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Camarda Town: the village and what to visit

Camarda rises on a low hill in the Valleverde valley and has a small river that runs through the town. This stream originates on the mountainside of Gran Sasso and makes its way to another village: the burgh of Assergi. As the other medieval burghs, Camarda was built on downhill and therefore the more ancient part of that is on the top of the hill.

Walking through the narrow streets of Camarda, under stone arches and on stone stairs, the wayfarer is given a sense of peace and warmth, a tranquility that only these forgotten burghs can give. And Camarda is just one of those burghs that tourism has forgotten, leaving it as it was in the past, without disfiguring its medieval structure. Today, visiting Camarda, is visiting the village where the La Bella di Camarda novel was set: everything is as it was yesterday.
From the newer zone of the village, that is the lowest one near the river, there is a street going up to a small square, where a fountain sings a sweet and sad song: they are the stories of an ancient past, when the shepherds led their stout herds there...
Walking uphill through the narrow streets, you can reach the most famous square of this village: the Treo Square. For the people living here, this place is a symbol. It is the link with an unforgotten past. It was here that the people gathered: the old lady spinning with her friends, the children growing up, the old men playing "morra", the peasants coming back from fields, the young lover coming here to peep at the his girl while she was drawing water from the fountain... And with the phrase "Ji escio...vajio poco ajiu Treu " ("I get out to the Treo Square"), everyday the people gathered here, in this square that is just a crossing of three streets for the ordinary tourist but the place where the time stopped for the people living in the burgh.

The Treo Square and the Fountain (Photo by John Kocinski)

In the Treo Square, the Clock Tower always says the hour and the time flows slowly by, suspended between present and past. The clock was built in 1873 and put on the tower at a time when no one had a clock at home. The strokes clanged through the fields planted with wheat or hemp. Down in the valley, there were farmers bent over the ground, harvesting fruits, while they were singing long and sweet jingles. The Treo Clock has never been regular: sometimes it didn't strike, sometimes it struck for long time. The old people say that the clock doesn’t function correctly because of the watchmaker who made it. They say that this was how he took his revenge because he wasn’t paid enough.

Sometimes, still to this day, in this small burgh of the Province of L'Aquila, forgotten by tourism and world, that Clock still strikes. And when the people hear its stroke during the wrong hours, raucous and strained now, as a old man who didn't give up making a fool of the citizens of Camarda, some old man looks at that and whispers in his grandson's ear: "L'orologio del Treo è sempre matto per cinque lire mancate al patto fatto " ("The Treo Clock is always crazy because of five lire less ").

The Treo Clock Tower (Photo by G. Lattanzi)

And while the Clock is striking its jokes, the old ladies are leaving the Church of Saint John Baptist to go home. The church is solitary again and its solitude is mitigated by the voice of its friend, the mad Treo Clock. The Saint John Baptist's Church has always been there and, perhaps, Camarda can not exist without it. Nobody knows when the Church was built. Maybe in the same place, there was an other church. Certainly, the Church of Saint John Baptist has a medieval structure and a document tells us that in 1478 a beautiful tabernacle was put in the church. This tabernacle still remains there today.

The Church has kept intact a very precious treasure: the beautiful Organ of the Church of Saint John Baptist, built by Adriano Fedri between 1770 and 1780. This instrument is still there and every day it delights the church-goers with its music. The organ still has its original parts- only the keyboard and pedal board date back to 1871 and were made by Antonio Fedri, Adriano's son. (To know more about the Organ, read this article)

The Church of Saint John Baptist

Camarda would not exist without its guardian, that Castle which in reality is just a sighting tower, called the Tower of Castle. In 1173, the Castle belonged to Atenulfo, the ruler of Tempera but later in 1553, it was bought by Stefano Valles from Naples.
Today, the tower is solitary and austere and was sadly damaged by the earthquake in 2009. However is still remains there on the top of the hill, in order that it can keep watch over the citizens of Camarda, while the little hens are frolicking around it.
From up there, it is very easy to imagine the ancient life of the burgh: you only have to look down and you can see a small burgh that continues to live in the past, between the strokes of the Treo Clock.

The Tower of the Castle (Photo by G. Lattanzi)

An other beautiful burgh is not far from here: it is San Pietro della Jenca. It is a small  village built of stone. In the past, it belonged to Camarda but today it is completely abandoned. San Pietro della Jenca was loved by Pope Wojtyla and now it is the first Pope John Paul II's Sanctuary.