In Abruzzo, amidst indomitable mountains and a lonely church

Rocca Calascio
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà, Rocca Calascio (AQ)

On a sultry day, we abandon the coast with its hustle and bustle, to venture into the Abruzzo hinterland and head towards the mountains. In just over an hour, we reach the high plain of Campo Imperatore, a mystical and spiritual place enclosed like a treasure between the rocky peaks of the Gran Sasso. It is a harsh and barren landscape, a land of shepherds, that appears before us and leaves space only to wonder and contemplation. It is no coincidence that even Ettore Spalletti loved to wander here, surrounded only by the wind.

Campo Imperatore
Ettore Spalletti in Campo Imperatore, frame from the movie Ettore Spalletti, 2019, directed by Alessandra Galletta, LAGALLA23 Production

One privileged observation point is certainly Rocca Calascio, a very small medieval village fortified in 1500 by the Piccolomini family. The village is dominated by the castle of the same name, said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and we can only agree. Several film sets have been located here, recreating both western and fantasy atmospheres, including The Name of the Rose by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud. Four watchtowers surround the great central tower and, from one of them, a window opens directly onto the small Church of Santa Maria della Pietà, at the foot of the castle.

Rocca Calascio
Castello di Rocca Calascio (AQ). Photo: Claudia Di Donato

Originally a votive shrine built after a thwarted attack by brigands, the church features an octagonal plan, following the style of Brunelleschi and Bramante. A look around lets us understand why it is also known as “the lonely church”: the earliest settlements can be seen far away in the valley and, at the end of the day, only the long shadows delineating the landscape with a thousand chiaroscuros.

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AbruzzoCastlesItinerariesReligious architectureVillages