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Hidden Isernia - from Venafro to Pietrabbondante

by Dario Morgante last modified 2008-06-20 15:10

A journey from Rome to Potenza takes us off the beaten track to discover enchanting towns and a spectacular Samnite theatre.

PietrabbondanteWe leave Rome in our trusty little car armed with maps of Central and Southern Italy. Our idea is to head for Potenza and tour around Basilicata (or Lucania as it is also known), a region often neglected by tourists - ourselves included, a fact we hope to put right with this visit.
The road is long and we decide to take it easy and enjoy the scenery on route. Our first stop is in Venafro, a small town on the border between Lazio, Campania and Molise, and for the record officially belonging of the latter.
We spend the night in "Dimora del Prete di Belmonte", a magnificent 16th Century house recently renovated and opened to guests and still belonging to the Del Prete family. There are only four rooms in the hotel, each one elegantly furnished with antiques complete with its own modern bathroom and good value at LIT 150.000 lire per night. The owners, Luigi and Dorothy, are friendly and accommodating and for a little extra you can eat a variety of local specialities prepared in their kitchen
If you prefer to try out somewhere else you won't go wrong at "Al Castello", just outside the old centre, where we spent a number of delicious hours.

Our hosts suggested we visit Pietrabbondante, so, with our curiosity whetted by its unusual name (literally Abundant Stone) we headed north-west. The drive from Venafro to Pietrabbondante winds across 50 km of mountain roads, but it's worth it. The town was built near the ruins of an ancient Samnite sanctuary dating back to 200 BC. It was a sacred site, similar in use to Stonehenge, and a meeting point for the Samnite tribes in the area. You can visit the remains of a Samnite theatre, complete with steps for the public and still used for shows during the summer. There's something magical about the place and, situated on a plain overlooking the valley below, the views are breathtaking.
If, like us, you are in the area at lunchtime, then we suggest you stop at the restaurant at Pescolanciano on the road between Pietrabbondante and Isernia where an antipasto misto della zona and buffalo mozzarella knots are an absolute must! And you may put off Potenza and Basilicata for another day.

Dimora del Prete - - The website of Dimora del Prete di Belmonte Bed and Breakfast with photos of the rooms, prices and info on how to get there and tourist itineraries in the area.
In and around Isernia - - Tourist information on the Isernia area which includes Venafro and Pietrabbondante.

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