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Toward Santa Maria del Monte, Campobasso

Campanile of Santa Maria del Monte,

Street in

Welcome to Campobasso
from Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 51,633 (2204)
Official site: Campobasso

Campobasso, the capital of Molise Region, sits high in the Appenines.  The abandoned old medieval city tumbles down a severely sloped hill, capped by the imposing Castello Monforte at 789 meters above sea level, to its more "modern" districts located on the fertile plain below.

Campobasso's known history has its beginning some 1300 years ago as a village that sat at the intersection of three important "tratturi" - ancient pathways used by cattle herders, traders and others moving through the area.

Now a city of some 51,000 souls (1991 census), Campobello once had world-wide fame as a producer of fine cutlery.  Although that industry has gone into decline, the city's industrialists turn out a variety of products including cement, soap, and textiles.

The city has endured its share of devastating and not so devastating earthquakes, particularly in 1815, leading to the abandonment of the upper town, and the destruction or near destruction of some of its most important buildings.

However, there is much yet to see in addition to the castle.  Many of the citizens are keen gardeners who grow many rare plants.

Architecturally, one can start at the top and work down.  Across from the castles front gate is the Chiesa Santa Maria del Monte built in the 11th century, with a bell tower (campanile) that was added in 1970.  Inside there aer lively frescoes done in a modern style, painted in 1944 and 1945 by a local artist, Amedeo Trivisonno.

The 10th century church, San Giorgio had much of its facade shaken loose in one earthquake.  Another church, San Bartolomeo, built in the 11th century has been de-sanctified.  Keep a look out to for Chiesa San Leonardo, originally built in the 13th century, but renovated in 1456 after an earthquake and again in the 1920s.

The city's cathedral, Santa Maria Maggiore was built in 1504, but utterly destroyed by the 1815 quake.  However it was rebuilt between 1815 and 1829.

Chiesa Santa Maria della Croce, originally built in 1348 was destroyed by earthquake in 1805, but has also been rebuilt.  It's dome is regarded as one of the best in Molise.

In 1572, the Chiesa Sant'Antonio was built in the Renaissance style.  It seems to have survived the earthquakes well.

As Molise's capital city, there are a number of handsome (and not so handsome) government buildings in the lower quarter.  But, the one that is a must see is the Museum of Archeology with artifacts and art that dates back to Samnium times.  The piazza's are pleasant, and give way to neighborhoods where there are a number of delightful restaurants, cafes and shops.

The history of the city is unexceptional within the overall history of Molise.  However, Campobasso was originally a Samnite settlement, probably established to control the Matese-Cortile, the most important of the tratturi, the city fell under the control of Rome who finally defeated the Samnites in 82 BC after a series of prolonged wars starting in the 4th Century BC.

Even in Lombard times, the city was divided between its upper area - the Campus de Prata - and its lower area - the Campus Vassus (later Bassus).  The Castello Monforte, with six very imposing towers, was built over an extended time during the 14th and 15th centuries on the ruins of the much older fortifications built and rebuilt from the earliest days.

Campobasso's warly purposes lasted until the end of World War II, when it became home to "Canada Town" because the Canadian army used it as one of their principle bases during the Italian Campaign.

Campobasso is definitely worth a visit, and its easy to get to from anywhere in central Italy.  A good off season time to go would be the "Easter" season because you can observe the most important festival in Campobasso, the Misteri.

Molise Region

4134′N 1440′E


By Car: At 140 kilometers or so, it's more or less equidistant from Rome and Naples on the west coast of Italy, and about 85 kilometers from Termoli on the Adriatic Coast and 90 kilometers due west from the larger city of Foggia in Puglia Region
Train/Bus: from Naples, Rome
Air: Naples, Rome


Piazza Prefuttura,

Chiesa San Giorgio, Campobello