Molise is one of the smallest of Italy’s regions and lies in the south of Italy on the ‘ankle’ of the boot. The landscape of Molise includes mountains, hills and a coastline on the Adriatic Sea. The region is sparsely populated. The capital city of Molise is Campobasso.
Molise is the newest Italian region, since it was established in 1963, when the region Abruzzi e Molise was split in two. It became effective only in 1970. The capital is the city of Campobasso. The region is located in South Italy bordered by Abruzzo to the north, Lazio to the west, Campania to the south, Apulia to the southeast and the Adriatic Sea to the east. The region is largely unspoilt and inland has mountains, the largest of which is the 8,202 ft, Monte Miletto, and hills whilst the coastal area offers 35km lovely, quiet sandy beaches, the southern Adriatic coast is considered to be one of Italy’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. The region comprises the provinces of Campobasso and Isernia and still relies heavily on agriculture and livestock raising.
Campobasso is the capital of the Molise region and of the province of Campobasso. It is located in the high basin of the Biferno river, surrounded by the Sannio and Matese mountains. Campobasso is renowned for the craftmanship of blades. It is also famous for the production of pears and scamorza (cheese).
The main attraction of Campobasso is the Castello Monforte, built in 1450 by the local ruler Nicola II Monforte, over Lombard or Norman ruins. The castle has Guelph merlons and stands on a commanding point, where traces of ancient settlements (including Samnite walls) have been found. The current construction is the result of later rebuildings after the earthquakes of 1456 and 1805.
Next to the castle is the Chiesa della Madonna del Monte (Santa Maria Maggiore), erected in the 11th century and rebuilt in 1525. It houses a precious wooden statue of the Incoronata from 1334. Below the castle, the church of St. George is probably the oldest in Campobasso, built around the year 1000 AD over the ruins of a Pagan temple.
The Cathedral, or Chiesa della Santissima Trinità (Church of the Holy Trinity), was built in 1504 outside the city walls. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1805 and a new Neoclassical edifice was built in 1829.
The church of San Bartolomeo is a Romanesque building from the 11th century, in limestone. The interior has a nave and two aisles.
San Leonardo (14th century) has a façade mixing Gothic and Romanesque elements, and a side mullioned window with vegetable decorations influenced by the Apulian architecture of the period.
Villa de Capoa, recently restored, is a noteworthy garden with statues and a wide variety of plant species, including sequoias, Norway Spruces, cypresses and Lebanon Cedars.
Termoli lies on the Adriatic coast of Italy, in the province of Campobasso. It has a population of around 32,000, having expanded quickly after World War II, and it is a local resort town known for its beaches and old fortifications. Once it was known only as a fishing port, but in the new millennium it is a favourite resort for Italian families.
Historical old town. The old town has been well restored. It is a genuine walled community jutting out into the sea. Many of the houses have been re-built and painted in a range of pastel colours. In a central square there is the Cathedral (12th-13th century), entitled to St. Mary of the Purification: it is a noteworthy example of Apulian Romanesque architecture which houses the relics of the two city’s patrons, Bassus and Timoteus. The Castle is the most pre-eminent structure in Termoli: erected by count Robert I of Loritello during the Norman domination (11th century), it was largely renovated during the rule of Frederick II (1240), after the damage created by an attack of the Venetian fleet. The Castle was part of a wider fortification system, including a wall surrounding the entire city, of which only a tower can still be seen.
Termoli’s resorts are renowned for the quality of its beaches and the relative purity of its waters. Palm trees have been planted along the seaside walkway and, in the summer, the many restaurants are crowded with visitors.
Also look out for the Trebuchet of Termoli.
Agnone is known for the manufacturing of bells by the Marinelli Bell Foundry. It is 22 miles northwest of Campobasso. Agnone lies on a rocky spear in the mountainous regions of Molise (Alto Molise). Farms and country houses surround the city. The Sangro River also passes by Agnone. The Pontifical Fonderia Marinelli (the Marinelli Pontifical Foundry), an ancient factory of bells has been operating in Agnone for nearly a millennium. It ranks as one of the oldest companies in the world, where the Marinelli family has run the foundry for the last 1000 years. This factory has a museum, where bells of almost a thousand years of antiquity to more recent others are displayed. It is also possible to observe the artisan process of the manufacturing of bells. The factory was visited by the Pope John Paul II in 1995 as many of the foundry’s bells can be found at the Vatican.
On Christmas Eve Agnone holds the “Carnevale Agnonese“ that holds a “Ndocciata,” which is a huge torchlight parade of thousands of handmade, wooden torches made into nine different quarters (“borgate”), accompanied by the sound of bagpipes, to the Piazza Plebiscito where a brotherhood bonfire is lit. The Fiera delle Arti e Mestieri Antichi (Arts and Antique Crafts Fair), is held 17 to 19 August where a large area of the old town home to artisans, display their works. Artisan’s crafts at the fair generally include goldsmiths, tinkers, tanners, wrought-iron, lace and embroidery.
