On the morning after my amazing day in Naples, I left the city to learn more about the rest of the region.
I was invited by Campania Arte Card to attend two of their thematic Grand Tours across the region:
a wine tour in Irpinia, a very off-the-beaten path area of Campania, and a night tour at the archaeological excavations of Herculaneum.
Avellino is the biggest town in Irpinia, a mountainous area of Campania on the Southern Apennine Mountains. Unlike the coast, this area has always been rural and isolated, and even Avellino looks like a big, quiet village.
Avellino was a centre of the Samnite Hirpini, which was conquered by the Romans in 293 BC. It later became an Episcopal seat and, after the Lombard conquest of southern Italy, the old city was abandoned and a new one rose on Terra Hill, which is the area that we visited during the tour.
Even in the old city centre, though, we couldn’t spot any sign of its fascinating past, as almost all the ancient buildings were destroyed during the 1980 dramatic earthquake.
The emblem of the city is its Clock Tower, which is visible from any corner of Avellino. It was built during the 17th century by Cosimo Fanzago.
Here we visited the Cathedral with its frescoed crypt.
The Romanesque Cathedral maintained its original appearance until the 17th century; then, several renovation works made it more Baroque at first, and later Neoclassical.
The nearby crypt, instead, has maintained its Romanesque appearance, and the contrast between these two architectures is intense.
Just in front of the Cathedral, at the other side of the cobbled square, there is a tiny door through which you can enter the atelier of the painter Giovanni Spinello, whose art has been compared to Chagall’s.
In fact, as we entered the atelier, we found several colourful figures flying in their magical worlds but, even if with a fairy-talish approach, Giovanni still addresses to crucial issues of our time, such as ecology and the urge to save our ‘suffering earth’, as one of his paintings puts it.
Avellino > WINE TASTING AT VILLA RAIANO
San Michele di Serino, Avellino
As the theme of the tour was ‘wine’, later we went to Villa Raiano, a winery established in 1996, where we visited the wine cellar and had a wine tasting. The place itself is amazing: it overlooks the valley of river Sabato and it is surrounded by chestnut woods and, of course, vineyards.
It is so beautiful that it is often booked for wedding receptions and, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to celebrate in a venue where you can’t possibly run out of wine? ;-)
Being new, the cellar is very modern and technologic, but the wine-making process taking place at Villa Raiano is rooted into ancient traditions, and the company is producing biological wine obtained through sustainable agricultural processes.
As Irpinia is an inner area characterized by low temperatures and mountainous lands, the wine produced here has similar characteristics to mountain wines.
We tasted three wines, which were all very fresh but with different scents inside: the Fiano di Avellino D.O.C.G. (2014) tasted of hazelnut and citrus fruits, the Greco di Tufo D.O.C.G. (2014) had a very mineral flavour and the red wine, an Aglianico D.O.C. (2012), tasted of red fruits.
HERCULANEUM BY NIGHT
Grand Tour Campania by night
“La Notte di Plinio” at the archaeological excavations of Herculaneum from July to September 2015, available both in Italian and in English.
In the evening, I went to the Unesco archaeological site of Herculaneum to attend a night tour of the excavations and a theatrical reading of Pliny the Younger’s letters recalling the eruption of Vesuvius that buried the ancient city of Herculaneum in AD 79.
The archaeological site of Herculaneum is smaller and less famous than Pompeii, but it is better preserved due to the different materials that covered the town. In fact, the volcanic pyroclastic flows sealed and preserved Herculaneum, so that wooden and other organic-based objects survived, included 300 skeletons.
Rather than a classical archaeological tour, this night tour was very evocative. Moreover, we were the only people wandering around Herculaneum, which usually is pretty crowded as any other UNESCO site, and the quiet all around us was broken only by the sound of the crickets.
During the last part of the tour we entered two houses that are usually closed to the public and there we attended ‘La Notte di Plinio’, a performance based on Pliny the Younger’s letters to Tacitus in which he described the last moments of Herculaneum and the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder.
And so, this was my weekend in Campania. It’s always a pleasure to be back in Naples, as I consider it one of the most beautiful towns ever, but this time I especially loved going out of town and discovering two more beautiful places of Campania region. Stay tuned, as I am going back to Campania soon!
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