Leave your Abruzzo holiday villa in Ascigno and head for Casoli, where you’ll pick up the signs for Gessopalena. Twenty minutes later, you’ll be looking at one of Abruzzo’s best-known – and best-loved landmarks.
La Morgia is a massively-imposing wedge of limestone, 130 metres (426 feet) high, that squats midway between Gessopalena and Torricella Peligna. At about five o’clock on this particular March afternoon, its natural drama was fleetingly illuminated by one broad, theatrical shaft of sunlight piercing slate-coloured rainclouds.
The road between Gessopalena and Torricella Peligna obligingly skirts La Morgia, giving you the chance to inspect all the angles – and reflect that had circumstances been just slightly different, you might be looking at a pile of rubble.
That’s because until as recently as the early 1990s, this massive and majestic outcrop was seen as not only as a landmark, but also as an easily-accessible source of limestone. Quarrying continued ruthlessly and was only finally halted after intense local pressure.
But the end of quarrying came too late to prevent lasting damage to La Morgia’s appearance in the shape of a distinctive notch in its crown. And this is where the story takes a unique and unexpected turn.
In the mid-1990s, after exhaustive and persuasive discussions, the region of Abruzzo, the province of Chieti and the comune of La Majella gave their permission for several natural features in the area to be used as settings and components for a series of integrated artworks.
The result is an artwork called simply ‘La Morgia’. Made of Costas’ trademark materials of steel and green glass, it is 20 metres long by 11 metres high, (about 66 x 36 feet), and was finally completed in 1998.
You can find out the full story of this project – and all La Majella’s other natural artworks – in English and Italian, here.
As for the artist, Costas Varotsos is a widely-exhibited sculptor in both Europe and the USA. His latest work is again in steel and green glass, but could hardly be more different to ‘La Morgia’. I’d love to say you’ll see it when you check into your Abruzzo holiday villa, but the million dollar price-tag was a bit of a stumbling block, so you’ll find it instead outside the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, USA.
(For larger images, click on pictures in text)