L'Aquila, which means The EAGLE, is the capital of Abruzzo and in 2009 had 73,150 residents, but has a daily population of over 100,000. It is surrounded by the Apennine Mountains with the Gran Sasso d'Italia to the north east. The city was was united by Conrad IV in 1254 by partnering with the 99 castles, some of which are still standing and worth a visit. One Castle that I visited, the Spanish Fortress was built in 1534 and was converted into a museum and center for the arts in the historic center of town. It was severly damaged by the 2009 quake and is blocked off to visitors, but I did get to walk around the exterior.
Other points of interest, all of which were severly damaged by the earthquake include the St Mary Collemaggio church built in 1287 by Pope Celestine V and the Church of St Berardino built in 1454. It was damaged in the earthquake of 1461 and is the site of St. Berardino's body.