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Paganica: the Village and what to visit


Paganica is one of the biggest village of Commune of L'Aquila, with a long history beginning from a period before the Roman Age.
The oldest part of the village is on the hill dominating the level plan, which other burghs rise on, like Bazzano, Onna, Barisciano. On this level plan, the newest part of Paganica was built.
Just walking through the narrow streets of the burgh, walking up the oldest part of the village, you can discover the several treasure which Paganica guards secretly.

Paganica welcomes the tourist with one of its most (due to its architecture) beautiful monuments. In Concezione Square, in the newest part of Paganica, a small church seems to observe the people coming to the village. It is the Concezione's Church, which has many characteristics of Borromian architecture. This church was built before the XVI century. At that time it was just a small chapel used by the close by San Giovanni Battista's Hospital. In the XVIII century, the small chapel was enlarged by the Immacolata Concezione della Maria Vergine's Confraternity, as the inscription on the front of the church explains. The outer part of the church was modified, and it was at this time that the façade was done in the baroque style, with concave and convex forms and a sail bell tower (you can find similar façades in churches of other villages in Abruzzo: Atri, Bisenti, Badia Morronese, Città Sant'Angelo, Cermignano, Civita d'Antino, Orsogna, Palena, Torricella Sicura).
The church, with a circular plan, guards the Vergine Immacolata's wooden sculpture, in a niche of the marble altar.
The walls are decorated with stucco and paintings representing Saint Emydius, Saint John Baptist and the Holy Family.
On the sides of the church, two doors lead to rooms used by the hospital long ago.
However after the earthquake in 2009, it is no longer permitted to visit the church.

The façade of the Concezione's Church (before of the earthquake in 2009) (

In front of the Concezione's Church, the beautiful Doge's Palace rises up. It was built in the XVIII century by Doge Ignazio Di Costanzo to celebrate the purchase of Paganica from Duchess Faustina Mattei Orsini in 1753.
The building is known as the "Palace of Nuns" and was designed by Mattia Capponi, a famous architect of the time. The Palace was finished with the construction of a wonderful Italian garden, which was unfortunately destroyed during the Second World War.
Today, the Doge's Palace is there still, silent and covered with green ivy, immersed in ancient memories, dreaming golden dress and the music of lost harpsichord, a faded nobility...

The façade of the Doge's Palace (photo by

One of side of the Doge's Palace overlooks the square of Umberto I, the most important square in Paganica. In this square, ancient Santa Maria Assunta's Church. The church was built during the Lombard Age, on the ruins of the Roman Jupiter's Temple. Just some elements testifies its ancient origins: for example, the stone slab which represents a wolf running after a doe.
The medieval structure was changed in XVII century, when the balcony of the facade was built, and in XIX.
The interior of the church is reminiscent of the interior of the Church of Jesus in Rome. On the sides of the nave, there are some small chapels with XVII and XVIII paintings. The most important treasure of the Santa Maria Assunta's Church is the XV century wood crucifix which embellishes the main altar, and the Madonna del Cardellino sculpture (read more).
Before the earthquake in 2009, each year, on Easter Monday, during the Feast of San Giustino, the relics of the Saints kept in the San Giustino's Church (read further), were shown from the balcony of the church to the people praying in the square.

Square of Umberto I and the Santa Maria Assunta Church (

Walking down the Corso Duca degli Abruzzi, one of the most important streets in Paganica, you find your way to Largo Garibaldi, a small square where the Fountain of  Sant'Antonio is located. The fountain, restored at the beginning of last century, was built in 1800 so that the poor people would be able to get water. Here, in the past, the women met to rinse their laundry or draw water with bronze bowls (read more).

The front of the Sant'Antonio's Fountain before the renovation (

In Largo Garibaldi n.6, you can see the Nannicelli's Palace, property of one of the most powerful families in Paganica’s past. The palace was built in XVI century by Aloisio and Luigi Nannicelli. The ancient main door still holds the Nannicelli's coat of arms.

If you walk down Via degli Angeli to the medieval of the town center, you find yourself at the Casa Gotica, located in Via degli Angeli n.87. It was built in 1300 and still keeps its medieval ogival door with the stone outline.

Casa Gotica in Via degli Angeli

Going up to the highest part of the village, you walk down Via Monsignor Giuseppe De Rubeis, you eventually arrive at the hearth of Paganica. Here, there was an ancient Castle built in XIV century and destroyed in 1424 by Lallo Camponeschi, after the long war with Braccio da Montone.
In the place where the Castle stood, the beautiful Santa Maria del Presepe's Church was built, which is also called Castle Church. The church was built in 1605 by the Bishop of Paganica, Giuseppe De Rubeis, and became the most important church in the town. Here, holy relics were kept and the bishop accorded indulgences for the pilgrims visiting the church during the anniversary of its building.
The church was later modified into a cross-shaped plan and its interior was lighted by a rose window placed over the beautiful main door. From the rose window, a sunbeam lights the XVII century baroque altar.

