“In a hurry, out of laziness, due to a lack of information, our steps often lead us to the places trampled by everyone else”. I could not have said it better and so I borrowed this phrase from an article by Alessandra Mammì for D of Repubblica to confirm that most of the time the real discoveries and beautiful and fascinating places are not only postcard-like, but also places not far from us.
Places not just as a postcard
And it is of these that we want to talk to you in this post in which we tell our journey in the province of Isernia, established in 1970 in that part of Molise that is wedged in Abruzzo. The city has the title of the first capital of Italy and in 1960 it was awarded the Gold Medal for civil valor for the massacres and destruction of the war suffered during the Second World War.
In its territory natural beauties still remain intact and those who travel from south to north as we did, from Venafro to Castel del Giudice, can not help but to glance over the high reliefs dominating the blue sky and the peaks sprinkled with snow, which turns blue-purple at sunset.
And the villages that meet along the way are full of history, culture, traditions: a sort of large open-air museum in which each center becomes a sort of window displaying the historical events of the places: from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages , from the flourishing pastoral culture of the 16th century to the Risorgimento age, up to the bombardments between 1943 and 1944.
The first country on the path that immediately catches our attention is Cerro al Volturno, a town leaning against a limestone cliff on which stands an imposing 15th century castle that seems completely inaccessible. The more we look at it, the more familiar it seems to us … But yes, it is him, the manor that in 1980 was depicted on the 200 lire stamp of the series on castles, which of course does not lack in my collection!
On the road in several points, below us, the Volturno, a fast and deep river, peeks out, which has its origin in this area of Molise. In the seventh century the important Benedictine Abbey of San Vincenzo al Volturno was founded near its sources, which became a thriving monastic complex. Mr. Giovanni Iannacone talked about it during his visit to the Archaeological Museum of Venafro where everything on the site was found in the excavations that have occurred over time. According to the “Chronicon Vulturnense” of 1130 the monastery was founded between 705-707, but reached its maximum expression, becoming a real monastic city with about 350 monks and ten churches in the ninth century. It was completely destroyed by a sacking by Saracens in the pay of the duke-bishop of Naples. So it was rebuilt on the other bank of the river, the right one, but the Norman conquest marked its decline.
In the workshops around the church were worked silver, ivory, vitreous enamel, bronze and especially the glass that was used for the windows: finds that attest to its existence are preserved in the rooms of the Archaeological Museum of Venafro. Today the whole site can be visited including the Epiphanius Crypt, decorated with a beautiful cycle of frescos, one of the most important of European early medieval painting.
But it is advisable to organize the visit as the entrance to the crypt is limited: information on opening hours and tickets on the website www.musei.molise.beniculturali.it. Unfortunately for us it was not possible to visit because the Monday is all closed, but we have inserted it in the agenda for the next tour.
Shortly after you reach the Alta Valle del Sangro and we are in Abruzzo, in the heart of the historic Abruzzo National Park, inserted in a beautiful environment dominated by the river that flows between the many ancient centers embellished with notable evidence of art. Once in Ateleta you return to Molise. The history of this town that at the beginning of the nineteenth century had few inhabitants and few houses deserves a mention. Then Gioacchino Murat to promote its development exempted the cultivated lands from tributes by calling the village Ateleta, without taxes, and the citizens, as a sign of gratitude, dedicated the parish church to San Gioachino and took the Napoleonic eagle in the coat of arms.
So you lead to Castel del Giudice, a town of ancient origin, grouped around a spur, home to Giacomo Caldora, a famous 15th century leader. Today the small town is living a second life thanks to the careful and accurate architectural recovery of the ancient rural village on the slopes of the village, Borgotufi, restored and transformed into a widespread hotel.
Nearby and on the way home, now in Abruzzo, we were enchanted in the presence of small villages perched on rock ridges like Pescopennataro, whose houses, resembling towers, crown a craggy ridge.
Further ahead you pass in front of Villa Santa Maria, at the foot of the vertical cliffs of a spur, among rocks that resemble sharp blades. Then a blue spot: it is the lake of Bomba, an artificial basin created on the Sangro river with a high dam of compressed clay, the first of its kind built in Europe between 1956 and 1960.
The road sign indicates Lanciano: it is the direction to take the highway back home. We once again turn these wonderful scenarios and promise to return soon.