Molise - Things To Do
Molise, located in south central Italy, may be one of the smaller regions of the country but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in natural beauty, tradition, and culture. Whether it is journeying through the Apennine Mountains, tracing paths along the rolling green hills, or taking in the sun beachside, Molise offers dozens of activities to engage the mind and soothe the soul.
Festivals & Events
In February, the residents of Molise come together for the Carnival of Larino. This local parade is filled with intricately made paper mache floats that are typically modeled after famous people of Molise or famous Italians in general. Each float is a unique work of art that is usually about twenty feet tall.
Jugglers, brightly dressed dancers, and children wearing masks walk alongside the creations as they wind through the streets lined with excited crowds.
In late spring, Corsa dei Ceri, takes over the streets of San Martino in Molise. The event is actually a race between two or more carts that are pulled by a pair of oxen. The carts are distinguished only by their colors. The first one to the finish line wins. Crowds often line the streets and wait in anticipation for the carts to pass them in a heated race to the finish line.
In June, a religious festival called the Festival of Mysteries is held. This religious procession with deep historical roots takes place in Campobasso. It is a parade of floats established in the mid eighteenth century, but does not showcase typical floats. Each float, or mystery as they are referred to, is actually a metal structure that can support the weight of children and adults on the float itself. Each mystery is then carried on several young people’s shoulders. Mysteries are created and decorated in such a way that they appear to be floating in midair rather than sitting atop someone’s shoulders. Each mystery is dedicated to a saint and offers a specific religious or moral message. This festival is a novelty and a definite favorite amongst locals and visitors alike.
Ndocciata is an ancient Christmas festival that is held each December in Agnone. Participants carry large torches that are many times the size and shape of a hand held fan. The torches, or ndocce, are lit and then carried through the streets by people dressed in traditional costumes.
Much like it appears to onlookers under the dark cover of night, the procession of ndocce is called the “River of Fire.” During the procession people sing and bagpipes are played. The procession ends with what is referred to as the “Bonfire of Brotherhood” where a traditional nativity scene is displayed.
If wanting to spend some time outdoors to soak up the local weather and scenery, journeying along the Tratturo Pescasseroli-Candela is an excellent idea. This trail is the third longest seasonal livestock trail in southern Italy. Originally traveled by shepherds, the trail runs through Isernia and is sprinkled with abandoned structures such as taverns, sanctuaries, and baths the shepherds once utilized during livestock migration. A stroll down this path is a wonderful way to see the landscape of Molise first-hand.
For those who prefer to take in the mountains and hills of Molise by hiking or trekking, Molise’s nature reserves of LIPU Oasis in Casacalenda and WWF Oasis of Guardiaregia-Campochiaro are perfect options.
As you weave throughout these reserves, be sure to slow down long enough to spot and identify the flora and fauna unique to this area.
The Castel San Vincenzo is the largest village in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise. It sits perched hillside, surrounded with gorgeous views of a nearby man-made lake and green forests. While touring this charming village, be sure to visit the San Vincenzo al Volturno, an abbey with roots that are estimated to have originated in 731. The abbey features a single tall bell tower and is a beautiful oasis tucked in between the rolling hills of Molise. To visit this village and abbey, is to breathe in the tranquility of the area so deeply that it can penetrate the soul.
Not to be missed is Molise’s unique collection of museums. The National Museum of Paleontology and Archaeology in Isernia is a nod to the area’s historical roots that can be traced back to 700,000 years ago. Also of note are the Museum of Tombolo, which features generations of Bobbin Lace pieces and equipment, and the Museum of Zampogna, a museum in Scapoli with exhibits of bagpipes from Italy and all over the world.
The Sannitico Museum of Campobasso is located in the center of Campobasso in the ancient Mazzarotta Palace. The exhibits here are archeological finds from different eras that are divided into rooms by similar displays. The Museo Archologico Vittoriano is another beautiful museum rich in the area’s history and culture.
The Antiquarium of Sepino is an outdoor set of rural buildings from the eighteenth century. The semi- circular structure is characteristic of a historical theater. Inside the houses that together make the semi- circular structure, visitors can find much of that period of life preserved in the form of sinks, fireplaces, ovens, and more.
The Archeological Museum of Venafro is found inside the seventh century convent of Santa Chiara, where a smaller museum was originally founded with archaeological finds from Terme. Museum displays include various excavation finds from second century B.C. on. Take your time as you make your way through this museum to find some truly amazing finds from centuries ago.
To get some physical activity in as a group, take the family to tour some of Molise’s more charming villages. The medieval village of Ferrazzano is full of history and is home to a megalithic wall, or wall made of very large stones during periods of prehistory. The fortified villages of Pesche and Saepinum offer tours of the villages themselves as well as interesting remains of castles, towers, and walls strewn in along the way.
Molise With the Kids
Some sunshine and a little sand mixed with salty ocean water is considered to be the perfect day for many kids. In Molise it won’t be a day at just any beach or any ocean, but twenty-two miles of pristine, sandy beaches that slope down into the sparkling blue water of the Adriatic Sea.
One of the more popular beaches is that of Termoli. The town is both a port and ancient fishing town that attracts tourists with not only its beach and seaside resorts, but a palm tree lined promenade perfect for stealing a couple of minutes or hours for relaxation. Another draw for Termoli are the ferries that run between it and Isole Tremiti, a group of nearby islands in the Adriatic that are encircled by exceedingly crystal clear water.
If you’re hoping to visit more than one Molise beach, check out Campomarino and Rio Vio. In particular, Rio Vio attracts those who enjoy diving and water sports of all kinds in the Adriatic Sea.
Come visit Molise and embrace the local way of life. Slow your pace and take time to enjoy the people and beauty that surrounds you in the heart of south central Italy.