Until April 6, 2009, when an earthquake of 5.8 on the Richter scale struck the city (see L’Aquila after the quake), L’AQUILA was Abruzzo’s main cultural attraction. An ancient university town overlooked by the bulk of Gran Sasso, it was founded in 1242, when the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II legendarily drew together the populations from 99 of Abruzzo’s villages to form a new city. Each village built its own church, piazza and quarter, and one of the city’s most-loved (and surviving) sights is a medieval fountain with 99 spouts. Post-earthquake, little progress has been made, and much of the town is still cordoned off and precariously propped up with scaffolding. You can still wander along the main Corso and into some of the surrounding sreets, but the emptiness of the place save for a few townspeople and the trucks of the Protezione Civile makes for a somewhat disquieting experience.

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