“Molise does not exist”: how many times have we heard this phrase? The splendid region of Central Italy seems almost forgotten and, instead, preserves a historical, folkloristic and landscape heritage to be discovered and admired. Yes, even the New York Times has noticed it and has included it fully among the 52 destinations to visit in 2020, urging the Italians themselves to re-evaluate an uncontaminated territory, with wild beauty, with the coast lapped by one of the cleanest seas of the Adriatic, tradition always alive, areas of great historical and artistic interest and all the charm of the mountain. To help you know one of the jewels of our Peninsula, we have selected for you 11 must-see destinations in Molise.
How not to visit Termoli, with the ancient village surrounded by walls that stands out on a small promontory overlooking the Adriatic? A real pearl of the Molise coast, which has managed to maintain two distinct but united souls, the Borgo Vecchio and the New City: the village is the center of history, with its narrow cobbled streets, the Swabian Castle, the Cathedral, the Walk of the Trabucchi; the city is the center of social life, with the famous thermolese markets full of stalls that embellish the airy squares. Do not miss the Rejecelle, the narrowest lane in Italy, the port and the seaside area of Marina di San Pietro, the most beautiful coast of Termoli with equipped beaches, services and entertainment of all kinds.
From the coast of Termoli to the most renowned ski resort in central Italy: mountain lovers will not be able to live winter sports in Campitello Matese, a hamlet in the municipality of San Massimo in the province of Campobasso. The area, at 1450 meters above sea level, offers 40 kilometers of downhill slopes of medium difficulty, located between 1450 and 1900 meters and served by two chair lifts and six ski lifts. To enrich the offer, an ice skating rink, floodlit slopes for night skiing, a fully equipped SnowPark for snowboarders and a fun Funpark for the little ones.
Land of tradition, Molise has been characterized for millennia by the practice of transhumance, the seasonal movement of shepherds and herds from Abruzzo to Puglia along the grassy paths, the so-called “tratturi”, which has shaped the Molise territory giving a unique appearance to the urbanization of the region. In fact, the majority of the towns and villages found their place for the defense and control of the paths of transhumance and the wool routes. The sheep tracks that cross the Molise are four: L’Aquila-Foggia, Celano-Foggia, Pescasseroli-Candela and Castel di Sangro-Lacera. Following these ancient paths today means immersing yourself in the history of Central Italy.
Are you surprised that there is a “Trans-Siberian of Italy” and curious to find out where? Between Abruzzo and Molise, along the spectacular Sulmona-Isernia railway. Inaugurated in 1897, it completes a 129 km long route and includes 54 tunnels and 103 between viaducts and bridges immersed in a magnificent landscape, guarded by the Marsicano Mountains and the Majella. The historical convoy travels every Sunday of the year and on public holidays such as 1 May and 2 June. The picturesque trip includes visits to medieval villages, tastings, walks on foot or with snowshoes, live music shows.
Unmissable, in Isernia, is a stop in La Pineta where one of the oldest Paleolithic deposits in Europe stands, to which UNESCO has conferred the authoritative blue shield to guarantee international protection in the event of natural disasters and armed conflicts. The field, discovered in 1978, proves to be one of the most complete testimonies of the history of human settlements in Europe and the excavations have allowed us to reconstruct the natural environment and the life of 600,000 years ago. It houses three distinct inhabited soils, characterized by tens of thousands of finds including some animal species never reported in our continent in such southern areas. Take the precious opportunity and visit it together with the suggestive National Paleolithic Museum.
In the heart of Molise, in the province of Campobasso, the town of Castropignano, rich in history and charm, is worth a visit. Embraced on a hill overlooking the Biferno Valley, it offers an atmosphere of the past in the suggestive historical center where you can admire the Church of San Salvatore with the Romanesque portal embellished with faces of cherubs, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie from the sixteenth-century portal , the silent alleys, the low houses and the imposing Castello d’Evoli, built on a rocky ridge overlooking the Biferno river. Here the Lucera-Castel di Sangro sheep track crosses the Biferno in an ideal stretch for walking or horseback riding.
Molise holds a world record or the biggest Christmas fire ritual in the world that takes place in Agnone, in the province of Isernia, from 8 to 24 December, and is today the leading event of the Molise Apennines. Agnone’s main street lights up day thanks to a suggestive parade of huge torches, the ‘ndocce, when the sun goes down and the bells start ringing. The bearers of the five districts of the country, wearing peasant clothes, hoods and black hats, show off their large hand-carved and burning torches on their shoulders, parading along the streets while thousands of people admire the incredible spectacle.
Molise and the “timeless country”: here we are in Sepino, on the slopes of the Matese, one of those places where you can unplug the hectic routine and immerse yourself in remote eras, among ancient Roman ruins and the village that has its roots in the Middle Ages. Sepino, inserted in the circuit of the Most Beautiful Villages of Italy, preserves the fascinating archaeological area of Altilia Sepino which includes the Roman city Saepinum-Altilia and the fortified village of the Samnites Terravecchia / Saipins. A real dive into the past along the history and vestiges of the “little Pompeii of Molise” walking through artisan shops, fountains, the ancient market, the basilica, the temple and the splendid theater of the ancient Saepinum.
What do Molise and Barcelona have in common? The “Sagrada Familia” would be said by learning about the wonderful Basilica of Santissima Maria Addolorata in Castelpetroso, in the province of Isernia. The imposing Basilica Sanctuary, whose structure is reminiscent of that of the Sagrada Familia, is dominated by the central dome 52 meters high which symbolizes a heart and is completed by 7 side chapels. Set among the bell towers, three portals embroidered with mosaics stand out. Inside, the dome is surrounded by 48 glass mosaics to represent the patron saints of the various countries of the diocese. The Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Addolorata is a pilgrimage destination and one of the architectural and cultural attractions of Molise to discover.
Symbol of the city of Campobasso and national monument, Castel Monforte, built in 1110, is one of the destinations not to be missed during a visit to the Molise capital. The manor still shows itself today by rising on the hill overlooking the city and looks like a massive quadrilateral with circular towers placed at the corners and a large rectangular tower, one of the highest in Italy. Inside, the covered room houses valuable wrought iron work. The basements that housed the prisons are also of considerable interest. Along the path that reaches the castle you also have the opportunity to admire the oldest churches in the city.
35 kilometers of coast, the Costa Verde, which make Molise one of the most inviting regions for seaside tourism thanks to the beauty of the wild coast and the beaches lapped by one of the cleanest seas of the Adriatic. The beaches, full of services and opportunities for fun and entertainment, are far from mass tourism and suitable for all needs. Any names? In Termoli, Sant’Antonio beach and Rio Vivo; then Marina di Petacciato, Campomarino, Marina di Montenero di Bisaccia, Vallona beach and Ramitelli beach.