The Monti Dauni are revealed with modesty, rolling reliefs on which there are enchanting villages to be discovered. Beautiful in every season, this land gives its best in spring, when it welcomes the traveler with a thousand shades of green, the soft one of wheat ears to the most intense of the woods, punctuated by the yellow of daisies and brooms, the fire red of poppies up to the violet of the flowers of the Judas tree and to the delicate pink of the almond trees in bloom. A palette that would make any painter fall in love!
Among the jewel villages of the Monti Dauni: Ascoli Satriano, Bovino and Troia
A walk in the countryside of the Monti Dauni in this period also satisfies lovers of good taste with the collection of wild herbs and wild asparagus, the basis of traditional seasonal cuisine. Which among its gastronomic treasures also includes many edible flowers, including the flat, white and fragrant elderberry, excellent fried. An advice for everyone, greedy or not: when you are here, take a deep breath to experience intense wellbeing and not easily available elsewhere!
The itinerary that we followed this time brought us on the trail of the ancient people who colonized these lands, the Dauni, warlike, refined people, dedicated to pastoralism and agriculture, to the craft of iron and ceramics, but above all with a remarkable cult of the dead.
You need to get to Ascoli Satriano to admire the wonderful Griffins, kept in the “Pasquale Rosario” Archaeological Civic Museum, housed in the monumental complex of Santa Maria del Popolo within the “Policromie del Sublime” section.
You are left breathless before the perfect beauty of this ritual table, from Aphrodisias of Caria in Turkey and dating back to the fourth century BC. and found in a dauna tomb.
In the darkness and in silence, as we have admired it, the couple of mythological animals seem to flicker while a deer strikes and catches the gaze that rests on the elegant shapes of the marble and precious trapezophoros.
It is not the only treasure in the room: in the center, in an illuminated casket, emerges a podanipter, the great ritual basin for washing the feet, with polychrome mythological figures.
At this point we must tell the story of how these enchanting finds came back after several laps, where they were found in a dauna chamber tomb.
In the late ’70s it was a local tombarolo to discover them by selling them to the famous merchant of works of art Giacomo Medici. They were later resold to an international trafficker and bought in 1985 by the Paul Getty Museum in Malibu.
Shortly before his death, however, the tombarolo wanted to confess his crime and this enabled the discovery of the works together with another stolen treasure, the statue of the god Apollo of the II century AD. which since 2010 has been showcasing itself with the Griffins in the Ascoli Satriano museum.
A tour of the villages of Monti Dauni can not ignore two other symbolic elements of the area: castles and cathedrals. Among the first, our choice fell on Bovino, where majestic dominates the village and the Valle del Cervaro the Ducal Castle, inhabited by the De Guevara family until 1961 and now home to the Diocesan Museum and an elegant bed and breakfast.
In Bovino it is nice to get lost in the streets and squares and find yourself almost suddenly in the presence of the Cathedral, with a sober and imposing Romanesque style but with Byzantine elements. Look carefully at the facade: from the classic gabled shape it has a particularity as it is asymmetrical!
On the way to the sacred you can not help but go through Troia, a village marked by the passage of the Via Francigena traveled by thousands of pilgrims. Here the protagonist is the Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, a nineteenth-century masterpiece in Romanesque style, with its spectacular rosette and unique in the world as it consists of 11 rays instead of 12 resting on a circle of stone worked in scales, a sort of snake biting its tail, a symbol of eternity.
From a distance it looks like a fine lace embroidered in stone and set in a facade full of zoomorphic and fantastic symbols in which another element, rather rare in the ancient churches of Italy, stands out, the presence of two bronze doors by Oderisio da Benevento: the Gate of Prosperity and the Gate of Liberty.
Pride of the Cathedral’s Treasure Museum are the Exultet, scrolls of parchment from the IX and XII centuries containing deep theological truths lined and miniated by hand: there are 32 specimens throughout the world and 3 of these are kept at Troia.
After admiring these wonders, take the time to walk slowly down the main road, perhaps by taking a seat at the outside tables of a bar: we did it on a sunny Sunday morning full of sun and people. The profound sense of peace we felt gave us a rare and precious wellbeing to be treasured.