penne as the capital of the Abruzzo region, a title which the city retained till 18th century. Penne had reached the peak of its prosperity in the Middle Ages.
The modern town is comfortably settled on four hills between valleys of Tavo and Fino rivers. The medieval historic center is situated on two hills – Colle Sacro and Colle Castello. There aren’t much traces of Vestine and Roman times in the town since after the defeat of Vestines in the Social War it was destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
Penne has preserved clear mediaeval structure and city planning. It is surrounded by well-preserved fortified walls with five gates. The most characteristic feature of Penne is the fact that the main construction material was the brick. All town walls, ancient palaces with columns and arcs, gothic temples are built in brick. Narrow streets are also paved with brick. That gives the city a complete medieval look. Therefore it is often called “a small Siena”.
For ages Penne had been playing and still plays a leading role in the religious life of Abruzzo. Nowadays it makes a part of the archdiocese Pescara-Penne. There are historic notions that the episcopacy had been located in Penne since VI century. That is why there are so many magnificent churches in the city. Beside the Cathedral of Santa Maria degli Angeli e San Massimo there is a number of beautiful churches worth visiting. In addition to splendid churches described in my previous post which we have visited with my friends Nora, John and little Emi. I strongly recommend to visit the St. Agustin church with a scenic bell-tower (in the photo), the beautiful baroque church of John the Baptist and the church of St. Cross with a very unusual facade .