Cerreto Sannita: The Innovating Force of Chaos

May 16, 2008 / Places
Cerreto Sannita
Cerreto Sannita, as the name suggests, is located in the heart of the Sannio area in Campania and was founded in the 10th century. It was ruled first by the Lombards, then the Normans and finally by the feudal families of Sanframondo and Carafa until the fateful day of June 5th 1688 when the entire city was razed to the ground by a cataclysmic earthquake. Nothing remained standing, except for three tiny potters’ shacks. It is estimated that 4000 people were killed, half of the entire population.

The Count of Cerreto, Marzio Carafa, decided to rebuild the city a short distance away using the new and rational concepts of the time. Instead of the houses cropping up willy-nilly around a dominant castle as in the middle ages, Carafa – probably inspired by ancient Greek and Roman towns – had a grid plan drawn up by the Royal Engineer Gian Battista Manni. The town was rebuilt accordingly with two main streets lengthwise, the ancient Roman decumani, allowing one-way traffic in each direction and a number of small streets, the cardini intersecting perpendicularly. The result was a unique and theartical setting, without walls or defenses and is one of the few remaining examples of pure 18th century urbanization.

Today Cerreto Sannita is a sleepy town of 4000 and is still famous for its traditional ceramics in powdery hues of yellow, blue and green with unusual baroque curly-cues. Of particular interest to nature-lovers is the lush countryside and the hike past the sanctuary of Maria Santissima delle Grazie up to the rock formation known as the leonessa (lioness) which is visible from the surrounding countryside and which seems to watch over and protect this lovely valley.

Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

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

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