View of the Church of Santa Maria del Presepe (

In front of the Church of Santa Maria del Presepe, the De Rubeis's Palace rises up. It was built in XVI century by local workers and has an L-shaped plan. On the facade, you can see the De Rubeis's coat of arms, over the XVI century main door. Later, the Palace was bought by an other family, the De Paulis, which is why the building is also called the De Paulis's Palace.

Going down from the highest part of the village on Via Giovanni De Paulis, you enter a tangle of narrow streets, where you can breathe a medieval atmosphere: this is the ancient quarter of Fontevecchia. The name of the quarter comes from the Fontevecchia Fountain, found on Via del Tagliamento. 
The fountain was built in XV century and it was the only place where the people could draw water for long time, until the building of the Fountain of Sant'Antonio. It is easy to picture the women crouched under the stone arch of the fountain filling their bronze bowl with water.
In 1500, on the right side of the stone arch, the long watering trough was added to refresh the cattle led by the shepherds.

The Fontevecchia Fountain in the hearth of Paganica (photo by

Over the central arch, the fountain still holds the ancient Paganica's coat of arms. The coat of arms bears the image of a man crowned with a laurel wreath and placed on three stone studs; a chain surrounds the neck of the man keeping a rose in his mouth. It is the portrayal of the "pagan Negro", the symbol of Paganica.
The fountain holds another stone representing a cross with eight leadings, made in XII century. The stone seems to testify a connection between Paganica and the Crusaders. This connection is plausible: in fact, Mauro di Rainone, called "Il Moro", was linked to the Crusaders and gave a conspicuous property to the Santa Maria Assunta Church in 1109. After all, L'Aquila was a Templar city and all its territory holds Templar symbols, and was linked to Pietro del Morrone, known as Pope Celestino V, the "Pope who made the great refusal" described in the Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.

The coat of arms of Paganica on the Fontevecchia Fountain (

In Paganica, the Fontevecchia Fountain is not the only monument that holds esoteric symbols. In the lateral wall of the San Giustino's Church, built in cemetery of the village, you can admire a beautiful chessboard symbolizing the battlefield of Deva and Asura, the two forces preserving the balance of Creation.
The interior of the Church is divided into two aisles and one nave, with a semicircular apse; the aisles and nave are divided by columns with Roman and Medieval age elements. The walls, today completely blank, were adorned with many frescos. In the church, there is a crypt with one nave and two aisles, where the Saints’ relics are preserved. A legend tells that the crypt is linked with the Santa Giusta Church in Bazzano by an underground passage (know more).
In the San Giustino Church, an ancient epigraph was found that attests to Paganica’s existence during the Roman Age. The epigraph, studied by the famous philologist Theodor Mommsen, refers to Licinacio, a Roman prefect, and is the oldest evidence of a Roman prefect.
In the church, a beautiful slab was found that was used for the presbytery surroundings and dated around the VIII or IX century. Today, the slab is preserved in the Abruzzo's National Museum (read more).

The San Giustino Church in the cemetery of Paganica

Coming back to the new part of the village, through the narrow Via degli Orti, you reach Via Cesare Battisti. The parallel road, Via Oberdan, leads to the close by village of Camarda, where you can see the famous Villa Dragonetti, one of the most beautiful examples of aristocratic palaces in L'Aquila, built in XVIII and XIX century.
The original structure of the Villa is dated around the XI century, but the building was modified until the XIX century. 
On the ground floor of the Villa, a gallery links the two entrances of the palace and is adorned with Roman age marble busts.
On the first floor, you can admire the beautiful aristocratic apartments and the amazing "bestiary" painted on the walls. The corridors linking several rooms are adorned with paintings and decorations. The paintings were made during the beginning of the XIX century by French painters. These paintings made Villa Dragonetti an extraordinary example of architecture and art in Abruzzo.
The real treasure of Villa Dragonetti is the fabulous Italian garden, which is located in front of the secondary entrance of the palace, and covers 4000 sq.m.
Today, Villa Dragonetti is one of the most beautiful historical palaces, and where you can spend your holidays in the middle of the nature and the art, in an elegant and refined place.

Villa Dragonetti

Walking along Via Oberdan, in the direction of Camarda, you can admire an amazing church mounted between two massive rocks. That is the beautiful Sanctuary of the Madonna d'Appari, and was built during the XV century, in the place where the Madonna came into a young shepherdess's sight, while she was praying in front of a small holy aedicule.

The Sanctuary of the Madonna d'Appari (

The traveller seeing the Madonna d'Appari's Sanctuary cannot help but to stop there to admire the wonderful sight and enjoy the peace and serenity...
Walking on the narrow path leading to the church, listening the fresh and sweet singsong of the Rajale river, which flows through the rocks and laps the walls of the Sanctuary and donates a divine communion with the nature surrounding these places.

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