Enjoy a day in the small village of Bominaco in Abruzzo to discover the town’s fascinating history, ancient monks’ trails and one of the region’s most beautiful frescoed chapels.
Bominaco is not one of those places that you “just happen upon” while driving to your destination. You will not spot it from the main road. Tucked away in a small valley, shielded by a green mountain from oblivious passersby, it conceals a treasure: the Oratorio di San Pellegrino, which is often called Abruzzo’s Sistine Chapel because of its magnificent frescoes.
On summer weekends it is filled with a lively buzz, but for most of the year you will walk empty quiet streets by yourself. There are no shops or bars in Bominaco. The only pizzeria, small and cosy, struggled for a while and eventually closed a few months ago. You can study the entire history of Abruzzo in Bominaco, where the layers of history are clearly visible: the fortified palaces of the Middle Ages, a few old houses abandoned by those in search of a better life decades ago, a propaganda slogan from the Mussolini era stencilled on a wall, scars and wounds inflicted by many earthquakes — even an ancient well that used to supply locals with fresh water for centuries.
The town (its original name was Momenaco) was founded as part of a Benedictine settlement, with one of the most prosperous abbeys of the order in the Middle Ages. Not much is known about its past, but historians say it might have been founded around the 8th or 10th century. The monastery’s strategic location on the Tratturo Magno, one of the main ancient trading routes in the area, its well-managed organisation, and relative autonomy brought prosperity to Bominaco. In the early 15th century, the mercenary army of Braccio da Montone passed through the town, leaving death and destruction behind. In the years to follow, the Church politics and papal interventions took their toll on the weakened abbey and, eventually, the monks abandoned Bominaco. Over the centuries, the economic decline almost emptied the town, which today has a population of only 54 people.
In recent years, interest towards Bominaco in Abruzzo has been growing. Every time I go to the town, I notice more visitors. On summer weekends, small groups of discerning tourists — mostly Italian — flock here, weddings are celebrated in the chapel and families return to their ancestors’ homes. Chiara Andreucci, a Bominaco local, told me that there is one German family in the town that has a holiday home and comes back every summer.
It is a perfect little place for a day trip filled with history, art and nature. I go to Bominaco every few months, as it is one of my favourite places in Abruzzo, and have even developed somewhat of a routine. Arriving early in the morning, I hike to the Castello Camponeschi in Prato D’Ansidonia or the town of Opi and then back to Bominaco, refuel with my packed lunch or in the village’s small restaurant, chill out admiring the views from the Castello di Bominaco and then head to visit the chapel and the church and stroll around the town.
I never get tired of this place and often catch myself looking around, waiting to see a monk in a black habit slowly walking across a field or a medieval knight on a horse trotting towards the town, his armor glistening in the sun. Bominaco has that effect: it transports you back in time and makes you forget about the present.
What to see in Bominaco:
- Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta
- Oratorio di San Pellegrino
- Castello di Bominaco
- Eremo di San Michele
Read the full article in our Summer 2020 archive bundle.
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