A Walk about Lanciano
My friends Nora, John, Amy and I visited one more wonderful town in Abruzzo at the beginning of August. Early in the morning we met at the railway station of Montesilvano and went to the town of Lanciano. After an hour of pleasant trip in a comfortable train, which consisted of only two cars, we arrived in Lanciano. The city itself is some distance away from the station, but there is available a free shuttle bus (bus navetta).
Lanciano (the Chieti province) is a very ancient city in the south of Abruzzo. It is situated on a hill near the Majella mountain. Archaeological excavations have shown that people lived there as early as the fifth millennium BC. The ancient Romans called this city Anxanum.
According to a legend it was founded in 1181 BC by the Trojan hero Solimo the Phrygian. After the fall of Troy Solimo along with his friend Aeneas had been wandering about the seas for many months, and finally landed on the Adriatic shore. Legendary Solimo founded in Abruzzo two cities. Sulmona is named after him, and Anxanum named in memory of his friend Anxi who was killed in the Trojan War.
During the Roman Empire the town was inhabited by a militant Italic tribe of Frentani. After the end of the Samnite Wars the Frentani allied themselves with the Roman Republic and gained an honorable status of Roman municipality.
At the beginning of our era Anxanum was renamed in Lanciano. In the old days Lanciano was a thriving market town, because it held a strategic position at the crossroads of trade routes. From time immemorial there had been passing a road of transumanza (a seasonal migration of sheep herds) from l’Aquila to Apulia. Lanciano used to be famous for its autumn fairs, which brought a fair income both to city treasury and citizens.
In times of decline of the Western Roman Empire the town was subjected to barbarian invasions. In 571 AD it was destroyed by the Lombards. In 610 Lanciano was conquered by the Byzantines, and at the end of VIII century the city passed into the hands of Francs.
In 1060 the Normans made it the center of the united state of Sicily. Lanciano had again become a thriving city and in 1340 was the largest city in Abruzzo with population of 6500 people. There had been flourishing handicraft industries producing ceramics, wool, silk, iron and golden goods. King Frederick II and his son Manfred gave the city considerable autonomy and greater privileges.
The discovery of America, accompanied by a reorientation of trade routes from the Adriatic to the Atlantic, had caused irreparable damage to the economy of Lanciano.
Today, the population of Lanciano makes only 36.5 thousand people. Nevertheless, it gives an impression of a big city with straight and broad streets and spacious squares that is not typical for old urban areas of Abruzzo. Apparently, its former status of a large commercial center, a site for important annual fairs demanded the construction of wide roads.