In his classic 1945 book "Christ stopped at Eboli (Cristo si è fermato a Eboli)" Carlo Levi describes the remote and isolated land of southern Italy and the destitute of the peasant inhabitants. Well, people are no longer starving in the south but tourists still seem to be stopping at Eboli or, more accurately, at the Amalfi coast. Virtually unknown to most tourists is breathtaking views and historic significance of southern Italy. Many of the towns and cities of the south are rich with history as old and as interesting as the history of the central and northern cities of Italy.
The two towns exhibited in this photo gallery are in the Salerno province in the Campania region of Southern Italy and are located in the heart of one of Italy's largest National Parks - Parco Nazionale del Cilento e del Vallo di Diano. Surrounding the Fasanella valley in this park are three towns: Ottati, Sant'Angelo a Fasanella and Corleto Monforte. Both of my parents come from this area, my mother from the town Sant' Angelo a Fasanella and my father from the neighboring town Corleto Monforte. I visited both towns in July 2006 after a 32 year hiatus.
Sant' Angelo a Fasanella
"Sopra la Terra"
Via Conca - where my maternal grandparent's home is located
The Town Square (Piazza Ortale)
"Dentro la Terra"
Castel Ducale and Chiesa Madre di Santa Maria Maggiore
Grotta di San Michele
The name of this ancient town has an interesting history. The Fasanella part of the name is Greek, being a derivation of the name Phasis, and refers to the valley and river of the same name . The Sant' Angelo part of the name refers to a wonderful grotto ("Grotta di San Michele") that contains an altar for the veneration of the Archangel Michael as well as other early catholic iconography.
The Roman's called the most southern part of Italy Magna Graecia ("Greater Greece") because it was heavily colonized by the Greeks beginning as early as 800 B.C. The Fasanella valley and river in the Cilento area of Campania was called Phasis by the original Greek settlers after the river and city of the same name in an ancient land near the Black Sea called Colchis. In Greek mythology Colchis is where Jason and the Argonauts sailed in their quest for the Golden Fleece. The Greeks settled the area of Colchis around the Phasis river where it empties into the Black Sea (today it is the western part of Georgia). The Fasanella (Phasanella) valley and its river must have reminded the Greek settlers of their home city. The settlement in the Fasanella valley in southern Italy grew to become a substantial Medieval village. By the 1000-1100's it came under the control of a Lombard family that took on the Fasanella name. The family also adopted the common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) as part of their coat of arms. The word pheasant is derived from the Greek phasianos (Phasian bird). According to legend the Argonauts captured these beautiful birds from the forests near the Phasis river in Colchis and, along with the golden fleece, brought them to Greece. In 1246 Pandolfo Fasanella was the feudal lord of the valley and a major player in a conspiracy against the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II known as the "Conspiracy of Capacio". To quell the conspiracy Frederick II ordered his army to destroy the entire Fasanella valley settlement (some ruins of the original settlement can be seen at the confluence of the Fasanella and Calore rivers in the valley). After the sacking of the valley, survivors rebuilt their homes near the site of a Norman Castle higher up in the valley. Gradually the homes spread to above the castle. Today all the homes surrounding the ancient Norman castle (Castelo Ducale) is known as Sant' Angelo a Fasanella. The "newer" section (300-400 years old) is known as "Sopra la Terra", the older section near the castle is referred to as "Dentro la Terra" and the most ancient section lower in the valley is known as "Basso la Terra". For a photo of Sant' Angelo that was taken from Corleto (the neighboring town) click here.
In the valley below Sant' Angelo
Ponte Romano & Cascata del'Ausa
North of Sant' Angelo in the Alburni Mountains
Costa Palomba and the "Antece"
Piazza Diana and la Chiesa di Santa Barbara - To listen to the church choir click here
A walk through the streets of Corleto Monforte - includes the Vigorito homes.
The Ruins of the church of St. Teodoro
The museum of natural history in Corleto
Corleto Monforte is believed to have been founded by the Lucani. For defensive purposes, and to keep an eye on the Greeks that were settling in the valley below, the Lucani built Corleto on a mountain ridge. The ridge was carved out by two rivers that emptied into the valley (one on the left and one on the right). You can see the town perched on a ridge on the left side of the picture on the top of this page. Click on the link under the picture for a larger version or click here to see the section with Corleto enlarged.
The Cave of Castelcivita
A final note:
The towns in the Fasanella valley are great places to visit, particularly if you are interested in antiquity, history or nature, or if you simply wish to relax in a beautiful environment with stunning scenery away from the hustle and bustle of the typical tourist traps. However, if you are looking for easy access to nice restaurants and quaint shops you won't find them in Corleto or Sant' Angelo. Your best bet is to stay in a more populated town or a nearby city (e.g., Salerno) and drive into the towns and valley for daily excursions. If you have family in the town and plan on staying with them, make sure that you rent a car or at least have someone willing and able to drive you around. The towns are trying to attract tourists but they have a long way to go. Another possibility is to make use of the "Agriturismo" (a type of bed and breakfast) that are emerging throughout the area. These places provide meals and have organized activities and private tours of the historical and natural wonders of the area. There is one in Sant' Angelo called "La Rocca degli Ulivi" with a nice pool (the only one in the area) and they have a web site. There are several in Castelcivita (two towns over from Sant' Angelo) and other nearby towns. Some are listed on this web site.