Castello Piccolomini, a Museum & The Lost Lake

Castello Piccolomini by Pete Austin

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 area’s 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)  that is housed in the castel 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 the 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.

Hercules, Celano Castle Museum

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 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.

Castello Piccolomini & Museo della Marsica

Opening Hours: 09.00-20.00 (closed Mondays), free on the First Sunday of the Month

Address: Largo Cavaliere di Vittorio Veneto | 67050 |  Celano (AQ)

Official website:

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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16 February 2011 12:24

Fascinating museum and place – but why on earth did they drain Italy's third largest lake? Hydropower?

16 February 2011 12:51

The justification at the time was malaria & unstable springs that fed the lake that caused repeated flooding of the farms around it, but yes imagine if they'd been able to stabilize it and use it today for clean power 🙂

16 February 2011 21:32

I guess Torlonia just wanted to be immortal…and rich! But I don't forgive him, he could have controlled the level of the water with the civil engineering project, not let it all drain away. Can we have a bit of it back? Have a look at Patrizia's images of some old paintings…

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