Celano’s Castello Piccolomini was started in 1392 and embellished by its namesake Antonio Piccolomini in 1463. Its quadrangular towers are one of those “can’t miss” sights as you drive around Abruzzo, and the compact Marsica Museum housed inside overlooking its portico courtyard is worth a short visit.
Orginally Celano overlooked Italy’s third-largest lake, Lago Fucino, until it was drained which is why the landscape around Celano and the castle appears out of kilter with the rest of Abruzzo as it sits loftily on San Vittorino. It’s not the most picturesque area of Abruzzo, beyond the motherly La Serra mountain that provides a backdrop; the 1915 earthquake wiped out many of the areas small medieval villages, so you do face functional new builds and fields as a vista, and the castle itself is heavily restored from this natural disaster. I’m one for the environment that surrounds a place as much as a building itself, hence my love for Rocca Calascio and Civitella del Tronto. Castello Piccolomini doesn’t quite hold this magic, I am sure when Lake Fucino was there this was a little different, but don’t expect such a heady “wow” feeling; to get that have a look at the watercolour Edward Lear’s made in 1843, now held in New York’s Morgan Library and available online to get an idea of how it once looked.
The Marsica Museum (Museo della Marsica) was superb, its 11 rooms were neither too big nor too little. Even though I speak some Italian I was so appreciative of the translations for the pieces which allowed me to look rather than fret over a possible misunderstanding on my part – not all Abruzzo museums have this. The archaeological info and models about the former Lake were interesting to view as part of the Collezione Torlonia di Antichità del Fucino that had been excavated from the lake. The three-pronged fishing spears or tridents were wonderful, and the agility required to dig deep into waters with that and pull a few fish out was obviously a skill in itself! Watch out for the mermaid – it’s always surprising how they pop up in every culture. Looking at the intact iron age armour was amazing, not least when it sat next to contemporary weaponry that was obviously purpose-built to bludgeon its wearers to death in brutal style.
If you’ve been to the Roman lost city of Alba Fucens and its later-period church of San Pietro, it will be a treat to see the original wooden doors here. Viewing the different styles of the sacred art and particularly its various altar ornamentation from such close-by churches naturally gets you wondering about their citizens’ respective incomes and the history of each location.
There is currently a mini-exhibition on display, Le belle e dolci Madonne del Rinascimento (Beautiful & Sweet Madonnas of the Renaissance), that includes two sculptures, Madonna di Roio and the Madonna delle Grazie that were previously on display in the L’Aquila’s town hall & Onna, the small town that was levelled by the earthquake. It is accompanied by a video of the devastation that the 2009 earthquake caused to the L’Aquila Museum. This provided our first insider’s glance at the wreckage and damage to so many pieces of art, and even for those who hadn’t visited am sure it will make even the most cold-hearted well up. I can’t imagine the feeling of being a curator at this museum coming in and viewing the destruction in the days following. On the positive side, you see how and where possible the pieces are winched out using helicopters and cranes ready to their next temporary homes and ultimate restoration.
Castello Piccolomini & Museo della Marsica
Entrance : €2
Opening Hours: 09.00-20.00 (closed Mondays)
Address: Largo Cavaliere di Vittorio Veneto | 67050 | Celano (AQ)
Official website: http://www.museodellamarsica.beniculturali.it/