San Donato in the Val Di Comino

The characteristic medieval town of San Donato Val di Comino is located at 728 metres above sea level. It is situated on the slopes of Monte Pizzuto, on the border of the regions of Lazio and Molise. Behind it is a beautiful backdrop, the spectacular mountain scenery of the Parco Nazionale D’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise.  The town has a magnificent outlook over the scenic landscape of the Val di Comino.

The town itself is is divided into several rione or districts, namely: Castello, Duomo, Capolavalle, Lago, Portella, Convento, Cappella Lucida and  San Paolo. The inhabitants are known as Sandonatesi.

The  territory of San Donato includes the villages of Campo Casino, Capella, Cappella Lucida, Case sparse, Castagneto, Colle Javerra, Cretone, Folingaro, Fosso, Miliarda, Pedicone, Ponte di Tolle, San Fedele, San Paolo, Sant’Andream Santo Janni, Selve, Serola, Valanziera and Vorga.

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The Medieval Tower

At the highest point of the town, sited on a rocky spur, stands the 13th century square tower that guards the Sanctuary of San Donato. The Counts of Aquino constructed a watch tower and castle in this area. The tower was strategically positioned so as to have commanding views of the Val di Comino and the mountain pass of Forca d’Acero. The town was protected by a ring of fortified walls and over time some townhouses were incorporated into the defensive structure.

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The Town Gateways

At the highest point of the town, sited on a rocky spur, stands the 13th century square tower that guards the Sanctuary of San Donato. The Counts of Aquino constructed a watch tower and castle in this area. The tower was strategically positioned so as to have commanding views of the Val di Comino and the mountain pass of Forca d’Acero. The town was protected by a ring of fortified walls and over time some townhouses were incorporated into the defensive structure.

The town was accessed through three gateways: the main entrance was the Porta dell’Orologio or Porta al Greco (13th century). If you look closely there are three crosses carved into the stone of the gate.  Legend, has it that these crosses represent three bandits who were hung at the gate in the 16th century. The second gateway was the Arco di San Donato with its Gothic Arch (14th century) and finally there is the Porta del Colle or Porta Ponente.

It is necessary to explore the historic old town on foot. From the watchtower a stone stairway leads down to Largo San Donato and the Sanctuary of San Donato.

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Photo Tour of the Historic Old Town of San Donato

The historic old town descends along  some steep cobbled lanes. These connect to a maze of alleyways, arches,  covered passageways (Gl ‘Spuort) and small religious shrines. The twists and turns were constructed as an additional defence mechanism to offer  protection from  invaders, as well as protection from the icy mountain winds.

In Via Maggiore there is the “Stone of San Bernardino” also known as the “Stone of Scandal”. This was where the town’s unfortunate debtors were forced to sit and be subjected to public ridicule.

Over the centuries San Donato’s prosperous nobleman built elegant residences and many of these houses and courtyards of bygone ages are still in evidence today. Some houses have beautiful keystones, rich in symbolism, above their doorways and other intricate decorations carved by the master stonemasons of  the town. These identified the social class of the residents. As the village expanded over the centuries it extended in tiers down towards the valley, where a newer quarter of merchants and rich bourgeois was established. Via Pedicata leads to the 14th century Cathedral of Santa Maria and San Marcello. Opposite the Cathedral is the 18th century Palazzo Quadrari.

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My sincere thanks to the following photographers for kindly sharing their photos for these pages about San Donato Val di Comino:

Tonino Bernardelli, Italo Caira, and Lauro Apruzzese

 

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