On the slopes of Monte Santa Croce stands the Pandone Castle, surrounded by imposing walls guarded by towers from which it sweeps across the plain of Volturno and where they are collected a thousand years of art and history between Molise and Campania.
The visit to the ancient village
The visit starts from the main floor of the castle in which the horses are frescoed on the walls commissioned by Enrico Pandone: these are portraits of in 26 stallions in natural size that represent the favorites of his stable.
Each specimen is characterized by elegant saddles and the fire brand of the Pandones, a rhombus inscribed in a square and surmounted by a cross, with the letter H in the center, and is accompanied by annotations regarding race, age and name.
In the other rooms of the castle are exhibited works of the regional territory, as well as from the deposits of the Museums of Capodimonte and San Martino di Napoli, the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome and the Royal Palace of Caserta. Enchanting the polyptych with scenes from the Passion of Christ, made in alabaster in the fifteenth century by an English shop in Nottingham.
The visit to Venafro, after deepening the history of the village to the Archaeological Museum and the Castle, proceeds with the walk in the historic center.
Coming down from the fortress towards the baroque church of the Annunziata, gathered in a small square decorated with charming lodges and with the façade made of material from the nearby Roman theater, we were lucky enough to meet two very kind gentlemen who accompanied us to discover the Purtella. This is a small, low and tortuous five meter long covered path that today connects two streets and was probably a secret passage in medieval times used as an escape route to go outside the walls: we could never have identified it by ourselves!
The tour continues among imposing mansions, including Palazzo Cimorelli that hosted Vittorio Emanuele II the night before the meeting of Teano, Palazzo Caracciolo, a massive and square defensive tower crowned with strong crenellations, and the Town Hall.
A stop in front of the Monument to the Fallen commemorating the 400 victims, a hundred unarmed citizens and 300 French soldiers, who lost their lives on March 15, 1944 because of the dramatic mistake that the American planes poured tons of bombs, directed to the nearby Montecassino German stronghold, on Venafro. On the same square overlooks the eighteenth-century church of Purgatory.
Venafro was called “city of the 33 churches” from the considerable number of religious buildings that dot it and among which stand out the concattedrale of Santa Maria Assunta and the basilica sanctuary of the SS. Martyrs Nicandro, Marciano and Daria, protectors of the city.
Going back in time, the ancient Venafrum remains the Cyclopean Walls and, nearby, the Roman Theater, one of the most important monuments, relevant for its size.
On the other side of the city the Amphitheater, called “Verlasce”, on whose original structures were built later buildings that follow the elliptic trend and which give the place a great charm.
Our walk ended at the source of the other watercourse that runs along the plain where Venafro emerges, the San Bartolomeo and which are located right in the center of the town, where there is the little lake “la pescara” with the Liberty palace and the fountain of the four cinnamons. In the park around Otto played in the green and looked intrigued at the great geese that now live permanently here.
By car we have instead reached the Oraziano Park, better known by the Venafranis as “Campaglione”, which became the Regional Agricultural Park of Olivo di Venafro, a protected area to protect the olive grove of the territory and the splendid ancient olive trees of which Venafro is rich , also boasting its own native species, the Aurino.
Besides the oil, to take away as a greedy souvenir, we recommend “i v’scuott”, Venafro taralli, braided rings of crispy bread dough.
Did all this turn you hungry? Stop by Brothers Cafè Bistrot to taste Molise and Campania specialties that recall the ancient borders, Venafro was included in the Terra di Lavoro in the Caserta area, and the origins of Dario and Maria Rita who are from Mondragone.
National Museum of Molise Castello Pandone
Via Tre Cappelle
Tel .: +39 0865 904698 – pm-mol.polomusealedelmolise.it
Days and opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday and holidays from 8 to 19.