Excursion to Sulmona

I’m here on my own over the weekend so I decided to make the most of the lovely weather (it was a sunny 28° C today) and take a small excursion by train. The railway station at L’Aquila is situated on a branch line so the options from here are limited: up or down. I decided to take the “up” line to the town of Sulmona, which is 61km away by train. The ticket cost a mere €4.80 and though the train was a bit old, it was right on time in both directions. The journey time of an hour each way might seem a bit long, but the journey is through rather mountainous terrain and the service is a slow Regionale stopping service so I didn’t expect it to be a quick journey. On arrival I discovered that the Stazione Centrale is in fact pretty far from central but it was a pleasant walk of about half an hour into the small city centre.

Sulmona is famous for two things. One is that it is the birthplace of the poet Ovid who is  remembered by a fine bronze statue in the Piazza XX Settembre. The other famous thing is the Confetti di Sulmona, sugar-coated almonds coloured in such a way to look like oversized Smarties and presented in various disguises, e.g. as flower petals.

The town itself was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1706. That’s a bit of a theme around these parts. You might think people would get fed up living in a place where natural catastrophes happen so regularly, but apparently not. Anyway, quite aside from the fact that many of the buildings are clearly of late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, which is not the case in L’Aquila, the reconstruction of Sulmona has made it a much airier place: the squares are larger and more open, and the streets wider. While the topography around L’Aquila is complex – the town itself sits on a hill surrounded by numerous local maxima, minima and saddle-points –  Sulmona sits in a broad flat plain on which the first and second derivatives behave in a much more sensible fashion.  I have to say that I have found L’Aquila quite oppressive at times during this visit. I don’t believe in ghosts of course, but there is so much evidence of destruction all around that it definitely has something of a haunted atmosphere. It was good to get away to a town whose wounds have healed.

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