Caracciolo Castle: an abandoned jewel in the heart of Abruzzo – Italy
Tocco da Casauria loses its origins between history and legend. The first information of an inhabited place in this territory is in the year 872. It was the primitive village of Tocco, so called because the term probably would mean “village on the rock”. A favorable and particularly strategic position then allowed that over time this small village became one of the most important social and cultural centers of the region. The epithet Casauria, on the other hand, will be added only much later, in 1862 to seal the link with the most ancient traditions of the place that saw the rise of the ancient Temple of Casauria here: in this way it wanted to pay tribute to the origins Roman in the country and reinforce the importance of historical memory. Starting from the year one thousand the village will undergo, like the whole surrounding area, the Norman invasion while from the 11th century onwards, slowly the town will develop around two main nuclei: on one side the Church of Sant’Eustachio (12th century) and the imposing castle on the other.
Despite unfortunately abandoned, the castle, still retains its ancient charm. It is located in the highest part of the town of Tocco da Casauria, on the slopes of Mount Morrone, and strategically exposed towards the gorges of Popoli, which connect the lower Aterno valley in the province of L’Aquila with the province of Pescara.
The first information about the original settlement comes from the Chronicon Casauriense, a collection of medieval chronicles concerning the Abbey of San Clemente a Casauria between the years 866 and 1182 and drawn up towards the end of the twelfth century, which shows that the first construction of the castle took place by the will of the successors of Girardo, lord of Popoli, with the aim of removing the property from the Abbey of San Clemente itself. Rebuilt during the time of Frederick II, the fortress was again restored after the earthquake of 1456, often considered the strongest earthquake in Italy during the second millennium, by the De Tortis, lords of Tocco, who maintained ownership of the castle until the fifteenth century.
The castle has an imposing structure that is extraordinarily adapted to the morphological conformation of the territory. It is composed of four walls, which close a central courtyard, and as many impressive square towers placed at the corners. In the basement, entirely built in squared stone, loopholes are still visible, while in the upper part, made of unworked stone, large rectangular windows with decorated frames open up.
The entire top of the building was surrounded by a parapet and, on the inside, by a parapet walks. To crown the southern tower are still present Ghibelline merlons, which were originally to be placed on all four towers. The entrance portal is located on the south-east front and has a pointed arch set on capitals of Renaissance style. It was accessed via a flight of stairs to its left and through an inclined plane on the right, used by carriages.
Inside, from the courtyard one enters the atrium where a a 16th century cistern, small columns and a small garden are preserved.
In addition, the large room in the eastern tower, which is accessed from the courtyard, was the site of the so-called “Carcere della Lobarda” (Lombarda prison), located at a point where the sun never shined.
In short, the castle is a particularly evocative place full of stories to tell, which today only awaits to be retrained and restored. However, after the last property, that of the Scali Caracciolo family, it is now owned by the Municipality but restoration work is still frozen.
Author’s note: unfortunately the castle is abandoned, and cannot be visited. It is only possible externally (information updated to July 2019).