Caramanico is a classical medieval Abruzzo village nestled on a promontory, in the Maiella National Park where the wolf, the Marsican bear, the deer, the roe deer and the chamois have returned to live. The village is located at the meeting point of two rivers, where the Orfento canyon and the Orta river valley meet
It is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, immersed in an uncontaminated natural setting and has been known for millennia for its spas.
The territory has certainly been inhabited since the Paleolithic era and a settlement of the Samnites was found in the valley bottom. The Samnites were a proud and combative people that the Romans managed to subdue only after three wars in 350 BC.
The Romans always created their town centres in the valley floor where the communication routes passed and where trade took place and there was a temple dedicated to Hercules where later the church of Saint Thomas Becket was built.
With the fall of the Roman Empire and the invasions of the barbarians, the population moved to fortresses built on the heights and the current village was founded in 601 AD. by the Lombard Theodolapio.
With the arrival of the Lombards, Abruzzo was divided into two duchies: the Duchy of Spoleto and the Duchy of Benevento. Caramanico was part of the Duchy of Spoleto.
The name Caramanico must have derived from the Lombard term “harimann”, which meant settlement. The town was therefore organized according to a typical plan: the sovereign rented property to his soldiers, they used it for their livelihood and in return defended the territory from enemy attacks.
The original structure was that of a village perched on a ridge, naturally defended by the valleys of the Orta and Orfento rivers, with the entire town protected by walls, towers and access doors. At the top was the castle, the last defensive element, now reduced to ruins.
In the Middle Ages the first monasteries were founded and in the 8th century the territory was largely under the control of the powerful Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino.
Hermits and monks found the places for their asceticism in Caramanico, founding churches and hermitages set in the Maiella rock.
In 1059, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore was documented for the first time, and it has always been the main religious building in the village.
But the most important feature of Caramanico are the thermal baths and already in 1100, in the Chronicon Casauriense, there was talk of the “putrid waters”, that is, the thermal waters present in the village.
After the fall of the Lombards, Caramanico followed the evolution of the feudal system, becoming the property of various families. In the second half of the 1300s it was one of the many possessions of the Queen of Naples, Giovanna II, second wife of James II of Bourbon.
It was then a fiefdom of the Colonna family, one of the oldest and most important families in Rome. Then, towards the end of the 1500s, it became a Gonzaga property.
In the mid 1600s, Caramanico became a fiefdom of the Aquino family, one of the historic noble families of Italy of Lombard origin. During their dominion, the town experienced a period of great prosperity and importance, thanks to the silk of which it was one of the most important production centres in the Kingdom of Naples.
In 1656, at the time of the plague, there were about 6500 inhabitants in Caramanico.
In 1706 it was hit by a devastating earthquake that damaged a significant part of the village, immediately rebuilt by replacing the old medieval structures with new elegant stately buildings.
Caramanico had become so important over the centuries that Francesco d’Aquino, prince of Caramanico (1786-1794) was appointed viceroy-captain general at the time of Ferdinand I of the two Sicilies.
In 1806, during the reign of Napoleon, feudalism was abolished and Caramanico was declared an autonomous municipality and finally in 1860 it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
Immediately after the unification of Italy, a period of emigration to the Americas began: for about ten years the whole of Majella was one of the centres of banditry and in Caramanico many stories and legends were told.
In 1901 the construction of the thermal works for the exploitation of this natural resource began. The two world wars provoked further emigration but, thanks to the development of the thermal industry, the town recovered so much that it officially became “Caramanico Terme” in 1960.
Among the many most famous descendants of Caramanico is Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s U.S. Secretary of State. His paternal great-grandparents were born in Caramanico and emigrated to the United States after their wedding. In 2019, during the Italian leg of his trip to Europe, Mike Pompeo also stopped in Abruzzo to visit the home of his Caramanican ancestors, Giuseppe Brandolini and Carmela Sanelli.