GREAT HISTORY, GREAT STORIES

Set of “The New Pope” by Paolo Sorrentino. Photo by Gianni Fiorito

Further away than Abruzzo, says a character in Decameron, indicating an incredible distance, recalls Giorgio Manganelli, the sophisticated traveler who has authored brilliant articles about this region. The barely known history of Abruzzo also appears to be far away. Discovering it can also enrich cinema through the many stories that have populated this land over the centuries. Starting from far away and only by way of an example, the figure of the Italic warrior Quinto Poppaedius Silo emerges who, in the first century B.C., led the Italic League in the social war against Rome ensuring the recognition of Roman citizenship for the populations which were previously united under the name of “Italia”.

Another crucial moment in the history of the peninsula and of the European scenario was marked, in Abruzzo, by the battle of Tagliacozzo, in 1268, between the Ghibelline supporters of the fourteen-year-old Conradin of Swabia (the “child king”) and the Angevin troops of Charles I of Anjou, on the Guelph side. The Angevin troops won, changing the course of history.

Soon after, however, the Peligna Valley and the mountainous area of Abruzzo witnessed another epochal moment, not just for the destiny of the region but for that of the Catholic Church and Europe: the election to the Papal throne, on August 29 1294, of Pietro da Morrone who, from his retreats, which can still be visited on Mount Morrone in the Majella National Park, was persuaded to be crowned pope with the name of Celestino V, the first pope in history to resign.

Many other stories, following the Unification of Italy, are linked to the phenomenon of brigandry like that of Anacleto Salutari, the former seminarist from the Subequana Valley who became a brigand and was convicted with the help of the handwriting analysis carried out on a ransom note he wrote.

A completely different story is that of Corradino D’Ascanio from Popoli, an aeronautical engineer, celebrated as the inventor of the helicopter which was not a success for him and, above all, after World War II, as the inventor of the Vespa, one of the symbols of Italy’s economic miracle in the years of the reconstruction. Another strange story is that of the Majella Brigade, the only partisan formation to receive the gold military campaign medal, was one of the very few groups of patriots of republican inspiration to join up with the allied forces after the liberation of their territories of origin who participated in the liberation of the Marche,Emilia Romagna and Veneto.

If it is true that all stories continue to live in places, this is extraordinarily true in Abruzzo which appears, as Manganelli accurately observed, like a “gigantic theater stage”.

Nella sezione: Focus on italy