Vil­lages are the back­bone of the Ital­ian penin­sula: an in­tan­gi­ble pat­ri­mony abun­dant in his­tory, tra­di­tion, cul­ture and beauty

All About Italy (USA) - - All About Italy - So­rano

Masterpiec­es of fas­ci­nat­ing and sec­u­lar beauty, archives of an­cient sto­ries, tra­di­tions and time­less knowl­edge, the vil­lages rep­re­sent the most au­then­tic and sig­nif­i­cant piece of Ital­ian ter­ri­to­rial cloth. Pre­cious gems through­out the penin­sula, these mi­cro-par­adises of beauty con­tinue to of­fer daily the most pro­found and sin­cere essence of Ital­ian iden­tity and be­long­ing. The Ital­ian vil­lages are a real liv­ing her­itage, a trea­sure trove of ex­tra­or­di­nary mem­o­ries of the past that laid the foun­da­tions for the fu­ture, an in­valu­able trea­sure to be pre­served and val­ued both within na­tional bor­ders and abroad, to­gether with all their historical cel­e­bra­tions, folk­lore, events, and as­ton­ish­ing land­scapes. Ar­chi­tec­ture, gas­tron­omy, cul­ture and na­ture per­fectly co­ex­ist in ex­tra­or­di­nary equi­lib­rium. Their fragility makes it even more im­por­tant and es­sen­tial to de­fend them. To know them is to love them, in per­pe­tu­ity.

One is spoiled for choice when seek­ing an Ital­ian vil­lage. Start small, aim high…. a lim­ited yet var­ied horizon is a nice ap­pe­tizer to start with. Imag­ine a sort of first ideal itin­er­ary, start­ing from the north of the penin­sula, be­gin­ning with the vil­lage of Bard, the small­est mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Valle d’aosta, with its 150 in­hab­i­tants (give or take a few). First stop, a great ex­am­ple of 19th-cen­tury fortress. To­day, the Museo delle Alpi (Mu­seum of the Alps) holds nu­mer­ous ex­hi­bi­tions, shops and a con­ve­nient café. Mod­ern panoramic el­e­va­tors lead to the top and a cam­era is rec­om­mended for breath­tak­ing panoramic shots.

Mov­ing to Pied­mont, to Neive, is like open­ing the pages of a fairy­tale: rows of stone houses and wind­ing lanes climb up to the Clock Tower. This for­mer Ro­man set­tle­ment, fought over by nearby Alba and Asti in the Mid­dle Ages, is to­day one of the most beau­ti­ful ter­rains along the re­gion’s wine road. It is the lush and blessed land of the Langhe and here the words “Bar­bera” and “Moscato” live in the in­hab­i­tants DNA and sub­se­quently seep into the heart of those who visit. From Langhe to Lom­bar­dia, stop at Tre­mo­sine, a vil­lage men­tioned by the fa­ther of Ital­ian, Dante, in his book In­ferno: a myth­i­cal place in the heart of the Alto Garda

Bres­ciano Park, 2,000 souls and an en­vi­able view of Lake Garda sur­rounded by a one-ofa-kind land­scape. The western road by car is spec­tac­u­lar, as is a mo­tor­cy­cle ride or Nordic walk. In the prov­ince of Udine, Fri­uli Venezia Gi­u­lia, his­tory and leg­end merge in­dis­sol­ubly in the vil­lage of Civi­dale, a town founded by Julius Cae­sar. UNESCO has de­clared part of the town a World Her­itage site, while the Ponte del Di­avolo (Devil’s Bridge) is one of the most fa­mous and crossed in Italy. Ac­cord­ing to pop­u­lar tra­di­tion, the lo­cals had to bargain with the devil to build the bridge in such a crit­i­cal lo­ca­tion. The price to pay was the soul of the first passer, so to­day’s trav­eler can cross it and sleep easy…the price has been paid. Asolo, in Veneto in the prov­ince of Tre­viso has an an­cient his­tory dat­ing back to Pa­le­olithic times and has been em­braced by im­por­tant per­son­al­i­ties and artists through­out the cen­turies. The poet Gio­suè Car­ducci called it “the city of the 100 hori­zons”, while the Queen of Cyprus moved her court here in the 15th cen­tury and the “Divine” Eleonora Duse lived and was buried here. Asolo is a small jewel em­bed­ded in a beau­ti­ful re­gion that has not only Venice, but many other gems to be proud of. Asolo’s fortress over­looks the Ricco moun­tain and al­lows you to see, on the clear­est days, even the Venice La­goon; the panoramic walk con­tin­ues with a visit to the cas­tle of Queen Cornaro, then do not miss the de­fen­sive walls, the Ro­man aqueduct and fi­nally a snap a photo mem­ory in Pi­azza Garibaldi. Tourists who de­cide to take a trip to Italy have a soft spot in their heart for Tus­cany. If there is only one choice from the in­nu­mer­able trea­sure of the re­gion, So­rano, in the prov­ince of Gros­seto, is ex­cep­tional. Its houses are ex­ca­vated in the stone, like the south­ern vil­lage of Mat­era, giv­ing So­rano its nick­name, the Tus­can Mat­era. Over­hang­ing the Lente Val­ley, rich in his­tory and na­ture,

