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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 3 of 11: Silvi and Città Sant’Angelo

photo by Fred De Stephanis

The Adriatic from Citta Sant'Angelo

Day 3 begins with a drive to Silvi where my cousin Giuliana lives. Silvi is a town with two parts - Silvi Paese or Alta, the old traditional town on the hill overlooking the sea and Silvi Marina, a modern seaside resort below the hills. The unique location of Silvi Paese (called Castelbelfiore until the 19th century) led to the town's spindle-shaped layout with a single main street, from which a network of narrow streets branch off. Giuliana lives in Silvi Marina.

Silvi is closely tied to Atri’s history, being only a short distance away. In the 13th and 14th centuries Silvi was a main cog of a coastal defense system based on day and night signals through mirrors and fires and smoke to alert the government in Naples of the frequent landings of Turks and pirates. Through a series of mirrors, fire and smoke signals, these coastal defenses could relay information that could be received in Naples (capital of the Kingdom) in mere hours.

In the 14th century, the medieval borough of Castrum Silvi as it was known, became a fiefdom of the abbey of San Giovanni in Venere (miles away near Fossacesia in Chieti Province), then passed to the jurisdiction of the Acquaviva family of Atri. At the time Silvi Marina was a small poor port of fishermen. Silvi remained a fiefdom of Atri until the arrival in Italy of Napoleon in 1806.

By 1863 the building of the coastal railway and the station at the coast helped the development of the "Marina", which little by little took over the government and administration, thanks mostly to investments in the tourist sector. In this way Silvi Marina began to supplant Silvi Paese in the same manner as the Pineto supplanted Mutignano as the administrative center. In 1931 the municipal seat was finally moved from Silvi Paese to Silvi Marina, which within a few years turned into a seaside resort.

Some tourism highlights of Silvi include:

  • The Belvidere of Silvi Paese, perched on top of a hill, 250 meters above sea level, which duplicates the once defensive garrison against the Saracens and offers a spectacular sight on the whole Central Adriatic, sweeping from the Croatian coast to Monte Conero (N) and the Tremiti Islands (S) on a clear day.
  • Church of San Salvatore, in Silvi Paese, with a bell-tower, dating from the 13th century.
  • Torre di Cerrano at the ancient harbor of Atri and Silvi. Located on the beach between Silvi Marina and Pineto, it developed when Atri abandoned the Vomano harbor. It is named for the Fosso Cerrano (gully), which runs along the sides of the hill down towards the sea. It served as a watch tower for Turkish invaders. Today the tower houses a marine biology station for the central Adriatic area.
  • Fashionable villas of the late nineteenth - early twentieth centuries, after the railroad was developed.
  • Fosso Concio, which was known as "Concio della Liquirizia" (from the word "acconciare" which means prepare in Abruzzese dialect). It was here where the roots of the plant, which grew wild and copiously along the hillsides of the Piomba and the Vomano Rivers, were harvested giving rise to the licorice manufacturing industry - known throughout Italy and Europe - with Saila Liquirizia (now part of LEAF Italia spa) and products of Aurelio Menozzi & De Rosa Company. Licorice root has been popular in the Abruzzo region for centuries.

My cousin's house in Silvi Marina is at the base of the hill to Paese. My wife and I take a walking tour of the Silvi hillside, observing plant life and magnificent scenery despite (again) marginal weather. We observe some of the villas of the town. We have a traditional Abruzzese meal - scrippelle or crepes. The meal features two scrippelle courses - scrippelle ‘m busse which is scrippelle rolled with pecorino cheese and served in chicken broth and as a main course scrippelle rollatini, crepes rolled with a ragu and meat sauce and baked - delicious and traditional.

After the meal we visit Città Sant’Angelo. The origin of Città Sant’Angelo also goes back to the times of the Romans, when it was called Angulum and desribed by Pliny as the “vestine” lands (Abruzzo). The inhabitants of the village were called Angolani. Following the Norman conquest of southern Italy in the 11th century, the Kingdom of Sicily was established and eventually became part of the Holy Roman Empire under the Hohenstaufen of Germany (Swabia). In the 13th century, Città Sant’Angelo was destroyed by the troops of the so-called “Avenger from Abruzzi”, Boamondo Pissono, by order of the Emperor Frederick II, himself born near Ancona and known as "puer Apuliae" or son of Apulia. The Angolani had been accused of siding with the Pope Gregorio IX, Frederick’s competitor in ruling the area.

Città Sant’Angelo and with other nearby towns were hotbeds of the first carbonara insurrection during the initial period of the Italian Risorgimento. In 1814 they rebelled against Gioacchino Murat’s (Napoleon’s brother in law) Neapolitan troops.

Some tourism highlights for the town:

  • Collegiata di San Michele Arcangelo (13th Century), church with a magnificent stone portal from 1326 and an interesting Natività frescoe in the attic; a large bell tower from the 14th and 15th century. Inside there are Baroque wooden frescoes.
  • Chiesa di San Francesco, with a beautiful 13th century atrian portal.
  • Chiesa di San Agostino, with a stucco design by Terzani.
  • Chiesa di San Bernardo, former church of the Cistercensi Ruformati.
  • Chiesa di Santa Chiara, stucco designs by Carlo Piazzoli and Girolamo Rizza.
  • Parco Territoriale Attrezzato.
  • Chiesa di San Salvatore.
  • Palazzos Castagna, Brandimarte, Palazzo Ghiotti, and Palazzo Ursini.
  • Beautiful mountain and seaside vistas from many old town streets.

We take a walking tour of the old city. Practically everywhere you turn, there is a beautiful vista of the (not too) distant mountains, either the Maielli or the Gran Sasso depending on your perspective, the beautiful valleys, the next hillside town, Mutignano for example, and the blue Adriatic. My wife loves the tradition of la passiageta. She proudly practices her limited Italian. Many Angolani smile.

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