Vasto

Belvedere of Vasto

Vasto is one of the most beautiful and ancient cities on the Abruzzian Adriatic coast. It is located on a hill (144 ì m above sea level) in the south of the region. Vasto is the only seaside town in Abruzzo, which is referred to cities of arts. The ancient city is a wonderful fusion of nature, history and culture. Vasto hosts well preserved beautiful monuments from different epochs illustrating its rich and dramatic history. However, its main decoration is a magnificent bay which has a perfect semicircular shape. Standing at the belvedere one cannot stop admiring this perfect creation of nature. A webcam, is installed at the belvedere to observe the bay. Through all its history, the bay was a mixed blessing for Vasto. Being a convenient natural harbor, it contributed to the prosperity of the city through the development of trade and navigation, and at the same time it attracted greedy conquerors and pirates of all stripes.

According to an ancient myth, Histonium was founded in the 10th century  BC by the legendary hero of the Trojan War, Etolian king Diomedes, who fought on the Greek side. Historical reconstruction showed that the foundation of the first settlement on the site dated to 1184 BC, i.e. 10 years after the end of the Trojan War.

After victorious Sunnite wars, the Romans turned Vasto into a Roman municipium. Even today, you can see the words «Vastum olim Histonium Municipium Romanum» on the town’s coat of arms. Archaeological excavations indicated that in the Roman era the city center hosted a «Capitol Hill», baths and amphitheater for watching naval battles that took place in the bay.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the city was transferred from one conqueror to another. It was ruined and again restored several times. The Longobards, Francs, Spaniards, Anjoues, Bourbons were alternate rulers of the city. In the 10-11th centuries, the city was repeatedly subjected to invasions and raids of the Saracens, Magyars, Turks, Crusaders and Venetians.

During 15-18th centuries, the city was under the Spanish rule. The first Spanish ruler of Vasto was condottiere Giacomo Caldora, which strengthened the system of city fortifications, built a fortress Castello Caldoresco and new city walls with three towers. In 1497, the city passed to powerful Marquis d′Avalos, who by that time had become almost complete sovereign of the Abruzzian coast. Marquis d′Avalos built a magnificent palace, trying to give Vasto the splendor of Spanish royal court. The palace was destroyed during the Turkish invasion in 1566, but was quickly rebuilt in the Renaissance style.

In 1710, Charles  III, the King of Austria, officially granted a rank of the city to «an area, which overlooks the magnificent semi-circular bay and for its beauty may be cited as ″the Athens of Abruzzo″».

Gulf of Vasto

The Gulf of Vasto is famous not only for its beauty, but also for splendid sandy beaches, which successively win a «Blue Flag» for compliance with international standards of purity and requirements of eco-tourism. Lovers of wildlife have a wonderful opportunity to stay in the nature reserve of Punta d′Erce (Aderci) which is located a few miles from Vasto. The reserve features a large variety of flora and fauna. Particularly favorable conditions are created for bird watching, which becomes increasingly popular among tourists.

In mid-June a gourmet holiday starts in Vasto «brodetti&contorni», which lasts the whole month. The program includes fairs, exhibitions, concerts, presentations, fancy-parades and, of course, tasting fish soups (brodetti) with a variety of side dishes (contorni).

Slow Walks about Vasto

The Vasto belvedere should be the starting and finishing point of a walk around Vasto.

Castello Caldoresco

The most significant and well-preserved architectural monuments belong to the Spanish era. The fortress Castello Caldoresco is located on a high promontory. It was built by the first Spanish ruler of Vasto Giacomo Caldora in the middle of the 15th century on the ruins of pre-existing building. The castle surrounded by heavy walls makes a very strong impression. In 1464, it survived a three-month siege by the troops of King Ferdinand of Aragon. Today the castle hosts a museum and exhibition hall.

D′Avalos Palace

The d′Avalos Palace, decorated with stone portals and charming two-arched windows, is a remarkable example of the Renaissance architecture in Abruzzo. Nowadays the Palace hosts the Archaeological Museum and Pinacoteca. Inside the palace you can admire beautiful stucco decorations and frescoes of the 16th century, marble cornices and majolica of the 19th century. So-called «paradise gardens» are situated in the courtyard. Unlike long existing Adriatic tradition, you can find there not only flowers (climbing roses, bougainvillea, jasmine, geranium, lavender and rosemary), but also fruit trees such as grapes and oranges.

Cathedral of Saint Joseph

Near the d′Avalos Palace, there is situated the Cathedral of Saint Joseph which has a very interesting history and architecture. Originally there was situated the Saint Margaret church (1262), then the monastery of Saint Augustine and, finally, the building was granted to the Saint Joseph Convent in 1808. The church was built and rebuilt during many centuries and has retained elements of different styles in its architecture. It has inherited from the old church a magnificent medieval facade with a portal and rose-window (1293), and from the Augustinian monastery – the Latin cross layout and bell tower (1730). You can find masterpieces of great interest inside the cathedral, namely, the triptych by the artist Michele Greco da Lavelona of the 16th century and the statue of Madonna della Cintura created in the beginning of the 18th century.

In this article information was used from the sites en.wikipedia.org, www.viviabruzzo.it, www.vastoweb.com, www.puntaderci.it, www.vastogolfodoro.it. Photo credit: http://www.ilvoltaire.blogspot.com.


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