Isernia is situated on a rocky crest between the Carpino and the Sordo rivers, the plan of Isernia still reflects the ancient layout of the Roman town, with a central wide street, the cardo maximus, still represented by Corso Marcelli, and side streets at right angles on both sides.
Although having been object of repeated destruction, Isernia preserves a large number of monuments of fairly good archaeological interest. The historical center still keeps intact the spare map structure of the Roman cities: in fact it represents the largest raced Marcelli street, around which there is an infinity of alleys and little spares, as for example, “Trento e Trieste” spares. The famous Fraterna Fountain, the town’s main symbol, was built in the 13th century: it is made up of living stone’s slabs coming from ruined Roman monuments, while all the rest is a work of local masters, cmomissioned by the Rampini family of Isernia.
The “Fontana Fraterna” is a refined public fountain with six water jets. It is built of Roman and Romanesque materials, and has been restored in 1835.
Isernia is also known for the archaeological excavation located within its borders, at Isernia La Pineta. Isernia La Pineta contains thousands of bones and stone tools covering 24,000 square yards. It was discovered in 1979, by an amateur naturalist noticed a bone sticking out of the side of a cut that had been created by the construction of the Napoli-Vasto motorway. The site was clearly created by humans, but its purpose is still unknown. The man who lived there was called Homo Aeserniensis.
The largest and most populous rural village (500 inhabitants approx.) close to Isernia is Castelromano, situated in a plateau at the foot of Mount La Romana (882 m) at an altitude of 680 m above sea level, about 5 km west of the city. The origin of the place is very old. It still has three impressive masonry walls placed to defend a fortified settlement (oppida) and an entrance off about 4 meters still visible where the road surface, dating to the 3rd and 4th centuries BC,
Venafro is situated at the foot of Mount Santa Croce. Venafro can be divided into two distinct areas: the old town, of Roman origin, enclosed by walls and dominated by Castle Pandone, and new town that has several newly developed neighborhoods. The old town was built on the existing Roman urban structure. The upper floors of buildings are residences, while the lower floor of the premises are used as shops.
Castle Pandone. Built in the highest part of the city, it derives its name from the Lombards who built it on an older fortification in the 10th century. In the 14th century it was expanded with the addition of three circular towers, and was transformed in the 15th century by adding a moat. Frescoes depicting horses, commissioned by Count Enrico Pandone, were added during the Renaissance. Currently, the halls of this castle have hosted an art gallery in which paintings are collected from several different churches abandoned or closed in Venafro.
There are the still visible remains of the Roman elliptical amphitheater. It is believed that the stands could hold up to 15,000 spectators.
The Roman Theater. In the town center are visible traces of a Roman aqueduct, , the walled city of the Samnites dating from the 4th century BC and one polygonal Samnite structure of the 1st century BC. Of Roman origin is the “Torricella”, a fortified structure recently restored to its former glory. Other monuments include “Market Tower” (Palazzo Caracciolo), a defensive structure with its massive medieval battlements. Due to a large number of churches in the area Venafro was given the nickname “The city of 33 churches.” These are many churches of various sizes and ages in the historic center and in the foothills area. Unfortunately, many places of worship are now closed and abandoned.
The Cathedral. The greatest cathedral of the city is situated at the foot of Parco Oraziano. Dating from the 5th century.
The Church of the Annunciation. The church is an example of Baroque architecture built in the 14th century, and has been repeatedly amended over time. The single nave interior preserves a crucifix of the 14th century.
In an 18th century monastic structure houses the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Santa Chiara.
The French Military Cemetery. Along Highway 85 to Isernia, on an extended flat area is the French war cemetery in which are buried about 4,500 (but many have been exhumed) soldiers.
The Parco Oraziano behind the city’s cathedral became the Regional Agricultural Historical Olive Park of Venafro. A regional law aimed at establishing a protected area to preserve the heritage of Venafro’s olives and olive trees. The Regional Agricultural Historical Olive Park of Venafro is the first park in the Mediterranean area with an olive theme.
Other ‘must see’ sights include
Church in the rock of Pietracupa at Pietracupa
Sanctuary of Addolorata at Castelpetroso
Angevin Castle of Civitacampomarano at Civitacampomarano
Samnite Theater at Pietrabbondante
There are only subtle differences between the cuisine of Abruzzo and Molise as their landscape are so similar, but Molise has some traditional dishes that are typical to the region. There is a great use of pasta and vegetables used together in dishes such as taccozzelle e fagioli, pasta with beans and tanne de rape, pasta with turnip greens. Polenta is also a staple food much used in the everyday dishes of Molise and goes exceptionally well with the rich sauces accompanying pork and lamb dishes.
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