The square of the ancient fairs and the mansion houses in the city centre
This itinerary starts from Piazza Chiarino, which in the past was dominated by the 13th-century church of San Giustino. Today we can appreciate the striking façade of palazzo Antinori and its refined portal. The façade also features 18th-century decorative motifs and stringcourses. Walking down via San Martino we reach via Bafile overlooked by the lateral door of the Chiesa del Gesù built after 1703, characterized by a sculptural fragment in floral Gothic style. the buildings overlooking via Bafile belonged to the Quinzi family. Palazzo Quinzi is attributed to Francesco di Accumuli, pupil of Carlo Fontana. The Quinzi family became one of the richest family of L’Aquila starting from mid-1500s. Heading towards piazza Santa Margherita dominated by Palazzo Pica-Alfieri: in 1685 the building, then owned by Maffeo Barberini, was purchased by Ludovico Alfieri. The main façade of Palazzo Pica Alfieri is divided into three parts. The striking entrance is sided by two portals framed by four slender columns supporting a scenic balcony. The building is one of the first examples of the L’Aquila Baroque style still with manneristic influences. The octagonal fountain in piazza Santa Margherita dates to 1588 and has Renaissance shapes. On the right we find palazzo Camponeschi with its façade integral with the Gesuiti church (1596). The architectural decorations of the palazzo, currently seat of the University, are dated to the second half of 1700s; the refined portals framed by a half pilaster and by a pillar up to the roof and the row of windows enriched with gables of different shapes. The 16th-17th century decorative elements are Baroque in style with Romanesque influences. The building of the Gesuiti church stretched from 1662 to 1692. The 1703 earthquake did not cause severe damages to the church. The incomplete facade blends in well with the civil palazzos surrounding the, in particular with the facades of Palazzetto dei Nobili, of palazzo Margherita and of palazzo Pica-Alfieri. The majestic and grand interior has a central chamber with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and three side chapels., classical trabeation, and arches for the first time used in a church in L’Aquila.
Piazza Palazzo It was and still is the centre of the political power of the city and in the early 1300s, every Tuesday the square housed a public market. The old square was dominated by the church of San Francesco (1256), destroyed by the 1349 earthquake. In 1300s, the Palazzo del Capitano was in via delle Aquile. Little news do we have of this building. It was a prison and through an underground passage it was possible to access the civic tower to reach the chapel dedicated to the Madonna degli Angeli where those sentenced to death could receive comfort before being executed. The building was later acquired by the city hall for the Palazzo del Magistrato, but in 1596 it was donated to the Jesuits and the Palazzo del Magistrato was moved to the palazzo of Margherita d’Austria.
The clocktower Based on the chronicles handed down by Mariani in 1374 the captain Tomaso degli Albizi commissioned the building of the clocktower. The tower suffered several damages due to the various earthquakes. It preserves the medieval design. It is divided into three sections by stringcourses probably built between 1254 and 1374. The main façade is decorated with the coat of arms of a Spanish captain, and the coat of arms of Charles V king of Naples and of Spain. The side of the tower overlooking Palazzetto dei Nobili is enriched with a female figure, sculpted in stone, and holding a lily in her right hand and a snake in the left hand. It represents the coat of arms of Cascia and therefore it may refer to Captain Leone di Ciccio da Cascia who ended the building of the urban walls in 1316.
The clock Every evening at twilight, the famous belltower tolls 99 chimes, in memory of the legendary 99 castles which founded the city. The palace attached to the belltower, which was the mansion of Margaret of Austria in the XVI century, was the seat of the Townhall until the earthquake of 2009. At the end of 1800s, the old watch was replaced because it had stopped working. In 1300s, the tolls of the clock sounded the hours and the 99 chimes in memory of the founding villages. The tolls warned the closing of the urban gateways and of the taverns and the beginning of the curfew. The Bells In the 14th century the tower featured a great bell that, acording to the L’Aquila historian Cirillo, it had no equal. It weighed 22.0000 pounds and its chime could be heard from 18.000 miles away to summon the inhabitants of the founding. At the end of the 14th century there were four more bells: the bell of Justice that tolled during executions, the clock bell, the Reatinella a small bell stolen by the inhabitants of Rieti in 1313 and retrieved by the L’Aquila population in 1376. These belles were confiscated by the Spanish after the revolts of L’Aquila and then fused to build the artillery of the Spanish fortress erected to repress the audacity of the city. We now turn onto via Patini to reach Piazza del Duomo.
The Market Square For centuries, it has always been a place of fairs and markets, which has never been inhabited nor considered part of one of the quarters that compose the city. Therefore, it is a place around which the city formed and grew, a place of trades and exchanges. There are two important churches in the square: the Cathedral of Saints Maximus and George (Duomo) and the baroque Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio (called Church of the Holy Souls). The Cathedral was destroyed in the 1703 earthquake, was rebuilt in its current structure. On the right side of the church overlooking via Roio, we can still admire the remains of the 14th-century church. The rest of the architecture dates to 1700, while the façade was completed in 1928. The interior has a rectangular chamber with a Latin cross in the central nave sided by chapels and presbyterium and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Turning onto via dell’Arcivescovado we appreciate palazzo de Nardis with its old portals and windows dated from 1400 while on via Simeonibus (behind the Post office building) there are so-called Cancella, 15th-century bottegas overlooking the market square and later reassembled in a back alley immediately behind the Post Office building. We head towards Corso Federico II, an arcaded pedestrian street and meeting place for the city, and by the mansion houses, such as palazzo Fibbioni at the Quattro Cantoni. From here we head towards Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. At number 111 palazzo Burri Gatti stands out for its 15th-century entrance portal decorated with a coat of arms. We then reach piazza Regina Margherita surrounded by 17th-century palazzos and the Nettuno fountain built using the white and pink stones of the old church of San Francesco that used to be in piazza Palazzo. the square is also overlooked by Palazzo Paolantonio with its elegant Renaissance porticoed courtyard. We turn onto via Garibaldi and continuing along for few metres, we turn onto via Paganica to reach the impressive 18th-century Palazzo Ardinghelli with its striking façade and regal windows. Piazza di Santa Maria Paganica is surrounded not only by the eponymous church but also by palazzo Ardinghelli and Palazzetto Colantoni, great examples of 15th-century architecture. Turning onto via Accursio, just behind the apse of the Church of Santa Maria Paganica, we appreciate the façade of palazzo Benedetti Carli with its characteristic Renaissance courtyard with a central well and arcades with a loggia above on three sides. Opposite we find the house of the writer Buccio di Ranallo (14th century) and the Chiassetto del Campanaro, the belltower of the church of Santa Maria Paganica. Walking down via Accursio, we turn right onto via Bominaco. On this alley, there is the house of Iacopo di Notar Nanni built in the second half of 1400s and a rare example of Medieval and Renaissance architecture and featuring the city’s oldest courtyard. At the end of via Bominaco we head towards via Paganica to admire the il palazzo between via Bominaco and via Collepietro. The building dates from the origins of the city and it features 14th– and 16th-century elements. We then turn onto via San Benedetto in Perillis, flanked by striking ancient palazzos and courtyards, and we reach again via San Martino from where this itinerary started.