"Do you know Molise?" this is the question that any Molise asks when talking about his region, fully embodying that sense of visceral belonging that binds him inextricably to his land and that innate desire to tell his origins.
"But does Molise exist?" the classic answer to the aforementioned question, assuming theories that see Molise as a simple border line between Abruzzo and Puglia, or as a huge gulf that bathes Campania, Lazio, Puglia and Abruzzo. "Molise exists and is a wonderful place" which is not just the classic commentary of any Molise since the New York Times has included it fully among the 52 destinations to visit in 2020 (reached 37th place ) calling it "one of the most spectacular parts of the country and its youngest region": one of the most spectacular parts of Italy as well as its youngest region. Also in Molise we find the beautiful Termoli defined by easyvoyage as the "Italian Greenwich", seaside resort par excellence, awarded several times with the recognition of the Blue Flag of Europe and therefore one of the top 5 destinations according to the well-known easyvoyage website.
What do we know about the twentieth region of Italy?
The adjective that best sums up the ancient land of the Samnites is "unexpected". And yes, Molise is really unexpected! His landscapes are unexpected, ranging from the green of the Matese mountains to the blue of the Adriatic Sea. Its flavors are unexpected, telling us about heady scents and simple but genuine dishes. Its traditions are unexpected, such as the mysteries of Campobasso, the devil of Tufara, the Pizzicantò of Castellino del Biferno or the carresi of the lower Molise, deriving from ancient pagan rites. The history of Molise is unexpected, which has always been a crossroads of peoples, each of which has left unique archaeological evidence. Molise art is unexpected, ranging from magnificent portals carved with skill and passion in the limestone by the masters of Pescopennataro, to the bells of the pontifical Marinelli foundry in Agnone, up to the tombolo d'Isernia, unique laces, expertly made in hand from the women of the city pentra.
It is worthwhile to better explore this still little-known region, where nature, history, art, traditions and gastronomy come together in a unique mix, all to be discovered.
Traveling in Molise
Bagnoli del Trigno
Entering the numerous roads that lead from the province of Campobasso to that of Isernia, you arrive in Bagnoli del Trigno, nicknamed "the pearl of Molise". Bagnoli is a very characteristic village located about 35 km from both Campobasso and Isernia. In addition to being nestled in the rock this small village, on August 18 of each year, attracts many visitors on the occasion of the Frammenti D’Antico festival, a medieval festival that attracts tourists from all over Italy.
From the highway that leads from Campobasso to Isernia, it is impossible not to notice the Sanctuary of the Addolorata di Castelpetroso. The sanctuary is located about 13 km from Isernia and 40 from Campobasso and has a truly majestic bulk.
The style of the structure is neo-Gothic and the interiors are essential, and this makes the sanctuary an unmissable stop for passing travelers.
Isernia is the second province of Molise and was the capital of the people of Samnite origins. Sacked by the Saracens, destroyed during the Second World War due to a strong bombing, it fortunately managed to maintain its ancient appearance in the lower part of the city, and still stands out today for its narrow, very suggestive and characteristic alleys.
Among the most interesting monuments of the city, we find the Fraternal Fountain built between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in honor of one of the illustrious citizens: Pope Celestino V. Also noteworthy is the Cathedral, rebuilt in the nineteenth century after suffering numerous damages due to earthquakes , which houses a beautiful Byzantine style icon, known as "The Madonna of the light".
The Pentra city is also famous for the Paleolithic museum. In fact, man already settled in this land 700,000 years ago, thus creating the first camps. Even today, "homo iserniensis" is studied throughout Europe.
Isernia dunque è caratterizzata da una storia millenaria, in cui i popoli succedutisi hanno lasciato tracce straordinarie, da esplorare cogliendo l?essenza dell?armonia che l?uomo del passato è riuscito a costruire nel suo rapporto con la natura.
Province of Isernia: Frosolone, Collemeluccio Reserve, Vanafro, Scapoli and Pietrabbondante
Not only the city of Isernia, but also its province, contain attractions and places of interest.
Starting from Frosolone, "the city of knives", where you can visit the Museum of cutting tools, up to the Collemeluccio Reserve, a natural area declared a UNESCO heritage site located in the municipality of Pescolanciano. Without forgetting the wonderful village of Venafro and the Pandone Castle, inside which the National Museum of Molise is located. Pietrabbondante deserves a special mention, a tiny medieval village that preserves the remains of a theater dating back to the Samnite era. According to historical sources, the meetings of the ancient Italic peoples took place in this theater.
For music lovers, a trip to Scapoli, a small village in the Pentra province, famous for its bagpipes, cannot be missing. Here the production is still artisanal and this makes the bagpipes of Scapoli unique. To date, the bagpipes are part of a thousand-year-old "ethnic" musical tradition with dedicated events and concerts.
Castel San Vincenzo
Entering the upper Molise, you get to Caste San Vincenzo. This is the classic village of the past that seems to be suspended in an era that is now out of date. But its beauty is just that.
It is located about 25 km from Isernia and it is advisable to visit it bringing with you a packed lunch to be enjoyed strictly by the lake or sunbathing.
Agnone is the most populous of the villages of Upper Molise with its 5,000 inhabitants. It is in this municipality that one of the oldest bell foundries in the world was born, the pontifical Marinelli Foundry. Today it is possible to visit it retracing the history of production in the museum adjacent to the foundry.
The "Ndocciata" takes place on 8 and 24 December in Agnone, a traditional festival based on the parade of huge torches carried by the inhabitants of the town on the streets of the town.
Campitello Matese is a mountain resort located in the heart of the Molise Apennines, more specifically on the slopes of Monte Miletto (2050 meters). It represents one of the most important winter tourist destinations in Molise as it offers one of the most snowy ski resorts in central-southern Italy. Not only skiing: those who love snowshoeing in the silence of nature can go through truly enchanting woods.
Capracotta is a village of just over 900 inhabitants located in upper Molise and is one of the highest among all the Apennine countries. The town as well as for the ski facilities and for the structures dedicated to cross-country skiing, is famous for the piebald, a characteristic festival that takes place every year in August during which you can taste the typical dish of the place, the piebald indeed.
In 2015 Capracotta ended up in all the most important newspapers and TV in the world, from CNN to Mirror, because of the more than 256 cm of snow that fell in about 16 hours and this makes the town, the country with the highest percentage of snow fallen in 24 h in the world.
The cattle tracks, the so-called "green highways" deserve a special mention. They are ancient beaten grass paths that ply the entire Molise in several points and according to different directions, from Mainarde to the Adriatic coast. Along these thousand-year paths, you can retrace the history of people, shepherds and warriors going to Jerusalem or dedicated to the ancient transhumant pastoralism.
Some sheep tracks go back to the pre-Roman era, others to a couple of centuries ago and offer unique itineraries, such as the one that unites the Gargano National Park with that of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise.
In 2019 the transhumance was recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of Italy.
Along the way, in addition to important archaeological, artistic and religious sites, it is still possible to meet some nostalgic shepherd who leads their flocks, finding rhythms, sounds, traditions of another era.