If you love to discover offbeat travel destinations, this hidden gem should be on your list. The hamlet of Civitacampomarano, in the middle of rural Molise, is half abandoned and was recently damaged by a landslide. But it also boasts some great street art – the result of a yearly festival organised by the internationally acclaimed Alice Pasquini – and a surprisingly modern design apartment.
Civitacampomarano: what to do & where to sleep | Molise
Distance from rome: 3 h 5 m
Where to sleep: Casa Cuoco (apartment with two bedrooms for max 4 people)
Where to eat: La Passeggiata (for lunch and dinner) | Laboratorio Produzione “I Ciell” (for dolci and fresh pizza)
What to do nearby: take a hike through the beautiful valley surrounding the village (for example at La Cavatella or the Calanchi di Civitacampomarano)
The experience of visiting Civitàcampomarano couldn’t be further away from what it’s like to live in Rome: this small hamlet in Italy’s least known region (Molise) consists of more empty houses than people. As soon as I drive into the old town centre – after maneuvering small dirt roads through the hills for about half an hour – I notice my phone doesn’t have any reception. Apart from a few elderly men sitting on the steps of their houses, there’s no one to be seen.
Until I’m enthusiastically greeted by Barbara Manuele, a tour guide who’s lived in the village almost her entire life. “I lived in Genoa for a few years, but I missed it here,” she tells me as we start walking through the small streets. “I traveled all over the world for my job, but I’m always happy to come back.” The pride she feels for her hometown shines through in every story she tells. “Most of the houses in the old centre are abandoned now. Such a shame: once renovated, they would make amazing apartments or characteristic holiday homes.” We enter one of them, where broken chairs and old cooking utensils are still laying around. “Just look at those beautiful terracotta floors!” She exclaims.
Civitacampomarano: hamlet with a long history
The village of Civitacampomarano lies on top of a hill surrounded by a beautiful, green valley. Its history goes back to the period of the Sanniti, in the centuries before Christ, but the oldest houses in the centre were built in the 14th century. The castle in the middle of the old town, Castello Angioino, still reminds of the period in which the Angioina family ruled over the area. It’s the town’s most famous site and regularly opens to visitors.
In recent years, Civitacampomarano has drawn attention from international tourist crowds thanks to the yearly street art festival, CVTà Street Fest. In 2016, Ylenia Carelli, president of the local association and Barbara’s colleague, invited the roman artist Alice Pasquini to come to the village and give a bit of colour to its walls. Alice has a special connection to the village: her grandfather was born and raised here. She became the festival’s art director and invited renowned artists from all over the world to paint the walls of the medieval houses.
CVTà Fest has turned the town into a must-visit for street art enthusiasts, not just during the festival itself (that attracts up to 8000 visitors), but throughout the whole year. “Almost every day, I notice some visitors strolling through the streets. The people of Cività receive them warmly: they’re happy their birth town finally sees some new faces,” says Barbara.
Design in unexpected places
That night, I sleep in Casa Cuoco. The former house of Italian 18th-century politician and writer Vincenzo Cuoco has been restored thanks to the Italian Villages Project. Launched by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage in collaboration with Airbnb, it aims to revive old towns by restoring abandoned houses with the help of Italian architects and artists.
Casa Cuoco is the opposite of what you’d expect of a countryside holiday home: it’s a modern design apartment decorated in a minimalist style. Milanese design studio Eligo decorated the house with SMEG kitchen appliances, Bitossi tableware, and Vitra furniture.
Visual artist Lorenzo Vitturi created three bespoke artworks. He made sculptures with waste collected from the town’s abandoned houses, which he then photographed. The monochrome prints hang on the ceiling in the hallway and in the apartment itself. Sleeping in Casa Cuoco is a unique experience for design-loving couples or groups of friends. The house consists of two double bedrooms.
As Barbara and I finish our tour of the most important street artworks, we stand on a small square at the far end of the village, looking out over the beautiful green valley. ‘Il Molise Non Esiste’ (Molise doesn’t exist), one of the walls says. But the last word has been scratched and the quote has been changed to ‘Il Molise Resiste’ (Molise resists). It does, I think to myself: despite its declining population and many abandoned houses, Civitacampomarano truly is a hidden gem.
All images © 2020 Liza Karsemeijer (photos of Civitacampomarano) and Claudia Zalla (photos inside Casa Cuoco)