Can you find romantic ruins in the heart of rustic Abruzzo? Alba Fucens might be the best Roman ruins you've never heard of, given the fact they're located in an ancient lakebed surrounded by mountains.
Do you like the romantic nature of archaeological ruins you can wander through without paying a fortune or being hounded by guards who just don't seem to fit with your fantasy of life 2000 years ago? Yes?
Alba Fucens might just be for you. It's free to visit during daylight hours and there's enough to keep you busy. Besides the Roman site, there's a medieval site, an amphitheater, castle ruins, and a very interesting Basilica built over a temple dedicated to Apollo and built reusing its columns. The tourist office will give you a pamphlet to lead you; tours are available as well.
Alba Fucens is in a very scenic spot. Nestled in a valley which was once an ancient lake, the peaks of Monte Velino (a popular hiking destination) and the Majella range give the site a background that's unforgettable, as you can see in our pictures below.
Let's start with a map.
Although the map looks a little sparse zoomed out like this, if you use the control on the left to zoom in two notches, you'll see the layout of the Roman town. If you zoom out, you'll see the site's proximity to the A25 Autostrada, a main way to get from Rome to Pescara (passing through the wonderful town of Sulmona on the way). This is close to the path the Romans trod as they moved troops to the coast.
Depending upon where you park your car, you can follow signs to visit the main rectangular area of ruins you see on the map, then take the path to the amphitheater.
This is the part of the town that was founded in 303 BC or so by Maximian, sending thousands of legionnaires to colonize a place that had been quite hostile to Roman rule. Eventually a garrison was put in place for troops passing between Rome and the coast. It was destroyed in an earthquake in the 4th century.
The church of San Pietro, one of the most antique in the area, is up on a hill. Benedictine Monks worked on an old Roman temple of Apollo, transforming it to a church. You can see the older columns inside the sparsely furnished chiesa.
Avant-garde filmmakers Daniele Huillet and Jean Marie Straub set the first two acts of Moses and Aaron in the amphitheater.
At the foot of Mount Velino you'll find the ruined Orsini Castle, destroyed by Charles of Anjou in the second half of the XIII century.
You can take the Autostrada (fast toll road) A24 east out of Rome, or A25 west from Pescara, exiting at Avezzano and following the signs to Massa d'Alba.
Borgo Medieval Alba Fucens Hotel and Restaurant is considered a magic and quite reasonable place to stay and eat.
If you've reached the area early, I'd recommend doing Alba Fucens and then continuing on to Sulmona, where you'll find some good hotels and many good restaurants and bars. The B&B Il Marchese del Grillo is highly rated. If you'd like to stay nearby but in a larger town, you can find plenty of lodging options in Avezzano.
The Abruzzo is fabulous in Spring (see our pictures of the Abruzzo in Spring.) It's best visited in a car, but you can also choose to go on a tour. Viator has a list of their most popular Abruzzo Tours.
Find out what the weather might be with our month to month climate charts for major tourism cities.
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