Some places, especially those most famous and visited ones, bear a label of a standard and predictable beauty, destined to be doomed as already known, already seen and even boring. As if it could ever be possible to have enough of the eternity of Rome, the art of Florence and the uniqueness of Venice.
But even if the worst happend, by an innocent mistake or an unlucky chance, and Italy fell under this unfortunate category in one of your deliberations dedicated to the organization of the upcoming vacation, remove it from your blacklist immediately and put it back on top of that of your priorities, for it is the land that can prove you wrong at any moment.
Italy is like a magical treasure chest: whenever you touch one of the jewels it contains, the latter gets multiplied, so that in front of you there is always an infinity of options ready to satisfy the most curious, the demanding, all those searching for unexpected discoveries and brand new horizons.
This series of articles, Italy Behind the Scenes, will be dedicated to the country unknown, ready to surprise and astonish a traveller, both an amateur and an experienced one.
Following the logo of the challenge, let me start from one of the most controversial regions of the peninsula – Campania. Famous for its passionate Neapolitan heart, splendid resort cities along the Amalfi coast and the shining diamond of the Capri island, Campania has to offer much more than stunning Vesuvius views and sunbathing on a luxurious yacht in the middle of the clear Mediterranean waters.
Have you ever heard of Sant’Agata de’ Goti, for example? Nope? That’s what I thought.
Moving to the east of the region in the direction of the Apennines chain you risk to discover a different landscape, a different story, a different state of mind. A different fairytale, I dare say. Like the one called Sant’Agata de’ Goti – a tiny medieval town in the province of Benevento perching on a tuff rock enclosed between the two tributaries of the Isclero river.
Sant’Agata rises on the site of the ancient Sannitic town of Saticula that in 313 B.C. became a Roman colony. The name of the city dates back to the 6th century A.D. when some Goths founded their settlement here that was later conquered by the Longobards and then, in 1066, by the Normans.
The Middle Ages granted the city the importance of becoming an episcopal see. But in spite of numerous churches and typically medieval appearance, the city preserves various traces of the Roman presence such as inscriptions, columns and sepulchres. The mixture of historical epochs and their respective heritage is noted in the site’s architecture as well as the difference of its population from that of the costal part of the region: at times, it feels as if you were observed, noted by the locals, seen as a stranger. Everybody knows each other here, so any visitor can be easily identified as a newcomer, and one can clearly perceive it. No encouraging greetings and embraces in the Neapolitan style, but quite and reserved hospitality, which is, nevertheless, an absolute must that helps to arrive to the conclusion that very few tourists come here, but they are always welcome. Moreovere, the fewer the better for those of us who prefer meditating tourism to that mass one.
For a change, for a great picture, for a new emotional experience and an unseen landscape, Sant’Agata de’ Goti is a place to discover, a chance to unveil a different Campania, a piece of land away form the naval routes, noisy ports and lazy deck chairs.
Sant’Agata is a perfect place for a short visit, a couple of hour’s walk, a tasty dinner in one of its numerous reatsurants. It can be easily reached by car from Naples (app. 50 km and 1 hour ride), Caserta (app. 30 km and 40 minute ride) and Benevento (app. 40 km and 50 minute ride) and is especially suggested on the following occasions:
- Infiorata, or decking with flowers, is a religious event of Corpus Domini on which the streets and squares of the city are paved by the pictures realized with myriads of colourful flower petals, gathered by the devoted Christians. It usually takes place between the end of spring and the beginning of summer.
- Sagra is a regional festival in any part of Italy that stands firmly of the basement of the local culinary tradition and is sometimes decorated by historical and cultural recreation. Sagra is the best way to get to know the real essense of a place as well as its cultural and character components. The sagras of Sant’Agata are always a great attraction, well-organized and well-attended by the citizens of the neighbouring areas. And it is always a guarantee of fun and taste.
Among the most beautiful boroughs of Italy, Sant’Agata is also often chosen as an open air movie studio and a stage for numerous artistic representations. No doubts: its architectural force of gravity, its visual appeal and medieval charm fought their way to appreciation against such giants as Naples, Pompei amd Sorrento.
A curiosity. Have you ever heard of Bill de Blasio? The mayor of New York’s granddad’s family originates from Sant’Agata de’ Goti!
Photo credits: Machs Gut ©.