Not far from our ancestoral homeland at 3000 feet above sea level, Pietrabbondante can claim to be the highest ancient settlement in Italy. It was also the most sacred gathering spot of the Samnites, and it is one of the very rare ancient monuments that have not been strangled by modern encroachments. It is a truly charming spot, sprawled across a rural plateau between deep green hills and broad cultivated fields. In ancient times this was Bovianum Vetus. The modern name of "plentiful stone" could not be more apropos for the silent grassy cluster of gray stone ruins, including a temple and a theatre. Nearby is a slightly older sanctuary, and on the mountain above are the remains of an even older stone defense wall. Test the anatomically correct theatre seats, each individually carved from its own block of stone; try speaking or singing a few lines to check the perfect acoustics; and stand in the middle of the temple floor and admire the stunning vantage point across the valley. You will undoubtedly have the place all to yourselves. Remember, there are no tourists here.
Traveling further east along this prehistoric highway S650 heading towards Campobasso, we soon come to Pescolanciano, another tiny town with a big castle, different than most others though because this one managed to preserve its drawbridge. Nearby you'll come across a “tratturo”. It may look like no more than a dirt road to you, but it is actually one of the ancient pathways used by local shepherds for centuries to move their herds south to Apulia for the winter. Its origins are thought to go back as far as the 2nd century BC.
Agnone, is another charming hilltown. This friendly place is known for its delicious food, for its artisan workshops, and for its factory which specializes in bronze bells. If you have ever slept anywhere in Italy, chances are you have been awoken by a bell forged at the centuries-old Marinelli factory in Agnone.
Agnone stands on a hill overlooking the valley of the Verrino River. The wide valley can be spotted from various points along the streets of the town. Every terrace or panoramic viewing point showcases a different side of the mountain, with its abundance of cultivated fields, forests, woods, and scattering of houses.
Three out of the original seven medieval gates remain: Porta di San Nicola, l’Arco Semiurno and Porta Maggiore, while others have been destroyed over time.
The entire town is dotted with churches, a good thirteen structures embellished by paintings and archeological details that tell the story of the evolution of Agnonese history.
After leaving Agnone you'll drive directly to our ancestral city of Campobasso. Though the city now has more than fifty thousand inhabitants, it still maintains its original human dimension.
The city is quite striking in appearance for in its middle rises a hill on which is perched an ancient ninth century feudal castle situated on the highest peak overlooking the entire region. Castello Monforte and its six towers, was named after its most famous resident and onetime overlord, Nicola Monforte. The historic center of the city is arranged in a semicircle around the hill. In ancient Samnite times a settlement existed on the hill that rises behind the present town, most probably a fortress in control of the Matese-Cortile shepherds' track, the “tratturo” mentioned previously. The first historical information about Campobasso goes back to Lombard times, when there were two centers: "Campus de Prata", where the castle rose, and "Campus Vassus", which later changed into "Campus Bassus" (meaning lower territory, since it was below the castle).