Calascio e la sua Rocca: Una Storia Senza Tempo

by Emidio di Carlo

Calascio and its Rocca (Fortress): A Timeless Story
(Translation by Jackie Silvestri Capurro)

Of all the abandoned buildings, marvelously connected to one another by an architecture of complete and continuous thread, they are dominated by the nearly-intact towers of La Rocca Calascio and the ruins of a very ancient castle (one of the highest and most majestic in the entire Apennine mountain range) endowed with outer defense walls, from the second half of the 1300s, feudal domain of the Counts of Celano, followed by the Piccolomini and the Medici of Tuscany, like Capestrano, Santo Stefano of Sessanio, and Bussi. For the enemies, (Saracens and mercenary soldiers), it came to be a significant building of interesting military architecture. Now it has become a beacon of touristic and cultural initiative.

The first impression on the occasional tourist who visits Calascio is one of a peaceful village, so much as to appear deserted. The sensation is that of putting you in rapport with your surroundings, with the boundless countryside of the surrounding mountains which fade into the distance, with nature richer in rocky outcroppings than in the greenery which is present only in the small valleys near the riverbeds formed by melting snow.  The day in Calascio passes calmly. The people love hearth and home no less than the countryside where the sweat of the ancient people of Abruzzo burns. Tranquility is apparent everywhere. Because here it means order and cleanliness. Calascio is truly a place for residents and tourists alike. Even if it has yet to be discovered by floods of tourists. Because it is hospitable, it has at its disposal a welcoming mechanism within an urban framework which happily becomes part of an area primitive in nature, to the point where the agricultural life itself proceeds with an exquisitely folkloristic character.

One must cover the village on foot to know it well. It's necessary to explore the contorted and narrow lanes, climb the thousands of steps of the multi-colored flights of stairs whose sunny terraces provide a beautiful show of flowers. One should pass under the dozens of arches which are dispersed throughout the new part of town which is currently occupied. The spectacle is unaffected everywhere, without pretense, but, precisely because of this, fascinating. It is made up of a continuous play of light and shadow, of scenic slices that appear in the rare spaces between houses: at one point it reminds you of Seville, characterized by the poetic tension of Garcia Lorca, then it may suggest abstract-geometric paintings created by the painters Reggiani and Soldati.

Some years ago, the people of Calascio used to live in La Rocca, in a small jungle of houses on the summit of the mountain next to the castle. The only link with the outside was a mule track. Today this has been widened and is accessible by car. La Rocca is no longer inhabited. The doors and windows of the houses are open. The wind whistles through the rooms. A continuous monotone refrain drifts through the air in an atmosphere of solitude and mystery, mystery which grows with the presence of the ancient bastion that still presumes itself powerful, showing in some places its secret rooms in underground passages.The story of La Rocca is a timeless story. The passage of life there is signaled by the occasional sight of a marriage celebrated in the beautiful little Church of Santa Maria della Pieta, or by the presence of some tourist in search of peace and of adventure.

-- Emidio di Carlo