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Scanno, Italy: A heart surrounded by mountains

5 min read

The village ef Scanno appears like small stone houses embracing each other with their tiny roofs. These roofs, so perfectly spread, have inspired hundreds of photographers and artists from all over the world who, using different techniques, have tried to represent these characteristic views. In fact the village offers a unique and characteristic atmosphere with its secular architecture immortalized by distinguished photographers such as Cartier-Bresson, Giacomelli, and Scianna.

The little town is spread across a hill and it is divided by many small streets that go up and down between Bourbons palaces and small shops.
This an enchanting medieval town known to the Abruzzesi for its lake, originated after a landslide from mount Genzana that blocked the course of the river, with its narrow alleys, baroque gateways, old buildings and the traditional costumes of its women.
The name Scanno is derived from the Latin “Scamnun”, a term the Romans used to indicate the borders of a conquered territory which had been divided and given to new owners.
However, mentioned for the first time in 1067 in a donation act of the Monastery di S.Pietro in Lago in Montecassino, Scanno demonstrates a more ancient origins through the finding in the territory of Roman rests and others dating back to the bronze age.

Places to visit include also religious buildings of great value such as the splendid churches of the Matrice di Santa Maria della Valle, the church of Santa Maria di Loreto and that of S. Antonio di Padova (with a portal from the late sixteenth century and Baroque interior, painted in the early decades of the eighteenth century by Giambattista Gamba), or the church of S.Maria di Costantinopoli with a beautiful fresco representing Madonna in throne. Other city famous sacred buildings are S. Eustachio (with Baroque interior) and S. Maria delle Grazie (with the harmonious eighteenth-century stucco decoration).

A town that has hosted tourists from everywhere for centuries, it has managed to preserve its strong identity that it still shown through its fascinating historical re-enactments.
Among the most representative events there is the festival of St Antonio, in first 2 weeks of January, which opens with the offering of fire wood carried by a procession of mules, as a gift to the saint. The fire wood is usually sold to provide for the maintenance of the church and the support of the monk who guards it. The next day, before the procession, between the bell’s ring and the marching band, in a riot of flowers and colors, all the children dressed up, participate in the procession of the loaves to symbolize the “offering of bread” with dozens of women carrying on the their head wicker baskets filled with loaves of bread to give to the poor and to eat, after the blessing.
Another is “La serenata della Chezetta” (the socks serenade – the “begging” festival). “Questua” in dialect is the act of begging for donations, especially food. There is a so called “questua” song, a serenade to be sung on the evening of January 5th, one of the few songs that survived over time that seems to have originated from the Celtics Lombard. On this night, as tradition goes, singers hang a socks under the window of local girls and start singing until the girl opens the window and promises to fill the socks with food.
In addition the Corteo Nuziale (Ju Catenacce) on August, 14th, with its distinctive traditional costumes, the procession of Venerdì Santo (holy friday) and the Incappucciati.

Scanno is also popular for the fine and complex laces, crafted on pillows and its traditional costumes that some of the older ladies still wear today.
The craftsmanship of Scanno is well-known for its famous processing of precious metals like silver and gold. In fact, the unique trims of the amorino scannese and the circeglie are crafted here. Equally valuable are the embroideries and you can see laces everywhere in Scanno, from the typical costumes to window drapes, to the Museo della Lana that collects important examples of them.
Lace-making is an ancient craft. True lace was not made until the late 15th and early 16th centuries. It is, essentially, a series of knots, linking or connecting “empty spaces” together with the “full ones” which are themselves “empty” (or almost). Originally linen, silk, gold, or silver threads were used, while now lace is often made with cotton thread.
There are many types of lace, classified by how they are made. The most common method in Scanno is known as Bobbin lace (“Tombolo” in Italian) and, as the name suggests, is made with bobbins and a pillow. Tools used are the pins (spilli) and the picots (fuselli). The bobbins, turned from wood, bone, or plastic, hold threads which are woven together and held in place with pins stuck in the pattern on the pillow.

The great artistic talents among locals also include the traditional cuisine. Some examples are the famous Pan dell’Orso and the delicious Mostaccioli: made with almond cream and a chocolatefilling, are produced here. Moreover, the local cheeses have obtained many awards, and the artisan cured pork meats rich in flavour and fragrance, are excellent. Nature is another wonderful treasure of this territory and, not surprisingly, Pope John Pauls Il now a saint, had chosen it as a secret destination and a tranquil place to meditate. Even today we can travel over the path so dear to him, following the road signs placed in the area of San Liborio. Other paths are available in the area for both trekking and mountain bike enthusiasts. Along them you can reach the mountains, circumnavigate Lake which, from a particular angle, takes the form of a heart (but this is another story), or reach the ancient town of Frattura.

Author’s note: Scanno in located in the province of Aquila, about 150 Km from Roma and 180 km from Naples.

All photos are mine.

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