Atri is one of several pretty hill villages in this part of the Abruzzi region of central Italy. It is worth a visit for its pretty historical centre and its magnificent views. Choose a good day and you have views over the Adriatic sea, over the mountains and over the 'calanques' in the surrounding countryside which have been formed by centuries of erosion.
Atri preserves various signs of its historical importance as the ancient Duchy of the Acquaviva from the end of the 14th to the second half of the 18th century .
The town is particularly noteworthy for the 13th century Atri cathedral. The cathedral stands on the same location as an earlier Roman baths, and remarkably you can still see parts of the original mosaics from the baths in the cathedral floor (via a glass panel that has been installed for the purpose).
Dedicated to “Santa Maria Assunta”, the cathedral has a facade of impressive simplicity and contains a cycle of 15th century frescoes by Andrea de Litio.
There are about 40 of these frescoes by de Litio - among the most charming are "The Coronation of Mary" and "The Massacre of the Innocents" (in the apse) but many of the others are also noteworthy.
Connected to the cathedral are the medieval cloister and the Roman cistern.
Also visit the Baroque style Church of St Reparata (the patron saint of the city), designed by Giovan Battista Gianni in 1741. On the front of the church there is a 14th century statue of the saint while inside is a wooden canopy, the work of local artist Carlo Riccioni, who made it between 1677 and 1690.
In Atri centre you can see the Palazzo dei Duchi d'acquaviva, built in the 14th century on the site of a Roman cistern, then fully renovated in the 16th century.
Today you can still see a few artefacts that remain including some frescoes. Currently the building is home to the Town Hall and the Museum of Medieval and Renaissance musical instruments.
Other Atri highlights
Among other important buildings of note in Atri visit the Municipal Theater, a building known for its excellent acoustic qualities and reminiscent on the outside of “La Scala” in Milan and the “Teatro San Carlo” in Naples.
Atri still has some of its original defensive walls and three gateways, the Porta San Domenica, the Porta Macelli and the Capo d'Atri and the remains of a Roman Theatre.
Close to the old centre is the Villa Communale and its grounds which is now the city park. With gardens, some interesting caves, a beautiful view over the sea and a liberty-styled fountains the park is a lovely place for a stroll.
Atri is famous for working with liquorice, a craft dating back to Medieval times or possibly even Roman times. Visit the market on Mondays and you will be sure to see a stall or two selling liquorice.
A traditional Atri recipe is the "Pan Ducale", a sort of almond pizza, very much appreciated, it is said, by the Dukes of Acquaviva. Another 'must try' dish is the “Pecorino” [“sheep’s milk cheese”] from Atri, a typical product drawing on the pastoral tradition of the area and with a slightly spicy taste.
Churches of Atri
Among the other notable highlights in Atri are several other churches such as the Church of St. Francis, built around 1230 and restored in 1716 by Fontana di Penne which is accessed by climbing a Baroque style staircase.
The interior of the church has a Latin cross form with eight side chapels decorated with stucco, 18th century works by the Neapolitan school.
The Church of St. Augustine, built in the 14th century, has a Renaissance-Gothic portal, the work of master Matteo da Napoli and dating from around 1420.
Above the capitals there are two statues, Saint Catherine and a Saint Monk, while above there is the Eternal Father and S. Augustine. The interior has a nave and another fresco by Andreo di Litio called the 'Madonna delle Grazie'.
Museums in Atri
There are also many museums in Atri which help preserve the city's history.
Among the most interesting of the museums in Atri, the Capitular Museum is divided into several sections, with an area devoted to painting and including many substantial works.
In the fourth room there are two paintings representing the "Nativity" and the "Flagellation", attributed to Pedro de Aponte, a painter from Zaragoza. Also note in particular the painting depicting the “Madonna and Child” attributed to Luca della Robbia (1400-1481).
In the fifth room highlights include "Announcing an Angel" and the “Virgin of the Annunciation”, two oil paintings by a Neapolitan painter. On the right, there are some carved wooden statues from the 16th century, depicting saints Peter and Paul.
Ethnographic Museum and Archaeological Museum
Also very impressive is the collection of the Ethnographic Museum, which holds over two thousand works drawn from the ancient industrial and agro-pastoral cultures.
The Archaeological Museum is interesting and contains numerous artefacts from Abruzzo in prehistoric times. The collection presents various aspects of agriculture and some agricultural tools such as wagons, ploughs, harrows, yokes, some miscellaneous equipment for land preparation, and an oak tool used for oil production.
Equally important is the collection related to industrial archaeology, where you can see various typical engines from the earliest forms of industrialization - and one of the first engines for the local production of liquorice.
See also history of Atri.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Abruzzo guide.