Don't be fooled by the modern and youthful appearance of this delightful seaside resort in the province of Chieti. It is an ideal destination for families seeking quiet beaches and well-equipped lidos, for young people who enjoy sports activities and nightlife, and for those who want a relaxing holiday with all services close at hand.
We'll reveal a secret (that perhaps very few people know): the riparian centre has very ancient origins, as demonstrated by archaeological finds from prehistoric, Italic and Roman times. The first stable settlement dates back to the Longobard period, when a community freed from feudal ties - hence the name Francavilla - settled there and traced the typical medieval 'herringbone' urban layout.
But the history of Francavilla al Mare does not end here: at the end of the 19th century, it became a point of reference for Italian and international culture thanks to the multifaceted and eclectic figure of Francesco Paolo Michetti and his 'Cenacolo'. A meeting place for intellectuals and artists, the building complex known as the Michetti Convent was purchased in 1885 by the painter to make it his home and studio.
It consists of the Church of Santa Maria del Gesù, built in the 15th century but remodelled in the 18th century, and the small adjoining convent of the Observant Franciscans, perched on a green hill overlooking the sea. The culture of the time had its highest expression in its halls, and artists of the highest calibre such as Gabriele d'Annunzio, who wrote 'Il Piacere' here, Matilde Serao, Edoardo Scarfoglio, the musician Francesco Paolo Tosti, the sculptor Costantino Barbella and many others were part of it. A small curiosity: Michetti used the entire ground floor of the Convent as his studio, including the Cloister of which he exploited the height for his monumental canvases.
Also dedicated to Francesco Paolo Michetti is the Michetti Museum, opened in 1997 in the premises of the historic Palazzo San Domenico, the former municipal seat of the upper city. Prehistoric and Roman findings, typical medieval Longobard settlements, an important role in 19th century society ... still not enough?
Continue your walk, arriving at the centre of Paese Alto, where you will find the beating heart of the town: the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Rebuilt in 1948 to a design by architect Ludovico Quaroni, with friezes and ornaments in terracotta, majolica and stone by the masters Andrea and Pietro Cascella, it houses numerous sacred ornaments, including a remarkable monstrance from 1413, the first certain work by Nicola da Guardiagrele.
Continuing to walk along the seafront, in the central area of the town, you can appreciate the Palazzo Sirena, the emblem of Francavilla al Mare's tourism and seaside vocation. Inaugurated in 1888 with a big dance party, d'Annunzio himself wrote the chronicle for Rome's 'La Tribuna'. The first building of the Sirena, designed by Antonino Liberi, in Art Nouveau floral style, was razed to the ground by German mines in 1943. Rebuilt after the war to a design by Vittorio Ricci, it was enlarged at the end of the 20th century on a design by Mosè Ricci.
To conclude your walk, right in front of the Palazzo Sirena, on the seaside, you will find the Pontile, from which you can watch the horizon while comfortably seated and lulled by the sound of the waves.
In Francavilla you can enjoy typical fish dishes such as 'brodetto' or stuffed cuttlefish accompanied by a Trebbiano or Pecorino d'Abruzzo wine. Among the desserts, we cannot fail to mention 'cicerchiata', typical of the Carnival period, and 'Parrozzo d'Abruzzo'.