Italian Hill Towns: Going Home To Vasto

One may not be able to live in the past, but by going back to where your ancestors came from, you can conjure it up in ways that will stay with you forever. In the case of my family, both sides emigrated from small Italian hill towns in the late nineteenth century – my father’s side from Abruzzo, my mother from Campania – at a time when leaving Italy was only an option after transatlantic travel became possible centuries later when conceivable.

All of my immigrant ancestors have fully realized the American dream, but they have never forgotten nor freed themselves from longing for the places where they and their ancestors lived for so many centuries. When, after many years, they were able to return, they did and were greeted by family members who stayed behind.

Italy is full of freckles with these hill towns, many of them in the highlands that many residents have spent their entire lives there without traveling anywhere else. The reason for the rise was as a defense against the invaders, who in many cases captured them anyway. (It took the U.S. Army weeks to drive the Germans out of Monte Cassino during World War II.)

I’ve visited both cities, Vasto on the Adriatic, and Loreno, hidden away in the mountains south of Naples and north of Calabria. In the nineteenth century both were very bleak places, extreme poverty and loss of population.

Today, Vasto is a major tourist destination for Germans, French and British, who reside down town in its own marina. Loreno, which I will write about at another time, is now a stable and charming point on the map whose calmness is a good part of its charm.

One need not have an ancestral association with Abruzzo, anyone who travels through the land east of Rome, with its wonderful plains and forests, long mountain ranges and beaches, will find it a cultural haven away from the major tourist cities, and the province has the largest proportion of parks in Italy.

Vasto has had various names throughout history, including being called Bastonio by the Fascists, and then taking its current name in 1944, when the Italians expelled the Black Shirts. The ruins date back to 1300 BC, and as a coastal municipality, Vastu flourished under the Roman Empire, so you can still see the remains of Roman baths, a theater, mosaics, and marble columns. Vastu also fell under the control of other invaders, including the Lombards and Normans, and was later part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Much of the city’s design was carried out in the 15th century, but was destroyed by the Turks in 1566. Under Spanish rule, Vasto flourished and eventually became part of the unification of Italian states.

Her favorite son was the poet Gabriel Rossetti, from Political exile in 1821 fled to London. was a father Pre-Raphaelian paint Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the poet Christina Rossetti.

The painting at the top of this article by an unknown artist hung on the walls of my family a hundred years ago, and when I was driving along the beach and looking up, the real Vastu looked exactly the same as in the painting. The central square has been preserved and the new buildings are located either outside the old center or below the marina. Once dark storefronts are transformed into elegant stores, and pasticcerias Filled with colorful Abruzese cakes and cookies, the churches have been cleaned centuries-old free of dirt and looking like new.

There is, of course, a cathedral from the 13th century

Cathedral of San Giuseppe, which is somewhat dreary on the outside, but its restoration reveals a light and airy Roman interior. The church of Santa Maria Maggiore, a century older, was damaged by the Turks in 1566 and a fire in 1645, so what you see now is an 18th-century example of Baroque style, with an impressive Duomo. It is supposed to contain a piece (one of many in Italy) of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore at his crucifixion.

The city has protected from invaders since the 15th century Caldoresco Castle, which is perched on an outcrop, although it is not open to the public. The Palazzo D’Avalos, which houses the Musei Civici, is worth entering; It also overlooks the Adriatic Sea, and suffered from the Turkish invasion. The building was abused by various factions, but today it has been restored as the seat of the Vastu Archaeological and Artistic History. And if you look for it, you can even find a small honorary garden with the name of my great uncle – del Guercio – for his donation of funds for the restoration of the city.

Vastu hotels are typical of the area and most go for less than $100 per night, including pretty hotels Locanda BaroniIt was built in the 15th century in the old town and currently has a room price of $55. Many hotels and restaurants are located in and from the marina pirate, with seafood specialties including rich seafood prodeto. In the old town, I love Shield, Here since 1867, which is characterized by the list of their food strongly Abruzzese, including Cavatelli With mussels, seafood risotto, brodetto alla Vastese, scape of VasteseAnd Mixed Fried Chocolate tart with orange and pear. I thoroughly enjoyed a seafood dinner in the colorful and minimally decorated restaurant Zealbeni.

Although all my immediate relatives left Vastu a century ago, I have now acquired indelible feelings about the city and am now at ease in its streets as if I once lived among my ancestors. Not all towns survive the rigors of history, and in Italy many are still in disarray. But when it is restored, like Vasto, it appears again, brighter than ever, not in the shadow of a turbulent history but in the shadow of a future open to all.

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