Chessboard of Titans

October 13, 2009 / Local Interest
San Giorgio la Molara, Campania
chessboard1While on a heritage tour with an Italian-American family who had come to meet their Italian relatives, we spent some time in their family’s ancestral tiny hilltop village of San Giorgio la Molara in the province of Benevento.

This is a vast farming region of rolling hills and an immense checker-board effect is created by the colors of the crops: predominant are the powder blue of the sky, the rich browns of the tilled fields and the grey-greens of olive, tobacco and corn, with golden garlands of tobacco neatly hanging to dry on wooden racks.

chessboard2At first glance it’s an idyllic scene, with sheep grazing in the meadows, far from the drama of Naples or the exaltation of the Amalfi Coast. But it’s a stark, spartan place, where in the early part of the last century lives were torn apart by back-breaking labor, famine and emigration and where even today families live isolated lives highlighted only by births, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

As we travelled through the countryside, huge turbines harvested the Autumn winds and I reflected that nothing here goes to waste. And then I was struck by how this stark landscape, viewed from the air, might seem like some titanic game of chess, with the huge windmills posing as pawns on an awesome and endless chessboard.

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Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”,, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

6 Responses to “Chessboard of Titans”

  1. Rosemary

    This is a very lovely area. My maternal grandmother’s family came from a tiny village near Benevento also. Beautiful imagery! Thank you. We did not see windmills when we were there in 2007, at least I don’t remember them – how recent are these?

  2. Enjoy reading about the BN province. Brings me back virtually. Thanks & good job.

  3. Angelina Limato

    Very nice article and love the pictures. We just recently found out that my Great Grandfather came from Vitulano which is in the Benevento province and Campania regione also. We had always just been told out family was from Napoli so it was interesting to find this out. My cousin went there and found some relatives that were very nice especially considering they had never met these Americans before. They took them around and showed them where our Great Grandfather had been born and grew up. At the end of the visit they presented them with and olive branch which I found a very nice gesture. They spoke little English and my cousin spoke little Italian but they managed to communicate. They also showed my cousins some old family pictures (wish I had been there for that). I wasn’t there but was impressed with the openess, trusting, and generosity of people who didn’t have to open their hearts, home or give of their time to people they didn’t know just because they claimed to be family. Would love to go there and meet them too. It was nice to see the pictures of the buildings there and a plaque to an Uncle I never heard of that was on a church building he had contributed to. The more I see and find out of Italy the more I get to find out who my Father is and why he does the things he does. That is magical to me.

  4. mary jane cryan

    Barbara, Lovely note about an area I have never visited. I’m interested in the huge wind towers since they want to implant (is that the word?) them in the Viterbo area too, near Piansano and Arlena di Castro . How tall are they? Do they make noise?

  5. Patty Yellam Barber

    My maternal grandmother (Florence Fabbio) was from the town of Morrone nel Sannio. I visited there in 1971 and took a bus from Benevento to this hilltop town. I remember the older women all dressed in black sitting in front of their homes on the small street watching the happenings on the street. It was humbling to see my roots. I have taken many trips to Italy since then but have not had the chance to visit again. One of these years I’ll get back there.


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