Postcard from Sulmona

Postcard from Sulmona

Postcard from Sulmona

by Dejou Marano

A Brief History of Sulmona

Founded by the Peligni people in the 6th century B.C., Sulmona is considered to be one of Italy’s most ancient cities with the Sulmonese proudly asserting that their hometown predates even ancient Rome. Originally settled for its natural position nestled at the foot of the Appenine mountain valley, Sulmona lays 400 meters above sea level with a highland climate that experiences both warm summers and cold winters.  Distinct for its wide piazzas and narrow, angled streets, the crowning glory of Sulmona’s main piazza is its impeccable medieval aqueduct that dates back to 1256. The arches of the aqueduct serve as a sort of elaborate welcome gate, ushering city dwellers from the steps above, down into the ovular vastness of its Piazza Garibaldi. The majestic Appenine range casts blue from overhead as the light in the piazza changes with every movement of the sun. Sulmona’s ancient streets all lead in one way or another  to its pristinely preserved series of medieval gates and archways. One such gate, the Porta Napoli, is perhaps the most impressive of all. Once a main entrance into the city, the gate is an ornate reminder of Sulmona’s past as a medieval walled city.

Sights, Sounds and Other Curiosities

Located in the beautiful Piazza XX Settembre, with its Baroque churches, municipal buildings and scalloped cobblestone paving, stands the powerful and provocative statue of a contemplative Ovid. Born in Sulmona around 43 B.C., the famous Roman philosopher and writer is said to have drawn much from his experiences as a citizen while writing some of his more seminal works including the likes of Metamorphoses and Tristia. Proud of their illustrious native son, the Sulmonese identify a deep connection with Ovid through a variety of statues and engravings found throughout the city. Ovid’s legacy has also proven to be a springboard for folklore amongst the locals, with many tales portraying him as a magician of sorts and an inhabitant of a mysterious villa containing strange contraptions and magic books and potions, one of which is supposed to have been an aphrodisiacal potion that women were unable to resist. Whether speculation brought about by Ovid’s more erotic works like HeroidesArs Amatoria and Amores, or the impetus for such writings, Ovid remains a figure of both pride and intrigue for Sulmona.


While walking through the shady streets of Sulmona, one cannot help but be taken aback by the burst of vibrant, saturated color that seems to pour out of every window and door. Countless boutiques line the city’s ancient streets, from which the sweet scent of vanilla and sugar emanates and perfumes the air. What first appear to be whimsical floral shops transform into storefronts dedicated to the local specialty confection: Confetti. Known by the rest of the world as “Jordan Almonds”, Confetti from Sulmona are beyond anything you’ve ever tasted not only because of their addicting deliciousness, but also because of their unique story. Derived from the word “confetum”, meaning “packaged”, the actual origin of the candy remains a mystery. It is said that during Roman times the word was used to describe dried fruits, hazelnuts or pinenuts covered in honey. Romans would throw confetti as a symbol of good luck at weddings, birthdays and even at theater performances that were particularly entertaining. By the Middle Ages what we know today as modern confetti began to be produced. Italy stands as the world’s largest producer of confetti, with Sulmona regarded as the birthplace of its modern day variation of almonds dipped in colorful sugar coatings. Typical Sulmonese confetti are produced in the traditional style using Avola almonds from Sicily. Although confetti remains part of every major Italian celebration, ironically Spain and Portugal are said to be the world’s largest consumers of the sugary droplets. Whether delicately wrapped to look like bouquets of vibrant wildflowers or primly boxed and bagged in elegant wrapping, confetti are as interesting as they are delightful and an integral part of any authentic Sulmona experience.

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