places
you are here: --> Places --> Sulmona

Corso Ovidio

Sulmona, Abruzzo

History and traditions, at the foot of the Maiella mountain

Sulmona is at the foot of the Maiella massif, where today the river Vella flows into the Gizio and in pre-historic times a wide lake existed. Today the town is an important agriculture and commercial center and is deservedly famous the world over for its confetti, and for its goldsmiths' tradition (the ancient jewels branded with the words SUL are preserved in museums all over the world). The tradition is that it was founded 1000 years BC by Solimo, a friend to Aeneas, fleeing from the city of Troy. the town was called Sulmo in Roman times, and is mentioned by historians in many occasions, as when in 211 BC it was sacked by Hannibal.

Chiesta dell'Annunziata, old imageThe great Latin poet Publius Ovidius Naso was a citizen of Sulmona, where he was born in 43AD. There are many popular beliefs on Ovid: a magician, a damned soul, the custodian of a mythical treasure, and many believe that the ruins on Monte Morrone are from the Villa di Ovidio, built in one night, where the treasure was kept and found by Celestino V who used it to build the Abbey. The real Ovid wrote "Ars Amatoria", a kind of love manual for youths, which became a bestseller in his age, but in the society full of bigotry of the time the book was censored and Ovid ended his days in exile at Tomis, on the Black Sea, though his poetry greatly influenced all the western world, from Shakespeare to Ezra Pound.

San Francesco In spite of the earthquakes that at various times in the past hit Sulmona, there are still many fine medieval monuments to be seen like the Cathedral with tombs of the 15th century and a byzanthine sculpture of the Lady with Child, the Palace of the Annunziata including the Civic Museum, the Church of Santa Maria Annunziata, with a majestic belltower, where every year in the Christmas season an International Exhibition of Artistic Creches is held, and many fine palaces like the Palazzo Tironi and Palazzo Tabassi, the church of S. Maria della Tomba, the aqueduct, the hermitage of St Peter Celestine.

Piazza Garibaldi Unmistakable features of this fine, picturesque town so full of culture and history are the world-known "confetti" - sugar coated almond candies. There are documents describing sweets very similar to the present-day confetti since 14 AD, though only after sugarcane was introduced in Europe the true confetti-making tradition started. White for weddings, silver for twenty-fifth anniversaries, sky-blue or pink for christenings, red for graduations, green for engagements... with centers of almonds, hazelnuts, anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, coffee beans, peanuts, pistachios, marzipan, chocolate... in party favors, flower arrangements, fruits baskets, the little sugar-coated candies are present at every important occasion in Italian life.

Cathedral of San Panfilo Sulmona is famous all over Italy also for his celebrated tradition of the "Madonna che scappa", held in Piazza Garibaldi on Easter morning, when the statue of the Madonna, covered in a black robe, from the church of San Filippo Neri is carried on shoulder by a number of young men at midday, then starts a powerful, straight run when "she" recognizes the statue of resurrected Christ. At that moment the black veil and white scarf fell down leaving the green mantle and the rose, as metaphors of winter surrendering to spring in a pastoral-religious world. Popular faith interprets the ceremony to get predictions for the harvest and the year, and being chosen to carry the statue is considered a great honor. Another great event is the Joust, which was a regular feature in the Middle Ages until 1643, when it was finally abolished, to be restored only in the last few decades with great wealth of historical reenactment and over 500 characters in costume. Today the celebrated Giostra Cavalleresca among the seven borghi and sestrieri takes place in the last week in July, with captains in armor, horses and duels.