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Impressions of San Marino & Marche, Abruzzo and Molise, Italy

The independent Republic of San Marino, and Italy's regions of Marche, Abruzzo or Molise, none of these regions is generally considered as a top priority for a trip through Italy. There are indeed no spectacular large cities with world class museums, splendid architecture and an explosive cosmopolitan life, there are no natural phenomenons breathtaking enough to be unique on the planet. But there is undoubtedly another type of uniqueness to this part of Italy, straddled over the Apennines, the backbone of the Italian peninsula. Hidden in tiny corners of seemingly unassuming altitude villages of crisp air, narrow alleys and quaint piazzas lined with sturdy houses of natural stone, a deep-rooted identity of pre-Roman history and medieval background unfolds. This is the area where the traces are visible how early expansionism of the Roman Republic of the late 4th and early 3rd centuries BC met its major challenges, as ancient Italic nations, Marsi, Sabines, Samnites and others united in a League not to be subjugated. This is the area which later produced big names of Roman culture, such as Ovidius, Sallustius and others. This is the area by excellence where the Longobards of the early Middle Ages brought Western monasticism to Italy, with Benedictine monks founding Romanesque abbeys and monasteries, some of them still inhabited and working today, others converted into mystic ruins, leaving our imagination to connect the dots of medieval life. This is the area where history, art and culture are profoundly embedded in an unspoilt natural environment of forests, mountains, lakes and rivers, unequalled, surprising and enchanting. And, sadly, this is also the area where the same nature has turned life into tragedy many times over, through history, with violent earthquakes levelling villages and cities, ending and ruining the lives of thousands of people. The 'terremoto' of 2016 will be remembered in tragedy for generations to come in L'Aquila, Teramo, Visso, Norcia in neighbouring Umbria, and other places, because it was not the first one, and it is not likely the last one either...

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