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Mysteries of Archaeology
Three pathways to explore Terra di Lavoro of the old era were identified , from local culture of the Bronze Age (Villanovian, Appennine), through the Etruscan, Italian people of osco-sable strain, the Samnite, the Greek Magno and the Roman:
1) Indoor, in State achaeological museums – (ex. Museum hall in Sessa Aurunca, Teano, Allifae in Alife, Agro Atellano in Succivo, Calatia in Maddaloni, Capua Antica the Museum of Gladiators in Santa Maria Capua Vetere) – museums of the Provincia (ex. Capua’s Provincial Museum) and museums of towns (ex. Mondragone’s Civic Museum).
2) Stunning are the outdoor monumental remains belonging to the Roman Age. There are paved paths of ancient Roman streets (Appia and Latina) that exist untouched on Roccamonfina, in Sessa Aurunca and Teano. Roman bridges can be seen in Rocchetta e Croce and Sessa Aurunca, but also anphitheatres and theatres in Sessa Aurunca, Teano, Pietravairano, Santa Maria Capua Vetere and Roman mausoleums in San Prisco (Carceri vecchie) and Curti (Conocchia).
3) Particularly misterious and fascinating is the journey to discover the Samnite megalithic fortifications both in the city (Teano, Caiazzo) and on the mountains (Piedimonte Matese, Castel Morrone), or in a valley in Trebula (Treglia di Pontelatone) with an outstanding monumental door.
The Cult of Michael
The presence of the Southern Lombards from 570 to 1150 left indelible and sometimes underground traces in the culture of the Terra di Lavoro. Underground not just metaphorically. For example, the celebration of the festivity of Archangel occurring on 8th May, the day of apparitions in the caves of Gargano in 490 BC, instead of the date set by the Roman Liturgical Calendar, hence universal. Underground traces geologically too since the territory is full of caves dedicated to St. Michael, such as Camigliano, Rocchetta e Croce, Liberi, Sant’Angelo d’Alife, Gioia Sannitica. Michael was the Prince commander of Mons-angelic troupes though. This is the reason why he was also venerated in the mountains: Palombara, Maddaloni, Casertavecchia, Sant’Angelo in Formis are some of the examples, in fact it is even possible to see a few of their marvellous medieval architecture and decorations.
Masterpieces of Medieval Faith
Terra di Lavoro was soon Christianised thanks to the passage of St. Paul and perhaps St. Peter. The misfortune of the Gothic War and the Longobard conquest caused both the disappearance of many dioceses and the destruction of basilicas from the Constantine Era. Invaluable are the late-ancient mosaics in the churches in San Prisco, Santa Maria Capua Vetere and Carinola. A rare example between the late-ancient and the first Longobard Era is Santa Maria in Cubulteria in Alvignano. After the Arabic burning of the 9th century, between the late Longobard and the Norman-Swabian age (10th – 12th century), abbeys and cathedrals in the Principality of Capua were rebuilt and decorated in beautiful forms. The most famous are the design and frescoes of Sant’Angelo in Formis in Capua (1072 – 1078), less known are the St. Peter ad Montes’s ones in Caserta. You should not miss the sculptures and the interior of the Cathedrals in Aversa, Sessa Aurunca, Teano, Carinola, Calvi Risorta, Casertavecchia. Besides, the several Longobard-Norman churches in Capua, the range of columns in Santa Maria Capua Vetere. Fairly rare are the Gothic churches with cross vaults and frescoes as the ones in the Santuario in Casaluce and Santa Maria a Marciano in Piana di Monte Verna. The incredible flowering of fresco from the first decades of 1400 represents Sant’Antonio abate in Sant’Angelo d’Alife, San Biagio in Piedimonte, San Giovanni in Pantuliano di Pastorano, and Santa Margherita in Maddaloni. Preserved Gothic-Renaissance convents are kept in Prata Sannita, Teano, Roccamonfina, Carinola.
