In the mountains of the Maiella massif, very rare inscriptions from the second half of the 19th century provide an insight into the lives of the famous “briganti,” the bandits and highwaymen that resisted the Italian troops after the unification of Italy in 1861.
Names, dates, and symbols are written all over an area densely covered in flat calcareous rocks high in the Apennines, at over 6,500 feet above sea level. They were written by bands of rebels, robbers, and outlaws following the conquest of the southern Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, leading to a unified Italian kingdom. The widespread brigantaggio movement opposed the way Southern Italy was being integrated into the young nation, and demanded social and economic changes with tactics like Robin Hood-style robbery and guerrilla violence.
The briganti thrived in areas with plenty of places to hide, and the movement was particularly strong in the Maiella region of Abruzzo. There, the young Italian government built the Blockhaus military barracks a short distance away from where the inscriptions were found. The etchings were written by a briganti group known as the Banda della Maiella, who hid in these mountains and resisted the Italian government until the end of the 19th century.
One inscription in particular stands out, reading “Leggete la mia memoria per i cari lettori. Nel 1820 nacque Vittorio Emanuele Re d’Italia. Prima il 60 era il regno dei fiori, ora è il regno della miseria.” It roughly translates to, “Read my memoirs my dear readers. In 1820 Victor Emanuel, King of Italy, was born. Before 1860, this was the kingdom of flowers, now it’s the kingdom of poverty.”
Know Before You Go
The inscriptions can be reached from the trail that departs from Rifugio Pomilio. Past the Blockhaus and Monte Cavallo, a secondary trail marked by an arrow and a small cairn signal the location of the inscriptions.