This is one of the smallest regions of Italy. It is relatively young when compared to other regions. Molise was established in 1963 when Abruzzo e Molise was split to yield two regions. However, its history can be traced to the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, which gave way to the invasion by Goths and Languebards in the 6th century. When the Saracens invaded in the 9th century, they left a trail of destruction spanning from Isernia, Alife, Telese, Boiano, Sepino and Venafro.
In the 11th century, Molise fell under rule of Norman Hugo I of Molhouse. At his succession he gave the region the name of ‘Molise’ and his assumed the title of Ugo II Count of Molise. Under the reign of Ugo II, the region was included to the Province of Apulia (Capitanata) and it remained so until the 17th century when it gained autonomy and became part of the Abruzzi region. Following massive destruction, worsening economic conditions, and massive emigration it was restored back to Italy. Administratively, Molise is divided into two provinces. Campobasso province is the regional capital. The other province is called Isernia.
Molise remains sparsely populated with abandoned villages testifying of the massive emigration. However, despite this desolation, there are certain sites worth visiting. Due to the Roman and Gothic influences, Molise has many beautiful churches, abbeys, castles and impressive ancient ruins that cannot escape the tourist’s scan.
In addition to these natural spectacular sites, there are festivals that are worth detailing in itinerary. Campo basso – Sagra dei Misteri (Feast of Corpus Christi) and Ururi – San Legno of the Cross Festival with ox-cart takes place in May. At Venafro, residents entertain themselves and their visitors during the Saint Nicardo Festival and bareback donkey race which comes in the middle of June. The Barbecued Lamb Festival and the Feast of the mountain occur towards the end of the year. These festivals lighten up the desolate air of Molise.
Campobasso is the capital of the Molise region and of the province of Campobasso. Its located between the Sannio and Matese mountains and is filled with natural beauty and charm, and was once world-famous for its cutlery craftsmanship. Situated 700 meters above sea level and close to the Apennine Mountains, Campobasso is considered one of the coldest cities of southern Italy and snowfall is frequent during winter months.
Campobasso is divided into two sections. The old town is where the beautiful Castello Monforte can be found, as well as an archaeological museum of the Samnite people, which is located in an ancient palace. The “new” town is outside of the walls in the lower fertile plain and dates back to the 16th century (the church of Sant’Antonio Abate, was built just outside the medieval walls. During the Second World War, Campobasso was occupied by Canadian forces for two year and for a time was nicknamed “Canada Town” or “Maple Leaf City”.
Historically a fishing port, today Termoli is the largest and most important seaside resort destination in Molise. The historic old town, called “Borgo Vecchio” is situated up on a rocky promontory has been well restored. The newer part of town is located along the coastline and considered the resort area. Termoli’s resorts are renowned for the quality of its beaches and its sparkling waters.
Isernia is a small town of a little over 20,000, and is a typical small countryside village. The town sits above the valley between the Carpino and Sordo rivers and still reflects the road plan of a Roman town, with a central wide street and side streets on both sides. Isernia is a great location for exploring other smaller villages in the area such as, Castelromano, Cerro al Volturno, Castel San Vicenzo, Pietrabbondante, and Agnone. Isernia is a place where you can find a true slice of Italy.