If you are looking for something quiet and quaint, a little rest and relaxation, yet still with the opportunity to take what is best about Italy, than a trip to Campobasso should be included in your itinerary. It is located in the Molise region of the country, which sits in the south eastern area bordering the Adriatic to the east, the Abruzzo region to the north and the Apulia region to the south. Campobasso is the capital of the Molise region and of the province of Campobasso.
This quiet town of a little over 50,000 strong acts more like a town half that size. Its serene setting between the Sannio and Matese mountains belies its natural beauty and charm. Walking down the cobblestone streets (bring some good walking shoes) provides one with a chance to breath Italy without the fumes of the typical tourist locations. It acts like a quiet and relaxed small village because in many ways it is. You will not find the traffic congestion you would in Rome or Milan. The streets are peaceful and easy to navigate without the elbows from your pedestrian neighbors. While the energy level may be lower than the major cities, its uniqueness and hospitality does not fall short.
The area has some recent history to go along with its traditional Italian lore. In 1861, when the country was united, the borders of the Molise region ran along the Fortore and Volturno rivers. It actually was united to the Abruzzo region as well. Fast forward 100 years. After the second world war there were many in this region who wanted to make this area autonomous. 1964 brought independence to the region of Molise, establishing it as a region of its own with Campobasso as its capital. Furthermore, in the early 1970’s over 50 municipalities of the Province were separated and a new Province, Isernia was created.
Situated about 700 meters above sea level and sitting close to the Apennine Mountains makes Campobasso one of the chillier cities in this part of the country. It is not uncommon to see regular snowfalls in the winter. The autumn weather can be wet and rainy, as well.
St. George, Camposbasso’s patron saint, watches over this town that has seen and been through much in its time. The remnants of the different peoples who conquered and were conquered in the early days are prevalent in and around the city. At once a defensive stronghold, the city evolved into an important trading and administrative center. Campobasso saw its share of heavy fighting, also, during World War II. Fall of 1943 proved particularly devastating to the city as heavy bombardment knocked out many public buildings and took the lives of many, including the bishop of the diocese. Canadian troops were prevalent throughout this part of Italy, so much so, that the resulting administrative control made such an impression on the area that Campobasso was sometimes called “Canada town” or “Maple Leaf City”. In fact, one of its sister cities now is Ottawa, Canada. As the war progressed and eventually ended the town spent much time and effort to clear the region of unexploded warheads. As a result, in 1995 the city was awarded the Bronze Medal for Civil Valour.
Campobasso: The Main Sights
The primary attraction in Campobasso is the Castello Monforte, built in the 1400’s. The castle has the trademark merlons across much of the structure. Merlons are architectural structures built atop castle walls to provide individual combatants with protection as well as an opening for their weaponry. The current building is built over remnants of older structures, most likely because of earthquakes that have occurred here.
Continuing the ancient historical tour, you will come across the Chiesa della Madonna del Monte, which sits next to the castle. As with many churches, inside you will find many works of art, including a wooden statue of the Incoronata, which dates back to the 1300’s. A church built to the Patron saint was erected here and is below the castle. The church of St. George was built roughly around the year 1000. Two other structures of note are the Cathedral, built in the early 1500’s and the church of San Bartolomeo dating back to the 11th century. Villa de Capoa, a beautifully landscaped garden should also be taken in on your journey here. It has been recently restored and is adorned with statues as well as with various plant life.
Transportation to and from the city is easily attainable by both rail and car. The railway station is located in the center of the city and since all trains stop here, provides good connections to Rome, Naples and Pescara. An updated highway system also helps in reducing travel times to and from Rome. However, one of the joys of Camposbasso is experiencing the outlying small towns and villages. Many of these hamlets are only a few kilometers away into the hills and mountainside. If you are doing any exploring here, you do probably want to rent a car. Each of these towns has a special feel that you do not want to miss when visiting.
The main campus of the University of Molise also is part of the city of Campobasso. It is known for its many programs including its specialization center, which is geared toward those training to be High School teachers. The university is relatively new, having only been founded in 1982.
The many traditions of Italy are followed here, as well. The main square provides many indoor and outdoor cafes and bars as well as pubs and dance spots. Families also gather here to meet and mingle over ice cream. It is not uncommon to see families enjoying this activity well into the late evening. In addition, don’t forget about the local soccer team. The Campobasso football club is alive and well playing in the Serie D league, hosting all of their matches at Stadio Nuovo Romagnoli.
Campobasso provides any visitor with a taste of Italy that has you wanting to come back for more.
By Mike Mancini