Approach to safety evaluations issued by modern codes is clearly based on quantitative assessment of performances. As a consequence, validated mechanical parameters and numerical models should be made available on large scale for practical applications. This is the background of the present paper that deals with a specific type of masonry largely used in Central Italy and particularly in Umbria and Abruzzo region, whose territory exhibits a relevant seismic risk. A research project focused on the shear behavior of masonry panels subjected to in situ diagonal compression tests has been issued. The project consists of two parts: tests were performed on unreinforced and reinforced panels. As to the unreinforced panels, focusing attention on the diagonal cracking failure mode, the experimental research allowed to provide representative values of the mechanical parameters adopted to define the limit strength domain of some typical masonry walls in old buildings of Umbria and Abruzzo. Conversely, reinforced panels were tested aimed at investigating the effectiveness of existing methods of repair. A comparison between traditional and innovative seismic-upgrading techniques has been made in order to characterize the behavior of historical masonry walls under different strengthening configurations.