Among abandoned castles and medieval villages
It would be impossible to list them all. Many are in ruins or have been restored, but cannot be visited inside, such as Casertavecchia – that has a round keep considered as the second biggest in terms of size in Europe – Maddaloni, San Felice a Cancello – the “Matinale”; in the town of Cancello – Carinola, Vairano Patenora and Francolise. Others cannot be accessible because private and inhabited by citizens (Caiazzo, Prata Sannita) or due to their belonging to the State and their occupation by barracks or authorities. Norman towers are located in Baia e Latina, Pietramelara, Roccaromana, Alife, Tora e Piccilli. Magnificent examples of Angevin-Aragonese castles, all restored but not accessible, are in Calvi Risorta and Riardo. The castles in Sessa Aurunca and Mignano Monte Lungo target medieval fortifications throughout their evolution: for instance, you may remember the Norman-Swabian Casaluce’s castle that has been the home of a marvellous gothic abbey since 1359. Capua’s castles are the best-known ones: to list some you may remember the Castello delle Pietre (12th century), the Castello del Ponte (1235, Federico di Svevia), Charles V’s castle (1542). Urban city walls are present in Teano (Samnite-medieval), Alife (republican, restored during the Middle Ages), Sessa Aurunca (Angevin-Aragonese) and Capua (Renaissance-baroque with bastioned front). As unique case in Italy, there are three outstanding medieval villages completely abandoned, some of them for ages, others more recently, perched on the hills around their castles. Wonderful views, nature and pure suggestion. San Felice di Pietravairano is in ruins, abandoned since about 1946 but still accessible. Gioia Sannitica’s and Sant’Angelo d’Alife’s castles have been restored but are now in ruins and closed in their intact walls.
Pursuing science and technology
Sundials and mechanical watches are present almost everywhere in the province. If you want to find them, all you need to do is follow a fascinating journey that runs through centuries. The Royal Palace in Caserta is full of indoor clocks. There are several mechanical clocks mounted on towers dated from the first years of 1600 to 1900 and some of them have remarkable dials in majolica and are located in Caserta, Santa Maria a Vico, Maddaloni, Capua, Teano, Galluccio, Sessa Aurunca, Baia e Latina. Even more interesting are sondials from 1600 to 2000 located in Maddaloni, Casertavecchia, the Royal Palace, Marcianise, Aversa, Cesa, Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Capua, Teano, Carinola, Roccaromana. Ancient quarries, factories and windmills can be found in Caserta, Teano and Piedimonte. One of the most famous and ancient example in Italy is the iron bridge on the Garigliano, made by Giura in 1832. You may also remeber the railway station Napoli Caserta Capua in 1843, the third in Italy. The “Natura Viva” Museum of Parco Regionale di Roccamonfina e dei Garigliano exhibits taxidermied animals in a multimedia tour that tells the biodiversity and the geology of the Roccamonfina extinc. The “Nevio” Scientific Museum in Santa Maria Capua Vetere offers a journey through all the instruments for Chemistry and Physics from 1870 to 1930, a human skeleton from 1879, a dozen of animal preparations, rocks and minerals, scientific-disciplinary models and technical equipment from 1950 to 1970. To the Planetarium of Caserta you can attend original shows narrated live in the dome, completely immersed into the images and music. There is also a smaller exhibition pathway dedicated to the history of space exploration, time, measuring angles, rocks and light.
Popular culture and customs
Generally, all patron celebrations are always accompanied by fairs with street exhibitions and food. Events of great participation are the Misteri di Sessa Aurunca during the Holy Week. Recurrent traditions are linked to the translation of Marian images or statues, like the St Michael’s one from outdoor shrines and viceversa: Casaluce-Aversa, Castel Morrone, Maddaloni.
Very well known are the “pastellesse” and the “bottari” between Portico di Caserta and Macerata Campania in honor of Sant’Antonio Abate.
Since the end of 1800 the Capua’s Carnival has been held continuously.
The race of the groove in Castel Morrone is one of the most picturesque agrarian one.
To learn more about the rural culture of the inner area the reference point is the Museo Kere in Caiazzo.
Flavours of a journey
In ancient times Campania would mean Capua’s territory, thereby the existing province of Caserta. It had always been considered as Felix, that is rich in fruits of the mother Earth because of its climate favourable to cultivation and of its fields fruitful to volcanic deposits. For 3 millennia Casertan flavours have conquered the palate over the world, particularly due to:- wine: Pallagrello and Casavecchia around Monte Maggiore, Falerno between Mondragone and Carinola, Galluccio on Roccamonfina, Asprinio in Aversa grown in ancient tree-lined areas of elm and poplar vines.- meat: Casertan black swine and hoax.- dairy products: caciocavallo from Matese, conciato romano from Monte Maggiore and the universal mozzarella di bufala with ricotta.- oil: EVO from Sessa Aurunca, caiazzana and terre del Matese.-fruit and vegetables: ufarella chestnut from Monte Maggiore and Roccamonfina, Annurca apple from Valle di Suessola, the ciliegia imperiale, peach orchards from Sessa Aurunca, onions from Alife, the big Lupino from Vairano, chickpeas from Teano, beans from Pietramelara and Alife. Besides, you may remember bakery products both traditional and innovative and, last but not least, pizza.