L’Aquila in Abruzzo Named Italian Capital of Culture for 2026

| Fri, 03/15/2024 - 05:40
Rose window of Santa Maria di Collemaggio
The rose window of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, an emblem of L’Aquila / Photo: Matteo Gabrieli via Shutterstock

L’Aquila, capital of the Abruzzo region, has been named Italian Capital of Culture for 2026, the Ministry of Culture announced at a ceremony on Thursday morning in Rome. 

The news arrived less than a month shy of the 15-year anniversary of a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the town and surrounding area in 2009. More than 300 people were killed and an estimated 300,000 were displaced, with some 60,000 left homeless. 

Some, like Mayor Pierluigi Biondi, see the 2026 title as a step toward healing. Addressing the congratulatory crowd on Thursday, an emotional Biondi said that while the Italian Capital of Culture title couldn’t compensate for the damage on institutions and citizens, it offered “an element around which to rebuild the social fabric of our community.”

As is customary with Italian Capital of Culture winners, L’Aquila will receive €1 million in government funding to carry out a project aimed at driving the cultural development of the city and its surrounding territories. The city’s proposed initiative, “L’Aquila Multiverse City,” combines socioeconomic and artistic goals, and organizers say it follows the four axes of the New European Agenda for Culture: social cohesion, public health and well-being, creativity and innovation, and socio-environmental sustainability.

Of the original 16 cities who submitted applications for the title, L’Aquila was one of ten finalists. The other nine candidates were Agnone (Isernia), Alba (Cuneo), Gaeta (Latina), Latina (Lazio), Lucera (Foggia), Maratea (Potenza), Rimini (Emilia Romagna), Treviso (Veneto) and the Union of Valdichiana Senese Municipalities (Siena). A jury of cultural and tourism experts chaired by journalist Davide Maria Desario voted unanimously to confirm L’Aquila. 

“All the cities that participated in the competition should be Capitals of Culture, and I personally would like them all to be awarded for their beauty,” declared Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano. “Italy has great wealth and so many places that deserve a trip. I congratulate the city of L’Aquila, which will best represent our nation in 2026. I fully welcome the idea of finding, starting now, the resources needed to award all the finalist cities in the next round of proposals so that these projects will live on for a long time.”

About L’Aquila

L’Aquila lies at the foot of the Gran Sasso, the peak of which is the highest point of the Appenines. The Abruzzese capital holds such treasures as the Fontanelle delle Novantanove Cannelle, a symbolic fountain named for its 99 gargoyle-like water spouts; the 13th-century church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, a key part of the UNESCO-inscribed Festival of Celestinian Forgiveness; and the National Museum of Abruzzo, home to the remains of a prehistoric elephant, Roman-era artifacts and illustrious religious works. 

Check out the Ministry of Culture’s official video on beautiful L’Aquila here and get a sense of what daily life is like nearly 15 years on from the tragedy in the Abruzzo issue of our quarterly supplement, Bellissimo.