Welcome to Sannio

Published in Out of Town
06 November 2015

In discovery of the province of Benevento, amidst local curiosities, medieval history, monuments and tourist attractions. Five communes chosen by Where to make your trip memorable.  

The province of Benevento, bordering to the South with Irpinia, to the West with Casertano, to the North with Molise and to the East with Puglia, has such unique morphological, historical and anthropological characteristics that for a moment, following the Unification of Italy, there was talk of actually creating a separate region: the  Sannio. Where has chosen five communes to accompany you in discovery of a truly fascinating, unique area.

Pietraroja, whose name derives from the French ‘pierre rouge’ (red stone) due to the presence, in the area, of some limestone of this colour, is a mountain commune surrounded by woods abounding in natural springs. Although its most important monument is the Romanesque Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta, another unmissable attraction is its Geo-Paleontological Park, with its museum, the Paleolabo, housing fossil finds of considerable note, including Ciro, the first baby dinosaur in Italy, several of whose internal organs are still intact.  

Cerreto Sannita, an outpost of Sannio Pentro (a Roman bridge known to the locals as ‘Annibale’ can still be seen here today together with a podium of the only Sannite Temple in Campania), is identified as a ‘planned community’ on account of its regular urban structure. Its reconstruction was, in fact, based on a project by the Carafa Counts following the earthquake of 1688 which razed the town to the ground. Italian writer and journalist Guido Piovene described it as follows : "...a complete reconstruction, in true Baroque style, capable of surprising even the most discerning visitors”. The archaeological recovery of its medieval centre, known as the ‘Medieval Pompeii’, is currently in progress. Awarded Orange Flag certification by Touring Club Italiano and boasting ‘Città dell’olio’ (‘City of Oil’) designation, Cerreto  is renowned for its age-old ceramic-making tradition which flourished following the earthquake of 1688 when the reconstruction of the town attracted scores of Neapolitan potters who, absolved from paying taxes, combined their experience with that of local potters to give life to a new, more opulent, Baroque-style porcelain. Since that time, the ceramics of Cerreto have become highly sought-after objects.  In fact, several of the figurines displayed in the manger of the Reggia di Caserta, were actually crafted by master potters from Cerreto.  

For more than three centuries, Cerreto has shared the art of ceramic-making with the nearby commune of San Lorenzello. Its historic centre boasts two churches, the Church of San Lorenzo, which houses the wooden sculpture of the town’s patron saint, and the Church of the Congregazione della Sanità,  rich in exquisite ceramic works of art including a majolica tympanum by  Antonio Giustinianei, father of the better-known Nicola. Along the via Regia, on the banks of the river Titerno, we find the  Park of San Sebastiano, home to the City of Dinosaurs, a recreational park stretching over roughly one hectare where visitors can admire fifteen reproductions  of fiberglass dinosaurs located in evocative natural surroundings.

Guardia Sanframondi owes its name to the Sanframondo family who built an imposing medieval castle here. Today, the castle serves as the town’s cultural hub and is used for performances, film screenings, art and photographic exhibitions.  The commune, renowned, above all, for its noble wines produced by the Guardiense winery, is a picturesque area whose distinguishing features include its lovely medieval town, rolling hills dotted with pine and oak woods but, above all, vast stretches of vineyards and olive groves. The historical centre, built up around the castle, though partly abandoned following the earthquake of 1980, still retains several medieval attractions of note. The area is home to a number of lovely small Baroque churches including the  Santuario dell'Assunta, with its opulent golden stuccoes.

Lastly, we recommend pushing farther north to the picturesque village of Cusano Mutri, whose typically medieval historical centre retains all of its original old-world charm intact with its narrow streets, porticoes and houses boasting elaborately stone-worked portals and windows. The oldest church in the commune is the Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo and San Giovanni while the largest is the Church of San Giovanni Battista whose precious shrine contains a thorn from the woven crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus during the events leading up to his Crucifixion.

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