L'Aquila

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L'Aquila is a city and comune in central Italy, both the capital city of the Abruzzo region and of the Province of L'Aquila. As of 2009, it has a population of 73,150 inhabitants, but has a daily presence in the territory of 100,000 people for study, tertiary activities, jobs and tourism. Laid out within medieval walls on a hill in the wide valley of the Aterno river, it is surrounded by the Apennine Mountains, with the Gran Sasso d'Italia to the north-east.

L'Aquila sits upon a hillside in the middle of a narrow valley; tall snow-capped mountains of the Gran Sasso massif flank the town. A maze of narrow streets, lined with Baroque and Renaissance buildings and churches, open onto elegant piazzas. Home to the University of L'Aquila, it is a lively college town and, as such, has many cultural institutions: a repertory theater, a symphony orchestra, a fine-arts academy, a state conservatory,a film institute.The city presents a tradition in the winter sports with 6 ski resorts which lies around the city (Campo Imperatore, Ovindoli,Campo Felice, Pescasseroli, Roccaraso, Scanno).

Although less than an hour-and-a-half drive from Rome, and a popular summer and winter resort with Romans hiking and skiing in the surrounding mountains, the city has not yet been heavily affected by foreign tourism.

In the highest part of the town is the massive Spanish fort (Forte Spagnolo), erected by the Spanish viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo in 1534. It is currently home to the National Museum of Abruzzo.

The Cathedral of San Massimo (Duomo) was built in the 13th century, but crumbled down during the 1703 earthquake. The most recent façade is from the 19th century, but after the earthquake of 2009 and subsequent aftershocks the transept and possibly more of the Cathedral has collapsed.

The church of Saint Bernardino of Siena (1472) has a fine Renaissance façade by Nicolò Filotesio (commonly called Cola dell'Amatrice), and contains the monumental tomb of the saint, decorated with beautiful sculptures, and executed by Silvestro Ariscola in 1480.

The church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, just outside the town, has a very fine Romanesque façade of simple design (1270–1280) in red and white marble, with three finely decorated portals and a rose-window above each. The two side doors are also fine. The interior contains the mausoleum of Pope Celestine V erected in 1517. Many smaller churches in the town have similar façades (S. Giusta, S. Silvestro and others).

The town also contains some fine palaces: the municipality has a museum, with a collection of Roman inscriptions and some illuminated service books. The Palazzi Dragonetti and Persichetti contain private collections of pictures. Outside the town is the Fontana delle novantanove cannelle, a fountain with ninety-nine jets distributed along three walls, constructed in 1272. The source of the fountain is still unknown.

A well-known city landmark is the Fontana Luminosa ("Luminous Fountain"), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, built in the 1930s. The local cemetery includes the grave of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a 19th‑century German gay rights pioneer, who lived and died at L'Aquila: every year, gay people from all over the world meet at the cemetery to honour his memory.

The surrounding area boasts Roman ruins (the important Roman city of Amiternum), ancient monasteries, and numerous castles. The best-known of these is Rocca Calascio (used in the 1980s as the location for the movie Ladyhawke), which is the highest castle in Italy and one of the highest in Europe. Also nearby are several ski resorts like Gran Sasso d'Italia, the highest of the Apennines where in its valley the movie The Name of the Rose was filmed in the end of the 1980s.
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