Even a casual observer of mass Italian tourism reads and hears the commentary.
Tuscany is overrun with outsiders.
Venice is sinking under hordes of cruise line passengers.
Rome is deluged with foreigners.
The Cinque Terre is so crowded that’s it has lost its once-remote allure.
Capri is a tourist trap.
These magnificent places attract multitudes who come to experience the magnificent art, history, cuisines, cultures, and natural beauty.
While it’s the job of the government, tourism industry, and local communities to sort out the long-term future of mass tourism in Italy, it’s my good fortune to offer a plan for right now.
Simply get off the tourism conveyor belt. Each time Walter and I travel to Italy, we choose to explore places that are new to us. Like the region of Molise. We wander, dine, learn, and laugh surrounded by Italians instead of English, German, or Chinese-language speakers.
And isn’t that the reason we all want to experience Italy?
During our recent sojourn in the city of Campobasso, our B&B host Luciano Viola, urged us to drive up to Oratino for lunch at Ristorante Olmicello. He seemed so intent on the prospect that we began to wonder if he was a shareholder in the business. Turns out, Luciano was just the best at promoting some of his area’s finest.
As dramatic spring clouds scuttled across a brilliant blue sky, we made the 15-minute drive northwest of Campobasso to Oratino. In the small park and overlook, we soaked in a verdant vista.
The town sparkled.
We conversed with a lovely signora who struck up a conversation and later befriended us on Facebook.
To borrow a phrase from the Michelin Guide, Ristorante Olmicello is worth a detour.
We ate asparagus-stuffed fresh pasta, pappardelle with porcini mushrooms and truffles, grilled lamb, a mixed salad, and creme caramel with local wine. Everything was fresh and fine. The dining area was so soothing, I could have stayed there all day.
More Hill Towns in Molise
On a different day, we headed south of Campobasso bound for the Roman ruins of Saepinum (more on the ruins in a future post) near the town of Sepino. We hadn’t seen any signage for the ruins so we parked in the center of town to ask for help. But, once again, it was the lunch break and the streets were barren. Suddenly, just as it happened in our first day in Molise, a friendly signora approached us to offer guidance.
The signora explained that the Roman ruins lie down in the valley below town, but, since we were parked, could she give us a brief tour of the village. How could we decline?
She walked us past the Commune in the main piazza and took us into the Church of Santa Cristina where she opened the locked Cappela del Tesoro (Treasure Chapel) that houses relics of the Saint.
San Giuliano del Sannio
After several hours walking the nearly deserted Roman ruins of Saepinum, we drove home to Campobasso, stopping along the way San Giuliano del Sannio for a caffe. And, no surpise, more opportunities for lovely photos.
We ran out of time in Molise before we ran out of hill towns. Here’s a link to quite a few more scenic towns. We’ll surely return to check them out.
Have you spent time in a hill town in Molise? Share your experience.
John J. Pontarelli, Chicago, Illinois. Anybody out there from, or has ever been to, Rocchetta al Volturno, Provincia Isernia? Beautiful town in Molise! John