It started with a chance meeting and later it became a tiny obsession, a little itch that needed to be scratched.
The meeting was with Gaetano of Vestina News and the obsession was the word Vestina.
I first met Gaetano during the summer as I tried to find the best vantage point to take photographs of the San Zopito festival in Loreto Aprutino. The town was thronged and I was trying to get an unobstructed shot of the ox and the “angel” as they progressed through the narrow streets.
Gaetano was filming for Vestina News, attempting to get the best shots he could for the 30 minute short movies he regularly makes for television. I managed to get a great position and rattled off some photos. He was close by in an equally good position and was filming with enthusiasm. We got talking, he gave me his card and I thought nothing more about it.
A few days later P and I were on our way to visit Tenuta Arabona as part of the Cantine Aperte weekend. We decided to go a little outside our usual comfort zone and picked Tenuta Arabona in Manoppello Scalo (PE) and Cantina Zaccagnini in Bolognano (PE) as our cantine of choice. A journey through the Abruzzo countryside on a summer’s afternoon with the prospect of tasting some nice wine – no great hardship really.
We arrived at Tenuta Arabona on time, but too early! There were some teething problems and they asked us to be patient and the tour would start in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes became half an hour but we didn’t really mind, we were made feel welcome and we were happy to sit calmly and relax. The tour was great and the wines we tasted and bought were fantastic. They were very proud of the fact that Arabona wines are sulphite free.
Before all that as we were waiting a car pulled up and out popped Gaetano and Antonio of Vestina News. They were doing a piece on Tenuta Arabona for television. We got talking again about Loreto Aprutino, San Zopito, wine and photography. During the conversation I asked about the name of his company and significance of the word Vestina.
He explained to me that as Loreto Aprutino was in the ancient lands of the Vestini tribe and since many of the places he films are within that region it made sense to use Vestina News as the name of the company.
He listed towns that would be considered to be part of the land of the Vestini: Montesilvano, Città Sant’Angelo, Loreto Aprutino, Penne, Farindola and Montebello di Bertona. But when I asked where the region began and where it ended he either wasn’t sure or more likely my Italian wasn’t up to his answer.
That’s where my small obsession started. I wanted to find out where the lands of the Vestini were. I call it a small obsession, but that isn’t really fair. It’s not that I’ve spent every day searching for information on Vestina to the neglect of all other things. All I did was leave Gaetano’s card near my computer so that whenever I had a free moment it would encourage me to search for the Vestini.
The internet, books and brochures all seemed to confirm the same things. The Vestini lived in a region north of the Pescara River stretching west to the Gran Sasso. There are references to the tribe by Strabo (63/64 BC – ca. AD 24), Ptolomy (c. AD 90 – c. AD 168) and Pliny the Elder (23 AD – August 25, 79). Their neighbours on the other side of the river were the Marrucini and to the north there were the Petruzii.
The symbol of Abruzzo, the Warrior of Capestrano, is thought to represent a leader of the Vestini according to few references I’ve found.
One piece of information was missing – how far north could you go and still be in Vestina? Did it end as you left the province of Pescara or did it include parts of Teramo? Then this week I had a breakthrough. I noticed a reference that indicated the Petruzii tribe occupied the region between the Tronto and Vomano Rivers which implies Vestina stretches into Teramo as far as the Vomano. Following the Adriatic that takes them past Pineto and close to Roseto degli Abruzzi.
If I’m right the Vestini occupied the territory roughly outlined in the map below (click to enlarge the image).
If anybody has more information on Vestina I’d love to hear it. I do realise that I may not have the region mapped out completely correctly so all help would be gratefully received. I suspect it goes further west than I’ve marked.
Let’s go back to Vestina News, where all this began.
Gaetano and Antonio have an archive of around 200 documentaries on various aspects of Abruzzo. They’re in Italian, but that might suit you. The latest video on their site is Pian’Olio 2010 from Pianella. If you go to their archives you can see documentaries on religious festivals, food festivals, Abruzzo traditions, places of note and much, much more. Their first video was a visit to the Cantina Talamonte in 2007. If you have an interest in the part of Abruzzo that could be considered Vestina, the chances are they’ve created a documentary for you.
That’s it, my itch is feeling suitably scratched.