If you’re interested in an Italian vacation that wanders off the beaten path, the Molise Region delivers. It’s the second smallest region of Italy located between the Abruzzo and Apulia in central Italy, but one well worth exploring.
Covering less than 550 square miles Molise beckons you with hills and forests sprinkled with castles and scattered with archeological treasures. It’s more Lonely Planet than luxury escape, but its Adriatic Sea coastal area has beach resorts with upscale amenities.
Fly into Rome’s Fiumicino Airport and you’re just 116 miles from Molise, an area of Italy with so much clean air and water that it is the site of two UNESCO Biospheres. If your vacation plans include hiking or exploring the region on a bicycle, you can catch a train or a bus into the Molise Region. However, if you prefer your outdoor adventure to be less strenuous, but maybe not less adventurous, rent a car. You may get lost, but you won’t be waiting for the somewhat irregular timetables of public transportation.
From Rome you can take the A1 to the SS85 and head out for Isernia. Take a rest stop along the way in Venafro, an area of ancient olive groves, Roman theatre ruins, a Gothic cathedral, and a 10th Century castle.
Once you reach the town of Isernia, you’ll want to see the walls built by the ancient Samnites back in the 4th century BC. These massive block walls are 12 ft. high and 10 ft. thick stretching for several miles.
Near Isernia, you also have the opportunity to tour a number of castles. In the nearby medieval village of Monteroduni you can see Castle Pignatelli, which has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries.
Other castles in the Isernia area include the cliff top Castello dei Duchi D’Alessandro (has a drawbridge) in Pescolanciano and the Cerro al Volturno, built in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 15th.
In high contrast to all of this Medievial magnificence, you may be surprised to find an ultra modern resort just 5 miles from the Isernia city center. The Fonte Del Benessere Resort provides a 4-star experience for around $100/night when booked through hotels.com. Its amenities include a beautiful pool and an onsite spa. You can also find several agriturismo accommodations on farms in the area and these can be booked for less than $50 per night.
A great day trip from Isernia is to Agnone, which is famous for a foundry that makes bells for churches throughout Italy including the Vatican. You can actually tour the foundry and there are several shops in town for souvenirs. Agnone is also well known for its wine, olive oil and local cheeses that visitors can purchase as gifts or enjoy on a picnic.
Visitors to the Molise Region can also make the town of Campobasso their base for vacationing in the area. It is the capital and offers public transportation to many of the other towns and villages; plus, there’s a lot to see nearby. About 12 miles to the south of Campobasso history buffs will want to see Saepinum, an ancient Roman fortified settlement where you can wander through gladiator chambers and an amphitheater.
In Campobasso as well as in the other towns and villages of Molise you are in an agricultural area where sustainable food is the order of the day with locally grown meat, produce, dairy products and wine (Biferno, Molise and Pentro).
Looking for accommodations in a nature lovers setting? Try La Piana dei Mulini located just 18 miles from Campobasso and Isernia. This property overlooks the Biferno River and its park. The European Commission has designated this area as a ‘Site of Community Importance’. Here you will find the perfect location for rafting, canoeing, birdwatching, nature photography or perhaps mountain biking.
Afterward you can enjoy a relaxing shiatsu massage and an authentic Italian meal by the resident chef.
If your idea of a summer vacation still needs to include a beach, don’t worry. The Northeastern part of Molise backs up to the Adriatic Sea. You can soak up sun and breathe in that relaxing sea breeze at several destinations including the Strand Hotel, a small seaside resort with only 36 guestrooms. This 3-star hotel has a private sand beach, an outdoor pool, (separate children’s pool and club), a tennis court and a multilingual staff. For just $75-95/night this is a little piece a paradise in the middle of nowhere.
When you want to visit Italy, but can’t deal with the summer crowds, escape to Molise. This tiny region of Italy is full of awesome sites and opportunities for adventure. For related information to Molise vacations visit these sites: www.alcitalytours.com/molise.html, www.italianvisits.com/molise/index.htm and www.italyvacationguide.com.