Teramo takes a special role among Italy’s diverse cities of arts in more than one way. For starters, how about the rather unique location in Northern Abruzzo between the tallest summit of the Apennines and the Adriatic Coast? Moreover, agriculture is one of the key factors here, especially the vineyards and olive groves. And then there’s the particularly extensive, highly interesting history of the city; palpable at every corner with buildings and ruins even dating back to pre-Roman times. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? We most definitely agree and invite you to join us on a tour of the city of arts Teramo, a hidden gem in Abruzzo.
The city of arts with fascinatingly ancient history
We’ve already talked a bit about Teramo’s notable location between mountains and the coast with numerous hills and groves. This very location originally made the region a popular settlement area, even before the Romans decided to make their presence felt. Various ancient Italic tribes came here in the 1st millennium BC. Eventually, the Praetutii made it their principial town. The Romans conquered the city around 290 BC. They named it Interamna (“between two rivers” due to the rivers Vezzola and Tordino) reaching municipium status later on before fall of the Western Roman Empire led to deterioration.
Teramo saw fierce conflicts between influential families in the Middle Ages and was destroyed more than once. Later centuries brought the sale of the city including a failed rebellion, a devastating earthquake, and a disastrous outbreak of the plague. Teramo eventually became a centre of intellectual life during the Age of Enlightenment … until French and Napoleonic troops put a brutal stop to this brief glimmer of hope. The city only experienced some measure of stability after it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.
Cathedral of Teramo
Even though only playing a minor role during the Middle Ages and in later centuries, this period led to the conception and creation of numerous exciting buildings still exuding a fascinating energy. Santa Maria Assunta, the Cathedral of Teramo, will wow you. The roots of this church are way older. A glass floor inside the cathedral displays the ruins of the 6th century Santa Maria Aprutiensis, itself built on a Roman foundation and later destroyed by the Normans. Bishop Guido II had the new cathedral constructed in 1158 as a repository for the relics of Saint Berardo. Masonry rocks of the Roman theatre and the amphitheatre were used – one of the reasons why these structures only survived as ruins.
It goes without saying that Santa Maria Assunta saw a number of conversions over the centuries before eventually being reverted to its medieval look. The art treasures of the cathedral are invaluable, particularly the antependium by Nicola da Guardiagrele. 35 embossed and chiselled silver sheets adorn the piece. Jacobello del Fiore’s polyptych depicts the coronation of the Virgin Mary by Christ. There are even more breathtaking miracles of grand architecture and even grander art for you to see, such as the monumental chapel of Saint Berardo or the equally impressive campanile.
Santa Maria Assunta itself would be more than enough reason for visiting Teramo, but you might want to see a few other interesting spots. How about checking out more churches? No worries, we’ve got you covered:
- Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie: This building is best-known for its wooden statue of the Virgin Mary on the main altar. Quite miraculous powers are attributed to it. Numerous paintings and old, somewhat deteriorated frescoes adorn the interior.
- Chiesa di Sant’Anna dei Pompetti: This small church used to be part of the Santa Maria Aprutiensis complex. History becomes palpable in this ancient 6th century structure with modern frescoes and a statue of the eponymous saint.
- Sant’Agostino: Unfortunately, severe earthquakes in more recent years heavily damaged this Neo-Renaissance church. You should try to check out the spectacularly decorated portal in all its detailed glory while the building itself is supposed to be turned into a diocesan museum.
- Chiesa dei Cappuccini: Despite having been built during the 12th century, the Capuchin church plus convent only received its name when the friars moved in around 1596. A truly special baroque altar with a wooden tabernacle is hidden behind the non-descript façade.
Even more sights in Teramo
Teramo actually unearths gem after gem and we’re far from done. Ready for the next round of highlights? (Pre-)Roman structures, a magnificent castle and an abandoned psychiatric hospital are on our itinerary. Yes, really!
- Casa dei Melatino: We start, however, with one of the few medieval buildings that managed to survive rather flatteringly. Take a closer look at the façade to see different materials representing various phases of renovation. Casa dei Melatino houses majolica and porcelain exhibitions among other things.
- Borgo Mediavale: This small, medieval village, also known as Castello della Monica, was only built in the 19th The replicas with a neo-Gothic focus and numerous frescoes take a fresh spin on the city’s former glory.
- Necropoli di Ponte Messato: We couldn’t be any further away from glory now. Teramo’s probably oldest surviving structure was discovered by pure coincidence while building a coach garage in 1961. Established in pre-Roman times and expanded during Roman rule, the area of the necropolises also includes various mausoleums and temples.
- Torre Bruciata: This 2nd century BC tower near the former Santa Maria Aprutiensis, however, is fully Roman. The fortified Torre Bruciata used to overlook a mighty defensive wall in pre-Christian times. It might have been used as a bell tower in later years.
- Ospedale psichiatrico: Calling a psychiatric hospital a sight might sound strange, but the facility built in 1323 is among the most famous structures in Teramo’s historic centre. There have been a lot of discussions and debates about the future of this remarkable site ever since it permanently closed its doors in 1998. The only thing certain now is that it will be preserved for future generations in one way or another.
Sure, Teramo might not be the prime destination among Italy’s cities of arts, but that’s exactly what makes it the perfect place for your next holiday. Wide open squares and narrow alleys in Northern Abruzzo are steeped in history. Palpable Roman presence collides with the remains of feudal conflicts and rather monumental architecture – sometimes a bit older, sometimes new yet still historicised. Let this hidden gem blow you away!