Scapoli Bagpipes Ancient Romans called it “Utriculus”

Isernia, Scapoli, Venafro

Day 1 Venafro – Isernia (15 Miles) 
We arrive in the fortified village of Venafro, which is situated in the wide valley of the Volturno River, which preserves the route of the pre-existing Roman roads. One of the most important is the Via Plebiscito. Also called “the way inside”, it is one of the major examples of the Roman Cardo-Decumanic route, with numerous workshops, was the main bone of the medieval core. Most of its houses were built in such a way as to present workshops on the ground floor and houses on the upper floors. The remains of an Amphitheatre (Verlascio), the ellipse that constituted geometrically the outer perimeter had a diameter greater than about 360 feet and the smaller one of about 280 feet. The terraces were developed for a total area of about 43,000 square feet with the possibility of hosting up to 15,000 spectators. The plant was certainly used for the development of important games at the time of Augustus, as is documented by an epigraph that testifies to its existence at least from the first century A.D. imposing the shape of The Pandone Castle, of medieval origin and became with Enrico Pandone noble residence of the highest level in the year 500. The frescoes of life-size three-dimensional horses are enchanting, and contain elegant trappings indicating the name, breed, and age of 26 stallions. Also, home to the National Museum of Molise, the castle is a real journey into the pictorial art of 17 centuries.
The Roman Theater of Venafro, located on the hill of the last decumanus, was born, unlike the other theaters of the time, taking advantage of the natural slope of the land, in an area particularly protected from atmospheric agents. The front of the scene is about 60 meters with an auditorium capable of accommodating about 3,500 spectators. From the findings it seems that the entire staircase was made of stone. Unfortunately, most of the stone seats have now disappeared, as the theater was used as a natural quarry for stones already worked and used to build most of the buildings of later periods.
The Venafrano Aqueduct, about 18 miles long, drew water directly from the source of the river Volturno to redistribute it to all urban villas. Unfortunately, the duct, due to its position, has undergone natural erosion over the centuries.
Continue to the ancient city of Isernia, located on a promontory between two rivers. Visit of the archaeological area “La Pineta“, a prehistoric settlement among the oldest in Europe.  

Point of interest: the archaeological site dates to about 730,000 years ago, it has a unique importance for the reconstruction of the history of the origin of man in the European continent and of the way of life of Homo erectus. 

Worth seeing in the historic center is the thirteenth-century Fontana Fraterna, erected in Piazza Celestino V, born in this city, and made by recovering fragments of Roman inscriptions and bas-reliefs.
Dinner and Overnight stay. Culinary specialties: the fischioni, sort of macaroni, with sauce and pecorino cheese. The Molisians are ready to swear that the term maccherone, considered by the most Neapolitan, derives, instead, from the molisian Macca, which means pasta.

Day 2 Isernia – Scapoli – Rocchetta – S. Vincenzo – Cerro al Volturno – Agnone (60 Miles)
After breakfast, we depart towards the “Capital of Zampogna”. Scapoli, is a medieval village among the most beautiful in Italy, famous for the tradition of bagpipes, where you can visit the museum that exhibits instruments of local and foreign production. 

Curiosity: Scapoli has been able to preserve an ancient artistic craftsmanship, that of the construction of the bagpipe, a pastoral instrument, a masterpiece of extraordinary craftsmen who have handed down an ancient art from father to son. It was already known by the Ancient Romans who called it “Utriculus”, or small wineskin, due to its distinctive feature, that is, the bag that acts as an air reserve for the player and therefore allows for continuous sound. Scapoli Bagpipes are made with various woods, especially olive, cherry and plum. In Scapoli takes place the last weekend of July every year the Market Exhibition and International Festival of Bagpipes.

We continue the journey until we reach Rocchetta al Volturno, whose upper part is a charming medieval village almost uninhabited, with alleys and stone houses and dominated by the ruins of the Battiloro Castle. The scenic silence of the old signs of the shops makes the visit almost surreal.
Stop at the ancient Benedictine monastery of S. Vincenzo al Volturno, an important religious, economic, and cultural center of the eighth century. The excavations have brought to light the structures of the ancient monastic complex and the crypt of Abbot Epiphany with frescoes of the ninth century. The visit of the archaeological area projects us into an era of deep faith and spirituality, but also of great craftsmanship and architectural skills. We will discover a world organized according to well-marked rhythms, but also at the mercy of political and war events, a Middle Ages, in all its forms.

Point of interest: The complex reached the size of a real monastic city: 10 churches with lands in much of central-southern Italy and more than 300 monks. In 787 Charlemagne placed the monastery under his protection with the privilege of tax and judicial exemptions and the authorization of the community to elect its abbot without any interference from other ecclesiastical authorities. This episode was the idea of Saint Vincent’s leading role among the great abbeys of Europe.  

 We continue towards one of the most beautiful castles of Molise, Cerro a Volturno, medieval fortification that stands on a rocky spur in a dominant position. To reach the castle you must cross the streets of the lovely old town, enclosed by a wall of the fourteenth century.

