OK, so you have made the trip into Italy, the vacation of a lifetime. You are ready to enjoy the finer things this ancient part of the world has to offer. Fine wine, fantastic food, beautiful museums, ancient ruins, and the sea all clamor to be part of your itinerary. There is so much to see and do here that some have even claimed whiplash from the head snap that so often happens when you want to do everything. But, if it’s rest and relaxation you enjoy, well, you can have that too. A stroll down the beach, una passeggiata (a walk) in one of the numerous piazzas and villages, an espresso at a local café – a small series of events that can take your mind to a tranquil place never experienced before. Enjoying the slower pace of life is a transforming experience in and of itself.
There are numerous travelers to this part of the world that do not come back to their origins scratching their heads wondering why their life has to be speeding by and not savored. For savoring life is a skill born into these Italians. It is a learned experience in the west. That learning is not going very well, either, by the way.
Whether you are experiencing Italy for the first time or tenth, one thing is certain, you are not too far away from anything. You are not too far away from mountains, or the water, or a beautiful church, or an ancient historical landmark, or a great trattoria, well, you get the picture. As you explore this beautiful land you come to realize that there is more to experience than the traditional, well known hot spots. One of those places you can go to, that is a little off the regular trips of the tour groups is in the central part of the country. As you have Rome to the west, draw a straight horizontal line on the map due east and you run into one of the more underrated areas of the country.
The Abruzzo region of the country, nestled in the center of the country, bordering the Adriatic, is one of those areas that provide the best of everything this land has to offer. One of the true diamonds in this region is the city of Chieti.
Chieti, located, just a few km inland from the Adriatic, is one of those underappreciated points of light in a very starry night that is Italy. It is located down the Pescara River, and like many Italian cities sits atop a hill.
As in many parts of this country you are not far from any postcard scene. Once in the city, your eyes cast a westward look to the Majestic views of the Majella mountain range including Gran Sasso. But, wait, another site captures your attention to the east, as you take a glance of the blues and greens of the Adriatic Sea. You can maybe catch a glimpse of a few whitecaps too.
As you continue to try and scrape your chin off of the floor, what will really capture your attention now is the Cathedral of San Giustino. You are now captivated by its most notable feature, the bell tower, which gives the church a mighty profile against a blanket of azure blue during the day. Arguably one of the most important religious buildings in the Abruzzo region, its beginning dates back almost a thousand, to 1069. Beautiful wooden furniture, frescoes and paintings, and a marble altar fill this spiritual center with warmth and peacefulness. But, the bell tower, that beautiful, high bell tower, is what calls to you. The Feast of its namesake is celebrated every year on May 8. Good Friday brings one of the most revered events in the area, the Good Friday Procession. The march is punctuated by 150 string instruments.
Many other churches, like the Chiesa di San Frencesco della Scarpa and Saint Agostino Church are also highlights of the spiritual history of this city.
Looking for an art excursion? Of course you are not far away in Chieti. The Pinacoteca C. Barbella which features many Abruzzese artists is epicenter. As it seems to be a theme throughout your journey in Italy, each town, village, city or region has enough art, sculpture, history, music and nature to keep you coming back for more. Chieti is no exception. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the richest archeological museum in the region, houses sculptures, anthropological finds, and its most famous piece, a giant Ercole statue dating back to the first century B.C. Another unique element of the museum is its collection of coins. The 15,000 coin exhibition displays the economic history of the region.
Corso Marrucino, Chieti’s main street, leads to the wonderful Palazzo de Majo, with decorative and architectural elements dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The Teatro Marrucino was opened in 1818 and is Abruzzo’s most ancient theatre. Aptly named the opera house of Abruzzo, the music season’s schedule is filled consistently and is always an attraction for the locals.
With its culture, history, tradition and natural beauty, Chieti is considered a center of this region. The industrial development of this city has also added to an already rich heritage. The ancient ruins seen in many parts of town and in the wonderful museums boast of the rich tradition of the peoples of Chieti. The industrial growth seen here in the last 30 to 40 years adds a modern exclamation point to its importance to the region and why it is looked at as a focal point. Adding to this element is the Gabriele d’Annunzio University, making Chieti a center for higher learning for many Italians.
The best of many worlds is available in this part of the country. Even though it does not sit right on the coast, it is so close that you can envelop the seaside culture into your picture of this delightful city. At the same time, you can enjoy the mountain views, the rich history and the beauty that is Chieti.
By Mike Mancini