Carapelle Calvisio is the smallest municipality in the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park. It comprises handful of stone houses perched at about 900 meters above sea level in the Abruzzo hinterland, among the wooded hills covered with oaks and pines, with a splendid panoramic view of the Aquila basin up to the Maiella massif and the Navelli plain.
The village stands on one of the last southern reaches of the Gran Sasso massif and the historic centre preserves, almost intact, its ancient urban structure of a medieval fortified village, with the houses leaning against each other and separated by narrow alleys that occasionally open into small spaces.
The area around Carapelle Calvisio has certainly been inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by the many finds dating back to the Paleolithic era, some of which are even pertinent to the Neanderthal man.
Initially occupied by the people of the Vestini, the area was then conquered by the Romans around the 4th century BC, after the defeat of the Samnites who had influences and alliances in Abruzzo. The Romans had an interest in expanding and controlling the routes of transhumance (seasonal stock migration).
Near the town, traces of a temple dedicated to Venus have been found, in the locality of San Marino, and the name Calvisio would derive from the name of its priestess Calvisia. Another Roman testimony is found in the church of San Vittorino, a medieval building built on the foundations of a Roman building next to an ancient well which is accessed by a medieval staircase.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the population moved to the hills and found shelter inside a fort and monasteries that guarded knowledge. And in fact, the first document that mentions Carapelle Calvisio dates back to 779, when in the “Chronicon” of the Monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno a lawsuit was recorded between some “Homines de Carapellas” and the Monastery of San Pietro in Trite.
Despite its small size, the history of Carapelle Calvisio has been quite troubled. Starting from the 12th century, Carapelle was referred to as a Castrum, that is, as a fortified village.
In 1273, Charles I of Anjou conquered this part of Italy, definitively defeating the Swabians, and from an administrative aspect of Abruzzo, dividing it into two regions that were in turn divided into baronies.
The Angevins put Carapelle Calvisio among the territories of a new barony together with Castelvecchio Calvisio, Calascio, Rocca Calascio, Santo Stefano and, for a short period, also Castel del Monte. At the end of the 1300s, the Angevin ruler Charles III of Durres granted the barony in fiefdom to Peter, Count of Celano.
In following years the castle was reinforced and traces of the ancient fortress can be found in the highest part of the town.
Later the Spanish kings of Aragon arrived and the barony was assigned first into the hands of Antonio Piccolomini (1463) and then into those of Ottavio Cattaneo (1569). In the Renaissance period the church of Saint Francis was established and embellished with frescoes.
In 1579 the territory passed under the dominion of the Medici, Grand Dukes of Tuscany, who created the Medici State of Abruzzo to ensure the supply of the fine Carfagna wool, produced by local sheep. This is a fine dark-coloured wool with which they made the military uniforms and robes of the monks.
With the Medici and the wool trade, the town went through a period of relative well-being. The churches were embellished and Palazzo Piccioli was placed in the centre of the town.
In 1743 the barony passed to Charles III of Bourbon, King of Naples, who managed its fate until the unification of Italy, when Calascio, Rocca Calascio and Santo Stefano di Sessanio (1860-1861) broke away from the fiefdom. Finally in 1906 Castelvecchio also obtained autonomy from Carapelle.
Like many Abruzzo territories, Carapelle Calvisio also saw many of its inhabitants emigrate in search of fortune after the unification of Italy and after the world wars. The population has declined until it now has below one hundred residents.
Unfortunately the village of Carapelle Calvisio also has been seriously damaged by the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake.
The most valuable agricultural products in this area are olive oil, saffron and an important production of truffles should be noted, which in ancient times were sought after with the use of trained pigs. These products are in addition, of course, to cheeses and sheep meat.
One of the characteristic dishes is fried figs, used to season savoury dishes such as pasta and eggs, while among the desserts there is the ferratelle (waffle cookies), prepared for the feast of the patron San Pancrazio.
The area of Carapelle Calvisio is a magical place to visit, steeped in the past, and is a starting point to discover the Gran Sasso National Park, one of the most beautiful among the Italian parks, full of villages, paths, nature to be discovered on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. Enjoy the beauty of one of the largest and most valuable protected areas in Europe.