Publisher’s Tour 2016: Pescara
Part 7 – Pescara and Chieti
The Seaside Resort of Pescara
The traveler’s made their way up the coast of Abruzzo alongside the clear blue waters of the Adriatic to visit the region’s largest city – Pescara. The ten miles of wide, clean beaches are the number one attraction in Pescara, although most visitors come for the sun, sand and sparkling clear waters, the town also offers several many cultural attractions. The Museo delle Genti d’Abruzzo is dedicated to the customs and traditions of the people of the region. It focuses on the history, from its ancient past all the way up to present day. Since exhibits change frequently, if you haven’t been to the museum in a while, there is always a reason to return to see what’s new.
Whenever one is in Italy, you can’t resist the chance to visit the cathedrals. The Duomo San Cetteo is dedicated to the town´s patron saint, but the present Romanesque Revival building is quite new by Italian standards. It was constructed in the 1930s. It has replaced the medieval church of San Cetteo, but several remnants of the older church’s structure have been preserved and that is the real attraction. Anyone who has an engineering or architectural interest will appreciate the construction methods used centuries ago, since you can observe the foundation structure in two glass-enclosed structures across the street from the present cathedral. Unfortunately, the Duomo itself does not contain the frescos and awe-inspiring artwork so well admired in many of the churches and cathedrals of Italy. For those who are interested in modern art, The Basilio Cascella Museum houses the Art Noveau works of the Cascella family, who were key figures in that artistic movement. You can stroll among the furniture, paintings, pottery, pictures and postcards in their former workshop and admire the creative genius of that influential family.
Another interesting stop is in the center of town and a visit to the Palazzo del Governo. The building is impressive, but before venturing inside, spend some time enjoying its outside grounds. With its numerous fountains and the Piazza Italia, you’ll find it to be a wonderful place to sit and relax. After a bit of people watching, head inside to view the works of Giudo Costanzo, a highly-respected sculptor from Ortona, as well as the most celebrated work of painter Francesco Paolo Michetti. “La Figlia di Iorio” is difficult to miss, the painting is enormous, measuring 18 feet long and 9 feet high! As you walk further into the building, you will come across three allegorical paintings by Ugo Cerasoli, illustrating the birth of the Province of Pescara, the Art in the Province of Pescara and the Fortress of Pescara in 1700. Then you’ll want to head outside and spend time along the beach. Lined by a promenade, the coastal beach offers endless strolling opportunities, but to simply gaze at the crystal blue water and breathe in the sea air is a joy unto itself.
Pescara is not only one of the area’s most popular beach towns, but it is also the gateway into the rural and rugged terrain areas of the Abruzzo region, which feature historic towns and large national parks. Among the most important places to visit is the ancient town of Chieti.
The Ancient Town of Chieti
Located only twenty minutes from Pescara, Chieti is a quintessential provincial hillside town. A magnificent Gothic cathedral looms over the town, offering fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. Only a few miles inland from the sea, you will no doubt be taken aback by your first view of the Apennines rising before you as Majella Massif, the second highest mountain in the range (9,163 feet), dominates your view to the west.
Within the town itself, you’ll want to spend time at the Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Antichita. It is a particularly intriguing place. The museum is contained in a villa and is surrounded by a park containing various archaeological finds, not only from the Roman Empire, but also tombs dating back to the establishment of the town by the Greeks.
Chieti is among the most ancient of Italian cities. The history of the town is marked by significant ups and downs over the millenniums since its founding. According to legend, the city was founded in 1181 BC by the Homeric Greek hero Achilles and was named in honor of his mother, Thetis. The population of the town reached 60,000 during the heyday of the Roman Empire, but was virtually destroyed by invading Visigoths and Heruli in the decades following the fall of the Empire. It regained its footing and flourished culturally and architecturally during the 17th century, only to be decimated by the plague in 1656. In 1806, the town was turned into a fortress by Napoleon, but during World War II, Chieti was declared an open city (like Rome) and was not bombed by either side. Earthquakes have regularly struck the area, but the residents of Chieti remain, as have their ancestors, a remarkably resilient people.
The main sights in Chieti include the Cathedral of Chieti, constructed as a Gothic Cathedral in the ninth century and rebuilt in the Romanesque-style beginning in the 11th century. The church went through additional changes in the 14th century following damage sustained in numerous earthquakes. The church was rebuilt again in the late 17th-18th centuries into its present Baroque style. Another ancient structure is the Church of San Francesco al Corso, founded in 1239. The façade shows its incomplete Baroque restoration, but it does contain a hand-carved stone rose window dating back to the Middle Ages. The church became a focal point for the community after it suffered severe damage in the Aquila earthquake of 2009.
Under the Church of San Pietro e Paolo (and the nearby houses) are extensive underground structures from the 1st century AD. Unfortunately, this underground city is only open to the public a few days out of the year. Above ground, there still remains the town’s centuries-old Roman theater. Another interesting visit is to the Palazzo Lepri complex. It is divided into several wings. One overlooks the Piazza Trento and Trieste and contains numerous residences. The other wing overlooks a magnificent terrace. Inside and above the palazzo’s main staircase, is a fresco with the coat of arms of the Lepri family. Today, the building remains the property of the Marquis Lepri, but it is often used for weddings and major social events in town. After these fascinating visits in Abruzzo, it was time for the Publisher’s Tour to head east for its final stops, culminating in a visit to Roma, the feature of our final chapter of the tour in next week’s Italian Tribune.