Point of interest:the fortress has watched since time immemorial with its mighty towers, the entire valley of the Volturno. A scenery of amazing beauty, worthy of a stamp of the old “200 Lire” from the famous series on Italian castles of the 1980s.  

We then reach the suggestive archaeological area of Pietrabbondante, one of the most important centers of Upper Molise, located more than a thousand meters high. The small village is set against the “Morge“, points of bare rock, near Mount Saraceno, covered with woods, which protect important megalithic walls. It was a very important civil and religious center of the Samnites Pentri, ancient and proud people who occupied the Molise territory before the affirmation of the dominion of Rome. The whole complex is oriented east-south-east in line with the point where the sun rises on the solstice in winter. In this way from the temple, it was possible to witness the birth of the sun on the left and to have it at noon on the right, respecting precise principles of the auspicious discipline.                     

Point of interest: the theater is a real beauty, especially the stone seats of the first three rows. Each seat is a single block and has a delicately shaped and thrown back, of absolute comfort, worthy of the most modern anatomical armchairs. The armrests in the shape of a griffin paw at the ends are very elegant and the Atlantes kneeling in the act of holding up the globe are powerful, carved in the stone of the supporting walls.

The day ends in Agnone, ancient Samnite city, is home to what is supposed to be the oldest factory in the world for the manufacture of bells (Pontifical foundry of bells Marinelli), founded around the year 1000 and among the few who can boast of the honor of using the papal coat of arms for their products.

Point of interest:Agnone is famous for the presence of the ancient Marinelli Foundry. Its origins date back to the Middle Ages, and the foundry is remembered for the manufacture of bells for buildings such as the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii and the Abbey of Montecassino.  

A dinner and overnight.
Culinary specialties: undisputed ruler of dairy production, “archaeological” cheese and legacy of the great civilization of Transhumance, the Caciocavallo cheese of Agnone is a seasoned stretched curd cheese and is one of the products on which the Italian food and wine culture is based.

Day 3 Agnone–Campobasso – Trivento – Montefalcone nel Sannio- Termoli(118 Miles)
After the breakfast we depart towards Campobasso, of medieval origins, the name “Campus bassus” refers to the position of the town, built on the foot of a castle, situated on a top of a hill. The historical center develops in alleys, streets, staircases and preserves churches, medieval gates, tower, and defense walls. Our stroll will lead us to the staircase near by the church of San Leonardo, which introduces us to the most beautiful places ai of the old town: the San Bartolommeo’s Church with the Terzano Tower, the San Giorgio’s Church, the Monforte Castle with the Santa Maria del Monte Sanctuary. From the lookout point of the castle one can admire the entire city. The elegance of the nineteenth century part with its straight tree-lined streets, the beautiful city hall, the small squares, The De Capua villa and gardens, that preserve rare trees and plants.

We continue towards the typical medieval center, which developed around a small agglomeration in top of the hill, Trivento. The village is an intrigue of small open spaces and winding stairways. A big part of the houses and the streets are made from stone, testifying to the great skill of the local craftsmen, and are dominated by the Cathedral, which deserves a profound visit. On one side of the hill, you will find the traces Celano-Foggia sheep track, in of the best preserved and easily visible stretches of the entire region. Also as thrilling in this territory is also the wooden bridge in Morrione, the oaks and turkey oaks woods, where porcini mushrooms and truffles grow, and the spectacular rocky boulders: le morgue of the Prince and that of Pietra Fenda.

Point of Interest: Route Celano-Foggiaid the second largest route of Southern Italy, right after the Aquila-Foggia route. it was one of the lines of transhumance, with a length of about 124 miles.
Visit of the village full of legends, Montefalcone nel Sannio it is said that the ancient Samnite city of Maronea rose here, conquered by Hannibal and destroyed in 212 BC. In the 17th century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie or “del Latte”, it is said that sterile women came here to ask for graces from the Madonna. We walk along Via Margherita, established in honor of the queen, but commonly called “Siberia” because in this path it is very cold every day of the year. Continue to Termoli, a small ancient village, one of the most beautiful in Italy, on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea, with the marvelous facade of the Cathedral in the center, a national monument among the most beautiful examples of Romanesque in Molise, which preserves the relics of the patron saint San Basso. On one side of the village, surrounded by ancient walls, is the fascinating Swabian Castle, probably of Norman origin, but whose defensive structure was strengthened by Frederick II.

Curiosity: the upper tower of the Castle, isolated from the rest of the construction, houses the meteorological station of the Air Force on the top.   A time dedicated to the photography of the traditional trabucchi, fishing machines made from a dense fence stuck between the rocks, which end with a platform connected to the mainland by a walkway. Two antennas that extend to the water support a rectangular net, which, through a winch, is lowered in the water. A dinner and overnight.

Day 4 Termoli
After the breakfast visit of the Molise coast across its 22 miles of coastline, from the mouth of The River Trigno to that of the Apulian Saccione stream, with its clear sea, la splendid vegetation and above all the great artistic and cultural patrimony.  

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