In the heart of Abruzzo in central Italy lies L’Aquila, a historic university town that, nine years after a 6.3 earthquake killed 309 people, wounded 1600 others, and caused houses and precious monuments to crumble, is still suffering the consequences of that disastrous event.
While the city is still in recovery, there are positive signs, such as the reopening of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the city’s most important church and the largest in Abruzzo, which was heavily damaged during the earhthquake. Built in 1287, it’s a gorgeous blend of Abruzzese Romanesque and Gothic styles, making it a landmark monument of medieval architecture. In 1294, Celestine V was crowned pope in the Basilica, and later buried there; his tomb, saved somehow from the earthquake’s fury, is back in its usual spot now that a long, costly (€14 million) restoration, financed by Eni, has concluded.
The façade resembles a wall, and its peculiarity is the pattern of blocks of alternating pink and white stone, arranged in a sort of tapestry. Each of the three doors, one central and two smaller ones to the side, is surmounted by a rose window. The interior is grand and austere.
The reopening of the Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio makes L’Aquila one of the hot destinations for 2018. Planning a trip to the region will help the local economy, which was deeply affected by the earthquake, with a significant drop in tourism. Abruzzo is wild and authentic; not far from L’Aquila, you can reach the Apennine mountains (L’Aquila itself is located at the foot of the Gran Sasso massif, the highest in central Italy) and the picturesque villages dispersed throughout, as well as the coastline, especially the unspoiled Costa dei Trabocchi, famous for its wooden, spider-like fishing platforms.
L’Aquila is approximately one hour and 30 minutes by car from Rome.