“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.“.
They do not even touch, but it’s as if they had been separated at birth: Molise and Basilicata, as almost a pair of Siamese twins, are very similar territories that present the same somatic features with complementary characteristics.
Both have the same rural origins, are not extensive, have mountains, hills, rivers, lakes, as well as the sea; they have a myriad of quiet provinces, a lot of green, and a low-density, sprawled population. They are not regions that everyone talks about; on the contrary, they benefit from a good level of anonymity, making them quite special rarities worth visiting. Afflicted by problems that are normal in southern Italy – such as poor viability, low development or the random establishment of isolated, smoky factories – these two regions are populated by people who do not like to be talked about, except if there’s something valuable to be said. People who work, that even today have to bear seeing their children part far away, but that at the same time conserve a heap of precious traditions, monuments, art, knowledge and values; their personal traits remain unspoiled, just as the grains of earth that continue to tread on these grounds. Indeed, Molise and Basilicata are unspoiled: small but immense regions in which genuineness is breathed, touched and eaten. That is why, as if united by an invisible connecting thread, together they can give special moments of a simple and unique Italy, an Italy that is clean, wise, beautiful and charming from every single angle. I Viaggi dell’Origano proposes an eight-day tour, just over a week to take on a spirit of maximum aperture and thus relish on the thousand surprises offered by both the human and natural components of these regions, from the first to very last moment. Let’s discover together unexpected riches… in silent lands.
Late morning or early afternoon (depending on flights or train’s arrival times)
We depart from Rome with a minivan and escort. Castel Del Giudice, a delightful medieval village in the border between Abruzzo and Molise, will host our travellers on their first day. The village, situated in a mountainous terrain, is known to be an excellent example of renewal and beauty, a symbol of an active Italy that has been able to transform decaying areas into attractive and flourishing spaces. Thanks to a strong synergy between the municipal administration, citizens and entrepreneurs from a cluster of abandoned private stables, the hamlet of Borgo Tufi was created: a splendid example of smart restoration and conservation, with infrastructures that accurately represent the village’s rural history. As a matter of fact, Borgo Tufi is surrounded by orchards born from uncultivated, almost abandoned terrains that today produce organic apples from which marmalades, fruit juices and other derivates are elaborated. These products represent an effort for recuperating local agricultural practises, which is one of the main projects on which the community has focused.
This is the day dedicated to a first exploration of Molise’s highlands with a very relaxing and beneficial activity: trekking. A light walk accompanied by experienced guides, where little by little, we will head into this small mountainous paradise. Here, all the trails are fascinating, starting either from Capracotta and Vastogirardi or from the Natural Reserve of Montedimezzo, a Man and Biosphere reserve of the UNESCO. Forests, peaks, streams, plants and footpaths are joined together in a naturally-scented landscape where 48 mammal species move around, along with 112 types of birds, ten amphibian species, eight kinds of reptiles, five fish species and nine different invertebrates. There will be interesting excursions along the Celano-Foggia tratturo – an ancient transhumance trail – as well as we will have the opportunity to observe the marks of time in a dutiful visit to His Majesty, King Fajone: a secular beech tree of at least 500 years of age. Demolished by strong winds in a stormy night two years ago, the enormous tree of 25m high and 6.4m wide – of which only the stump of the trunk remains – is a true monument of time. This is the part of Molise characterised by vast spaces, natural herbs and essences, as well as royal tratturi that are still visible and walkable, just as shepherds and merchants of yore once did. The atmosphere, silent and welcoming, offers exciting traditions and a captivating simplicity found everywhere, which we will also discover through the meal of a typical restaurant of the zone.
Defined as “The Athens of the Sannio”, the town of Agnone is a true open-air museum and the protagonist of today’s journey: palaces and grand entrances, archives and libraries, craft shops – and of course, the prestigious bell factory – all in all represent the town’s riches, making it a unique destination within Italy’s historic and cultural panorama. The history of the Marinelli Foundry, the oldest bell factory in Italy of which origins remount to over a thousand years, was granted the privilege of carrying the Papal Coat of Arms by Pope Pio XI. Guided by its owners, we will go in a fascinating trip through a reality where cultural material, precise chemistry, art, sounds, tradition, history, faith and passion are truly amalgamated together to form a uniquely precious alloy. History, flavour and quality will also find space in the cheese workshop at a historic local dairy. We will discover different cheese types such as the scamorza, giuncate, trecce, ricotta and fiordilatte, as well as the mythical caciocavallo, a real pride of Molise’s gastronomic heritage. Later, a succulent meal and a stopover at the museum of dairy farming and transhumance will make us feel the living, palpitating roots of this corner of the Apennine mountains. To end the day, we will have a transfer towards the Biferno valley and a traditional dinner.
Straddling between two valleys, the Trigno and Biferno, at almost 900m in altitude, there is village that has much to tell: Frosolone. Its beautiful historic centre is known for the antique elaboration of artisanal knives and other blade tools. Among its other peculiarities, we can find milk production from mountain pasture cows, an activity linked to the ancient transhumance of cattle, which today is seeing a revival in younger generations. Scamorze, manteche, ricotta, and a special version of caciocavallo made with milk from the unique Podolica cattle breed, are true delights that can’t be missed. Dominated by the mountain, Frosolone teems with natural beauty: large pastures and vast beech woods that make its landscapes unmistakable. A nice walk in the area will serve as the prelude to a lunch based on local delicacies. After savouring the umpteenth flavour, we head back to our base where the time for true relaxation has finally arrived: why not indulge in a fluvial hydrotherapy experience? The structure that will host us will be well equipped for this and other activities aimed at physical and mental well-being.
