Trekking the Abruzzi mountains – with religious fervor

October 24, 2011 / Local Interest
Monte Viglio, Civitella Roveto, Abruzzo
Racy Italian trekkers unveiled a virgin with unusual fervor. When the cord was cut festive blue and white helium-filled balloons tugged off her veil and sailed away with it. The bronze Madonna del Monte Viglio was revealed on her stone pedestal 2156 meters above sea level. From there she oversees the Liri River as the mountain water starts on its way to the ocean just north of Naples.

In this unlikely high spot the community of Civitella Roveto staged a religious celebration and a picnic that took months of planning and lots of grunt from devoted valley residents. Even non trekkers, passing above the goat trails by helicopter, rose to the occasion.

After the fatiguing masonry work on the Madonna‘s pedestal and altar, local volunteers had the reserve strength to honor Don Franco’s leadership by adorning the mountain site with a rough stone memorial message “Viva Mons. F. Geremia”.

This amazing feat of cooperation and religiosity is available only in outback Italy. Maybe it’s in the dust where Ovid, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, victims of German occupation, Rocky Marciano, Madonna, Mario Lanza and your local greengrocer all dragged their feet. Due east of Rome there is a stew with undisclosed recipe. It’s a combination of determination, independence, statesmanship, art and religion that the locals take pride in calling “Abruzzese”. Abruzzo is forgotten Italy, where strange and wonderful things still happen.

– These great photos courtesy of Antonio Tolli as well as Marco Salustri of Civitella Roveto (AQ). Grazie!

– Contributed by Alexander L. Cicchinelli, an Abruzzo name for sure, is the son of a contadino who passed through Ellis Island in 1907. Alex is a retired university administrator living in Abruzzo, Roma and Philadelphia, depending on the weather. Still an educator at heart, he has strong interest in improving learning in the Italian pre-university sphere. He has worked with the educational testing center of UNSW, Sydney and is currently collaborating with his associates of the Oxford University Testing Center. In odd moments he studies the 1950’s Muscle Rustle when post war young Italians were enticed to cut sugar cane in Australia. Participants in that scheme and their relatives are invited to make contact and share info. Contact him: alex (at) cicchinelli (dot) com



20 Responses to “Trekking the Abruzzi mountains – with religious fervor”

  1. Jim and Alice

    Abruzzo may be “forgotton Italy,” but once you’ve been there you are surely NEVER to forget it – its vistas, people, food, food and more food and, oh yes, wine, too! Our dreams remain…………

  2. We could all use a little more ritual and celebration and alot less fighting about things.

  3. Toni Galli Sterling

    Thank you so much for posting this piece about Abruzzo…the land of my grandparents. It truly is a piece of Italia that has preserved its character and beautiful traditions. Now if we could only convince the Italian government to restore L’Aquila!

  4. frank bettinelli

    Leave it to the Italians, to fulfill an endeavor with the compassion
    and fervor that is part of their inherent make up…………

  5. I was lucky enough to visit Caramonico Terme in Abruzzi. It truly was a magical place. I loved being in the mountains and the people are just lovely!!!

  6. Giovanni Kitney

    The Abruzzi Mountains are beautiful. This is a wonderful monument and I am looking forward to see it whern I next visit Civitella Roveto.

  7. Annette Guanciale Shapiro

    I’m so happy to see your story! I find that many people know nothing of Abruzzo. For me, it’s the land of my grandparents, where so many of my cousins still live and cherish the rituals that have been with us for so long. I live in Brooklyn, and once I went to the Italian Tourist office in Manhattan to get some info about Abruzzo and some maps. The young Milanese girls working there told me, “Signora, no one wants to visit Abruzzo. There’s nothing to see. There’s nothing in that place.” How sad! They were so wrong.

  8. to John Puliti

    John, The unveiling was actually on 9 July, but selecting and casting the bronze and then building the altar required months before that time. Hauling up cement was an early challenge. On the day of the unveiling ceremony port-a-loos were helicoptered up as were the musical instruments of the town band and the picnic food. Unfortunately,according to my taste, there is now installed a solar panel which keeps a night light on the site. I can see the little spot from my bed and I don’t like. I think it is too invasive of the mountain’s tranquillity. -the Abruzzese are passionate people. Alex

  9. to Toni Galli Sterling

    L’Aquila is so sad. It is almost two year, or is it more? April I think. It breaks my heart to even go there just now. Do you know Nora Galli from Detroit, Michigan? Alex

  10. Linda Gasbarro

    I have a great fondness for the Abruzzo region, the land of my grandparents. As was mentioned, it is almost a forgotten area. I know someone who was born and raised as a child in Rome and returns yearly, he too is not familiar with the area although it is not that far from Rome. Most people have heard of L’Aquila but not beyond that. I hope to visit the area in the future and know I have relatives on both sides of my family still living in the area. Thank you for bringing attention to this beautiful region.

  11. Antonio Telese

    I was lucky enough to’ marry a beatiful abruzzese lady,and since that day I have visited tha region almost every year .I bring along my granchildren,and they love it too.We leave on Long Island,it is a long trip ;but we are very happy to’ go.Campo Imperatore and the surrounding area is where we spend must of our time ,because my wife’s family is from there and because that region is just fantastic!Paradiso Terrestre !!!!

  12. Patricia Hogan

    Alex, Great article. My grandfather was born in Pratola Peligna which I have visited many times. My family there has taken me on many tours of beautiful Abruzzo. I gave a copy of your article to two brothers, Nick and Fred, born in a nearby town to Pratola who own the best Italian food store on First Avenue in Manhattan. They shared the article with one of their customers who lives on Long Island, NY and is renovating a house in Abruzzo. She met a woman on Long Island and struck up a conversation about Abruzzo and she mentioned the article and the “Italian Notebook”. The woman said that she is GB’s aunt. How is that for a very small world.

  13. Patricia Hogan

    By the way, for all you “foodies” the store is Nicola’s on First Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets in Manhattan.

  14. to Patricia Hogan

    Pat, I go to Pratola-Peligna where I work with the English teacher in the middle school. Of course, it’s a good place to buy the best variety of “confetti” in the world. The area has expanded a little bit but maintains its hometown feeling.


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