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Report 1729: Family, Food and Wine (Part 2) Abruzzo Re-Re-Visited and Switzerland

By avvocato from NJ, USA, Spring 2009

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Page 2 of 11: Atri and Mutignano

photo by Fred De Stephanis

Riso Thai ma non riso appiccicoso

The next morning my wife experiences her first prima colazione. She is underwhelmed by the basic nature of the breakfast. After breakfast, we take a short walk down the Lungomare. My wife, an agriculture major by degree, loves to see plant and animal life in other countries. She astutely reviews the trees, flowers and shrubs we pass. The weather today continues to be marginal, seemingly always threatening and occasionally producing rain.

By 10am we are back at the hotel where my cousins Lea and Giuliana pick us up. We are off to Atri to see Lea’s new house, built and completed in 2006. First we stop at a supermarket to help my cousins do some shopping for lunch. My wife enjoys checking out the Italian supermarket tremendously. She is fascinated to find Thai rice for sale.

I acknowledge that I sometimes relate the history of the places I visit to a great extent but I think people find it interesting. So I continue that practice here.

Atri is beautiful hillside town with ancient roots going back to Roman times. Known as Hatria, it was a Roman colony, which many believe is the origin of the name Adriatic. Others maintain the sea was named for Atria - an Etruscan city in Veneto Region. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the territory came under the power of the Lombards and was annexed to the Duchy of Spoleto (which covered parts of modern day Lazio, Umbria, Le Marche and Abruzzo). Subsequently, the Normans controlled it, and in 1393, Atri was bought by the House of Acquaviva. At the end of the 18th century, it was given by the Acquaviva to the Kingdom of Naples, where it remained until after the Second War of Italian Independence, the Campaign of 1860.

Some of the touristic highlights:

  • Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (late 12th century) - the present Cathedral was started on a previous 9th century church. On the site there are traces of Roman baths, which can still be seen under the floor of the presbytery. The Cathedral contains many magnificent frescoes including some by Andrea De Litio.
  • Palazzo Ducale (Acquaviva), a fortress built in the highest point of the town, now the seat of the municipality.
  • Medieval walls with Porta Macelli, Porta San Domenico and the Capo d'Atri.
  • Museo Capitolare.
  • Church of San Francesco, with a beautiful Baroque flight of stairs.
  • Church of San Domenico, with two paintings by Giacomo Farelli (17th century).
  • The Villa Comunale, a municipal park and garden provides a place to stroll and rest under shade trees.
  • The Belvedere off the Viale Vomano with panoramic views of the valleys and sea below.
  • The caves (grottos), partly still unexplored, probably prehistoric settlements.
  • The "calanchi" or erosion furrows in the surrounding landscape.

We enjoy seeing the new house and preparing for the lunch. My cousins have produced their own wine from their own small vineyard of Montepuliciano D’Abruzzo grapes. My wife also snags some preserved (salted) alici. The balance of the lunch is wonderful with a tasty tortellini stuffed with cheese. My cousin's husband and sons come home for lunch from his fabrication shop and enjoy the meal with us.

We also visit Mutignano, the ancestral town on the hill. More information on Mutignano is contained in Page 4. This is the hometown of my paternal ancestors. We visit the old houses, the Church of San Silvestro, which also contains a fresco by De Litio, and the cemetery. Mutignano continues to try to re-invent itself. Many people from Rome or elsewhere in Italy continue to buy property here. For summer vacations, Mutignano can be a cooler and more interesting alternative to the Adriatic beach experience than that offered by its capoluongo, Pineto.

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