1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abruzzi e Molise

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130731911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1 — Abruzzi e Molise

ABRUZZI E MOLISE, a group of provinces (compartimento) of Southern Italy, bounded N. by the province of Ascoli, N.W. and W. by Perugia, S.W. by Rome and Caserta, S. by Benevento, E. by Foggia and N.E. by the Adriatic Sea. It comprises the provinces of Teramo (population in 1901, 307,444), Aquila (396,629), Chieti (370,907) and Campobasso (366,571), which, under the kingdom of Naples, respectively bore the names Abruzzo Ulteriore I., Abruzzo Ulteriore II., Abruzzo Citeriore (the reference being to their distance from the capital) and Molise. The total area is 6567 sq. m. and the population (1901) 1,441,551. The district is mainly mountainous in the interior, including as it does the central portion of the whole system of the Apennines and their culminating point, the Gran Sasso d’Italia. Towards the sea the elevation is less considerable, the hills consisting mainly of somewhat unstable clay and sand, but the zone of level ground along the coast is quite inconsiderable. The coast line itself, though over 100 miles in length, has not a single harbour of importance. The climate varies considerably with the altitude, the highest peaks being covered with snow for the greater part of the year, while the valleys running N.E. towards the sea are fertile and well watered by several small rivers, the chief of which are the Tronto, Vomano, Pescara, Sangro, Trigno and Biferno. These are fed by less important streams, such as the Aterno and Gizio, which water the valleys between the main chains of the Apennines. They are liable to be suddenly swollen by rains, and floods and landslips often cause considerable damage. This danger has been increased, as elsewhere in Italy, by indiscriminate timber-felling on the higher mountains without provision for re-afforestation, though considerable oak, beech, elm and pine forests still exist and are the home of wolves, wild boars and even bears. They also afford feeding-ground for large herds of swine, and the hams and sausages of the Abruzzi enjoy a high reputation. The rearing of cattle and sheep was at one time the chief occupation of the inhabitants, and many of them still drive their flocks down to the Campagna di Roma for the winter months and back again in the summer, but more attention is now devoted to cultivation. This flourishes especially in the valleys and in the now drained bed of the Lago Fucino. The industries are various, but none of them is of great importance. Arms and cutlery are produced at Campobasso and Agnone. At the exhibition of Abruzzese art, held at Chieti in 1905, fine specimens of goldsmiths’ work of the 15th and 16th centuries, of majolica of the 17th and 18th centuries, and of tapestries and laces were brought together; and the reproduction of some of these is still carried on, the small town of Castelli being the centre of the manufacture. The river Pescara and its tributary the Tirino form an important source of power for generating electricity. The chief towns are (1) Teramo, Atri, Campli, Penne, Castellammare Adriatico; (2) Aquila, Avezzano, Celano, Tagliacozzo, Sulmona; (3) Chieti, Lanciano, Ortona, Vasto; (4) Campobasso, Agnone, Isernia. Owing to the nature of the country, communications are not easy. Railways are (1) the coast railway (a part of the Bologna-Gallipoli line), with branches from Giulianova to Teramo and from Termoli to Campobasso; (2) a line diverging S.E. from this at Pescara and running via Sulmona (whence there are branches via Aquila and Rieti to Terni, and via Carpinone to (a) Isernia and Caianello, on the line from Rome to Naples, and (b) Campobasso and Benevento), and Avezzano (whence there is a branch to Roccasecca) to Rome.

The name Abruzzi is conjectured to be a medieval corruption of Praetuttii. The district was, in Lombard times, part of the duchy of Spoleto, and, under the Normans, a part of that of Apulia; it was first formed into a single province in 1240 by Frederick II., who placed the Justiciarius Aprutii at Solmona and founded the city of Aquila. After the Hohenstauffen lost their Italian dominions, the Abruzzi became a province of the Angevin kingdom of Naples, to which it was of great strategic importance. The division into three parts was not made until the 17th century. The Molise, on the other hand, formed part of the Lombard duchy of Benevento, and was placed under the Justiciarius of Terra di Lavoro by Frederick II.: after various changes it became part of the Capitanata, and was only formed into an independent province in 1811. The people are remarkably conservative in beliefs, superstitions and traditions.

See V. Bindi, Monumenti storici ed artistici degli Abruzzi (Naples, 1889); A. de Nino, Usi e costumi Abruzzesi (Florence, 1879–1883).