Ortona is a town of about 24.000 inhabitants in the Province of Chieti. It is situated on a hilltop of the Adriatic coastline, about 22 km south of Pescara. In 2011, Ortona received the “Blue Flag” for the good conditions of its sea and shores.
Ortona was probably founded by Frentan tribes, which lived in the coastal area within Vasto, Ortona and Lanciano before Rome, or by pirates from the Balcan coast. On the ancient Italic town was then built up the Roman one. After the breakdown of the Roman Empire, the Lombards conquered the town, which became a part of Chieti’s county in 803, under the Franks. After the Normans’ conquest, in 1075, Ortona became a part of the Kingdom of Naples. In 1258 the relics of the Apostle Thomas were brought to Ortona. On 30th June 1447, it is recorded that Ortona was invaded by the Venetian army which destroyed the port, the stores and the naval arsenal but were not able to broke into the town’s wall. The Aragonese Castle was built up in those years to protect the town from possible wars against the rival Venice. Because of the tensions with Venice, Ortona preferred having relations and trades with the Dalmatian town of Ragusa. In 1582, Margaret of Austria, Charles V’s daughter, bought Ortona. After some riots in the first decades of 1800 against the Bourbons’ rule, Ortona became a town of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, though the resistance to the Piedmontese government persisted in the whole former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, addressed as “brigandism” by the official govern. After the Armistice and the fall of Fascism, the town became a battlefield. In the night between 9th and 10th September 1943, the Italian Royal Family, after having spent the night in the Ducal Castle of Crecchio, left Italy, occupied by the Nazis, from Ortona, heading for already liberated Brindisi. Ortona was crossed by the Gustav line that cut Italy in two from the west (Cassino) to the east (Ortona). The Adriatic town was so heavily bombed and cannoned that only few buildings survived the havoc that made the English Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, call Ortona “little Stalingrad”. Only in December 1943, the town was liberated by the Allies that overtook the Gustav line on the Tyrrhenian side. Ortona was awarded with the Medal of Honour.