A healthy, tranquil dinner will follow.
A hearty breakfast will give us the proper energy for the journey to Basilicata, historically known as Lucania, where we will first head towards the castle of Frederick II of Swabia (late 11th century). An enlightened ruler and excellent falconer, Frederick II was also the mysterious father of the Melfitan Constitutions, a set of rules that for the first time granted women several rights. We will have a stopover at the town of Melfi – one of Basilicata’s gems – where art, history and nature merge together. In this area, the Aglianico del Vulture, a DOC wine considered one of the most important red wines of Italy, is born amongst lakes and mountains. In addition, the town’s baroque cathedral will inspire us while we indulge a good meal filled with local delights in a typical inn. Gerardo Giuratrabocchetti, the master behind the prestigious winery Cantine del Notaio of Rionero in Vulture, will be the protagonist of a truly special afternoon where he will lead us along a path made of fine taste, knowledge, hard labour and loads of love. He, the son of a notary, is very proud of the work which has immortalized the name of his beloved grandfather Gerardo. Like an ancient minstrel, tasting after tasting, he immerses minds and hearts in a unique and overwhelming life story. A unique dinner at a local restaurant will perfectly end this first taste of true Lucania.
It does not take long to reach Monticchio, where we will have a total immersion in the local nature and history. This town is known for two splendid lakes that extend at the foothills of Mount Vulture, an extinct volcano for more than 3,000 years. Here, the magnificent abbey of San Michele Arcangelo – which structure is carved in the mount’s rock – houses the Museum of Natural History. Immersed in a splendid natural environment, the visit to the museum is a very stimulating experience. Moreover, the area is also home of the Brahmaea Europea, a lepidopteran unique in its species to which the entire museum, along with a novel multimedia exhibit, is dedicated. Nature must not only be seen, but also touched and breathed. Hence, we go towards the “trail of beauty”, a guided experience to live strictly on foot and which starts at the small lake, taking us through the woods where we will discover its many secrets. This will be an opportunity to learn to distinguish and select the most fragrant aromatic herbs, which we will bring to an agriturismo – a holiday farm – that will be ready to welcome us for lunch. We will use the herbs in a fun afternoon workshop. Here, while we have lunch made with traditional products, we will be able to observe, and why not, personally help in the various stages of milk processing so that later we can taste all its derivatives. We could also elaborate perfumed soaps, prepare curative dipping sauces made with grandma’s recipe, or create beneficial herbal tea blends that can be packaged and savoured later as a snack, perhaps with some tasty homemade biscuits. We will end with an evening dinner of traditional dishes of the area.
Venosa is a town that surely represents the very ancient past. Here, the first human communities were from the Lower Palaeolithic period, as it is evidenced by fossils and recovered stone tools. Hence, our immersion in the archaeological areas of the city, between Norman tombs and old mosaics, will be a really exciting activity. Before lunch in a local inn, our appetite will be teased by a degustation of local delicacies through the town’s small alleys – there certainly couldn’t be a more pleasant stroll! We will experience a sweet and delicious afternoon inside the pretty village of Ripacandida where a mellinoteca – a honey museum – awaits. “The gold of flowers” will show us the wonders that bees are capable of producing, offering us the opportunity to buy savoury souvenirs. In addition, it will be possible to enjoy an exquisite dip in the first wellness centre in Europe where everything is based on honey. It won’t take long for us to reach the sanctuary dedicated to Saint Donato, where we will fully understand why Venosa has been called “the Little Assisi of Basilicata”. Inside the church, a precious series of frescoes cover all of its walls like a delicate gold mantle – this is the so-called Bible of Ripacandida, a captivating visual story that embraces the observer under the arm of the great mystery of faith and life. Recognized by Unesco as a “messenger of culture and peace” monument, the sanctuary has also hosted the visit of Prince Albert of Monaco last year. Once softened by the nectar of bees, a savoury dinner filled with a bit of local goods will certainly do no wrong to our palate.
This is the day dedicated to Matera, proclaimed European Capital of Culture for 2019 by the Ministries of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, which for the entire year have built a rich program of events and activities. In order to reach the town, there’s no other way than to enter from inside the ‘rocks’: the two main neighbourhoods, Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, that are characterised by houses built out of limestone rock which is typical of this area. The town’s structures and layout take its guests through the meanders of a unique world of its own kind; made of small dwellings wriggling between picturesque, breath-taking views, the houses tell stories of unimaginable traditions and impressive daily customs. Inside one of these very peculiar dwellings will be the restaurant for our lunch stop. A little of technology, especially if we are talking about antique and efficient techniques, is always interesting to see. In the evening, before parting, we can visit the “Palombaro lungo” – Matera’s largest underground water cistern – which is located under the surface of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Still today, the cistern collects water from rain and nearby springs, and together with other water tanks forms the famous and fascinating underground Matera. Unfortunately, it’s time to return. We depart carrying in our eyes and hearts places, activities, and delicacies of both Molise and Basilicata; but above all, we depart with the beauty of the people who hosted and gave us their timeless values with the hope, naturally, of our prompt return.
We have selected only cozy, high-quality, environmentally-friendly accommodations. They are all in an authentic urban context, in contact with local people. The strengths are the hospitable approach and the welcoming culture. You can choose the accommodation when you customize the your tour.