A “Borgo” is a fas­ci­nat­ing small Ital­ian town, gen­er­ally for­ti­fied and dat­ing back to the pe­riod from the Mid­dle Ages to the Re­nais­sance. It is unique and built around a cas­tle or palace be­long­ing to the noble fam­ily that held power at that time and it is of­ten sur­rounded by walls.

its aus­tere and pen­du­lous ap­pear­ance are unique. The Orsini Fortress and the Leopoldo Masso are must-sees, but the an­cient and evoca­tive Etr­uscan trails ex­ca­vated in the rock know as the Vie Cave are not to be for­got­ten. The words of mas­ter poet Dante Alighieri play out in the Marche re­gion, and the beauty of Gradara, dom­i­nated by its gra­cious cas­tle, is where the un­for­tu­nate love of Paolo and Francesca was sup­pos­edly set in the book In­ferno. The for­ti­fied vil­lage of Gradara, in the prov­ince of Pe­saro and Urbino, cap­tures the heart with its dreamy at­mos­pheres and its rich and an­cient his­tory. From the scenic views of the cas­tle you can en­joy the dis­play of vivid col­ors brushed across the Marche hills, with the blue of the Adri­atic Sea to as a back­drop. This noble and so­phis­ti­cated vil­lage, en­cir­cled in the two lay­ers of 14th cen­tury walls, of­fers in all its un­ex­pected trea­sures of to be en­joyed.

His­tory and leg­end play out in the town of Pa­cen­tro in Abruzzo. It is said that once upon a time, the Tro­jan hero Pac­i­nus, who left Enea on the banks of the Tiber, came to the foot of Mount Mor­rone and founded the ham­let. To­day, this splen­did jewel in the heart of the Abruzzo Moun­tains, in the prov­ince of L’aquila and nes­tled in the Ma­jella Na­tional Park, is one of the most beau­ti­ful vil­lages in Italy, fas­ci­nat­ing visi­tors with colorful streets, the 16th cen­tury church the Chiesa Madre, the historical wheat

In Italy we have around 270 Borghi, from the Dolomites to Si­cily, and they are the sym­bol of the Ital­ian cul­ture with artis­tic and ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage, tra­di­tion and eno-gas­tro­nomic trea­sures

scale known as the Preta Tonna. The un­mis­tak­able twin tow­ers of Castello Cal­dora-can­telmo dom­i­nate the horizon and with a pinch of luck mu­sic icon Madonna, whose fam­ily is orig­i­nally from the town, may be wan­der­ing the al­leys of her beloved vil­lage. Brush­strokes of his­tory play out in the prov­ince of Caserta, ev­ery year in Au­gust. Harken­ing back in the Mid­dle Ages, games and mock du­els fill the charm­ing al­leys of Vairano Patenora. Dom­i­nated by its scenic cas­tle, the vil­lage seems to be sus­pended in time. It is said that the fa­mous Teano meet­ing be­tween the fa­ther of Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi and King Vit­to­rio Emanuele

II, took place just out­side Vairano, seal­ing the uni­fi­ca­tion of the coun­try. Dur­ing the fas­cist dic­ta­tor­ship, An­to­nio Gram­sci was im­pris­oned in the town’s Tav­erna della Catena. Another en­chant­ing and mag­i­cal vil­lage, which seems to slum­ber be­neath the jagged peaks of the Lu­cane Dolomites, shel­tered by the benev­o­lent Mount Imp­iso, is Pi­etrap­er­tosa, in the prov­ince of Potenza, the high­est vil­lage in Basil­i­cata. One can get lost in the wind­ing al­leys as the rose-col­ored brush­strokes of the sun­set paint the sur­round­ing moun­tains. Fly­ing 120 kms an hour from the ham­lets of Pi­etrap­er­tosa to Castelmez­zano is no fairy­tale. Ad­ven­tur­ers can ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of the Volo dell’an­gelo (An­gles’ Flight) be­tween the two towns con­nected by zip lines. Our dream itin­er­ary ends in Castel­lam­mare del Golfo, in Si­cily. The Arab-nor­man fort from which the city takes its name di­rectly over­looks the crys­talline blue of the Gulf of Tra­pani. Col­ors, cui­sine, his­tory and cul­ture are cor­ner­stones of the town, while tourists long­ing for sandy beaches can stretch out with the Inici moun­tain as a back­drop. It is a vil­lage with nar­row, wind­ing lanes and sur­pris­ing churches. This se­lec­tion of small Ital­ian won­ders is just a small note in­side a post­card: the story of Ital­ian vil­lages is never-end­ing, it is a se­cret whis­pered ev­ery day, of­fer­ing new perspectiv­es, eye-open­ing glimpses and fresh, de­light­ful won­ders.



Vairano Patenora


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