The Santiago de Compostela and Via Francigena routes are two of the best-known pilgrimage routes in the western world and every year they become more popular among pilgrims and tourists, thanks in part to the promotion and development of infrastructure and services. This success has helped to develop the idea that itineraries represent a great opportunity for local marketing not only for the destination cities (Santiago, Rome and Jerusalem), but in all areas crossed by these routes as well. Within this context, as part of the European initiative Leader+, LAG Titerno has participated, together with twenty European LAGs from five different countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Sweden) in the realization of a transnational cooperation project called “Routes of Europe”, whose aim is the promotion of rural areas crossed by the Santiago de Compostela and Via Francigena routes.
The route of the soul: the Via Francigena in the Sannio Beneventano area
This was the framework, in the previous programming cycle, that gave rise to the LAG Titerno project plan “Southern Via Francigena: a sacred itinerary in Campania”, which is animated by the idea of an extension of the Sigerico itinerary that, starting from Rome, would guide pilgrims of the third millennium to the Holy Land . A sort of “route of the east”, a “Santiago de Compostela route” in the opposite direction, that would pass through lower Lazio, Campania, reach the Puglia coast and from there, by sea and land, proceed to Jerusalem. A journey that is a return to the origins of faith, of which the stretch in Campania, touching on the provinces of Caserta, Benevento and Avellino, would represent an essential component.
The Sannio Beneventano area, in addition to its historical central position in the Adriatic area and therefore in the eastern Mediterranean region, has always been a territory where the sense of the sacred, religion, devotional cults and pilgrimages have been so closely followed by local populations as to undoubtedly represent a marker of local identity.
Clear evidence of this particular, enduring sense of the sacred are the Penitential Rites of Guardia Sanframondi and the widespread presence of other religious events, churches, shrines, places of worship, which punctuate the area as if to reaffirm a cultural and religious bond that through all the centuries has never been lost.
Also, Pietrelcina is located in this area, Saint Pio's birthplace, whose fame, especially in recent years, has made it the most significant religious destination of the entire region.
As already mentioned, the "Southern Via Francigena" route winding from Lazio to Puglia, and then continuing towards Jerusalem, crosses part of the Sannio Beneventano area.
An internal itinerary, further east and through mountains, which, retracing the ancient Via Latina, passes through the Ciociaria area, touches the Abbey of Montecassino, enters Campania in the higher Caserta area and then, moving towards Teano and Riardo, reaches the valley of the Volturno river at Alife, where it joins the Samnite Faicchio-Benevento stretch of road that, following the river Calore, crosses the whole Telesina Valley: San Salvatore with the remains of ancient Telesia, Telese Terme, the flat area of the municipalities of Castelvenere, Guardia Sanframondi and San Lorenzo Maggiore, then goes through the town of Ponte to finally reach the city of the Trajan Arch.
Once in Benevento, after a brief detour towards Pietrelcina, the itinerary will continue along the route of the Via Traiana - built by the homonymous Emperor between 108 and 110 BC to connect Rome and Brindisi, and pass through the territory of the municipalities of Paduli, Buonalbergo and Castelfranco in Miscano, down to the regional border with Puglia.
Promotion of the area
The local area is characterized by a variety of resources whose distinctive elements are: quality productions, such as the production of prestigious DOC and DOCG white and red wines, intact environment, beautiful landscape and cultural excellence, facilities and hospitality (a considerable wine and food tradition, spa resources, regional Parks, the Wine Route, historical and cultural heritage, extensive hotel accommodation and agritourism). Recurring events of well-established importance related to all the Penitential Rites held every seven years in honour of the Virgin of the Assumption of Guardia Sanframondi.
In short, a "slow territory", a model of development in which rural activities mix with productive ones and with innovative tourism, within a multi-sectoral approach that prevents the area from relying on a single development engine.