The first news of medieval settlements date back to the 11th century, when the centre was a checkpoint on the road connecting Chieti to the Monastery of Valva, and from the Chronicon Vulturnensis we know it consisted of 11 "villas" (a Latin term meaning an agricultural community): Castello Alberico, Pizzo Inferiore and Pizzo Superiore, Castelcieco, Pietrabbondante, Valle della Terra, Forca di Palena, Villa Sant'Egidio, Malvicino, Villa San Cristanziano and Lettopalena. In this period the castle was built by the Maneri family, lords also of Pacentro. Then in the 14th and 15th century it was ruled by th Orsini family, later on by the powerful Caldora, who made Palena an administrative centre for the rich Maiella pastures. In 1447 a census was made in the Sangro Valley, and Palena had a count of 824 inhabitants.
The last medieval lords were the d'Aquino. There were two terrible earthquakes in 1456 and 1706. The Second World War caused massive destruction in the area, and now only ruins of the 11th-century castle, the belltower of the parish church and the fine chiesa del Rosario are left as memories of its glorious past.