Cusano Mutri

The Pearl of Matese

Cit. Giovanni Lavia

“Voglio fare una confidenza a livello emotivo: ho trovato Cusano Mutri un luogo meravigliosa . Davvero non immaginavo fosse tanto affascinante. Mi è sembrato fin da subito di trovarmi a casa mia.”


Location

Cusano Mutri, the enchanting and renowned medieval village perched on a rocky outcrop, named Mutri after the nearby Mount Mutria, to whose very large slopes the town clings, is characterized by fascinating stone buildings. It opens its doors to the Samnite green area of Matese, right in the heart of the Matese Regional Park, on the border between Campania and Molise. This charming village is the ideal place for lovers of tranquility; here time seems to have stopped, almost crystallized in a distinct medieval era. Cusano Mutri still retains all its original charm, characterized by narrow streets, porticoes and houses with portals and windows made of carved stone.

 Not to be missed

Surprising is the medieval old village, which is accessed through the famous “Middle Gate,” which once separated the medieval and 15th-century areas. Passing through this small stone door, one finds oneself before a long flight of steps, one of the most important, from which one enters the winding alleys, among old houses made of local gray stone, with Baroque ornaments and peculiar carvings. Standing out for its suggestiveness is Piazza Roma, which, with its stone stairs divided into several levels and their respective landings, is reminiscent of an ancient amphitheater. The richness of the village’s natural landscape leaves one spellbound. Paths, caves, ravines and especially gorges, carved by the erosive force of the Titerno River, bewitch lovers of unspoiled places. Known as the “Plunger’s Paradise,” the Caccaviola gorge is the most important in the village as well as one of the most aquatic and spectacular gorges in Central Italy, characterized by high walls and a waterfall, below which there is an enthralling descent down to the river. Numerous hikes can be taken with the support of experienced guides for pure enjoyment. Along the nature trail you will pass admirable places such as the Mill Bridge, the Fairies’ Cave, the Witches’ Cave and the Brigands’ Cave.Cusano Mutri is a privileged destination in Samnite land not only for its natural landscape, but also for its culinary tradition, made up of delicious recipes based on its typical products, especially mushrooms, chestnuts, strawberries, asparagus and truffles. Thanks precisely to the multiplicity of flavors it offers for all palates and the particularity of its festivals and events, it attracts numerous visitors every year. Among these is the mushroom festival in the fall, which, with its market of handicrafts, excursions, exhibitions and folklore, has become one of the most renowned festivals in the Campania region. Standing out among the many monuments of historical and artistic interest is the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which stands in the Terra Alta where the castle was located before, built over an old church dedicated to St. Peter of the Elk. The church today recalls the Gothic structures of the 14th century, and its tripartite facade presents a very irregular shape devoid of relevant architectural motifs. The church is accessed via a wide flight of steps at the end of which stand two columns and three stone portals, among which the central one is surmounted by a bronze picket positioned on the central door. The massive bell tower, which stands on the right side of the church, was rebuilt in 1647 with round arches and a terminal cupola, below which is the bell named Victory, bearing the engraving of the names of the craftsmen who cast it in 1786. Inside is a large 18th century marble altar, behind which is a Baroque altarpiece showing the Eternal Father, the Epiphany, and the Holy Family below, surrounded by angels. A large neoclassical chapel is located in the right aisle and contains some important statues from the 1700s inside, while in the two side niches are St. Paul on the right and St. Peter on the left. The Museo Civico del Territorio, which is located in the town hall and is divided into two sections: Peasant Civilization and Geopaleontology. The section on Peasant Civilization documents Cusanese rural tradition. It houses the world’s largest wooden spoon, which has rightfully entered the Guinness Book of Records: 5.32 meters long by 111 kg in weight.

History

According to historians Cusano Mutri originated from the ancient Samnite city Cossa destroyed by the Romans along with Telesia. Certain evidence is from 490 AD when Pope Felix III sent a church official to officiate religious services in the castrum chapel. The presence of the Church in the area with the settlement of the Benedictines in Santa Maria del Castagneto around the 8th century profoundly influenced the culture and traditions of the Cusanese community. In the countryside, several settlements developed rapidly, and the influence of the church led to the construction of houses of worship in each of them. The small settlements formed a kind of ring that acted as a shield and provided protection from brigands and Saracens. The urban center as it stands today was formed during the Norman monarchy, which began a long phase of expansion of the settlements by merging them into a single community between the 15th and 16th centuries. Over the years the small town came under the control of various feudal lords. Later, with Joseph Bonaparte taking the throne of the Kingdom of Naples in 1806, feudalism was abolished, closing a page of history that lasted about 8 centuries. Although the Apennine area is at high seismic risk, the urban center of Cusano has remained intact over the centuries for geological reasons. It also withstood the devastating earthquake that struck the area on June 5, 1688, which completely destroyed the surrounding villages. For this reason, the center of Cusano and its urban structure are very important to medieval scholars and keen visitors. The fortified urban core stands on a rocky ridge that has plumb walls on the plateau below. Since the rocky ridge is not very wide, there were no large squares in the village but only spaces where the streets slightly widened, commonly called ‘slarghi’ (widenings).

Curiosity

Cusano Mutri is known for stone processing, which has a long tradition behind it and in fact it is here that the largest stone mortar in the world is located, something that has been included in the Guinness Book of Records. But the records are also gastronomic, in fact from the fourth weekend in September to the first weekend in October, the Mushroom Festival is held, in which the porcini mushroom, Boletus Edulis, dominates. During the course of the festival, visitors have the opportunity to taste a long series of traditional dishes, expertly prepared by local restaurateurs, all based on the delicious mushroom.

An artistic event called Infiorata takes place in June, which is the pride of local citizens and artists, who essentially use flowers that grow spontaneously in the surrounding area for its creation.

Tradition has it that a few days before the festival, many local women, men and children go to the surrounding fields to pick the flowers taking care to choose those with the brightest colors which will then be used for the fantastic designs.

The big party takes place on the morning of “Corpus Domini”. Many streets and squares are filled with volunteers and artists from the Infiorata who, following the drawings drawn the day before, fill the various parts with thousands of colorful petals, earth, sawdust, coffee grounds, seeds and grass, giving rise to a show truly unique and exceptional.