In the ghost village of Apice Vecchia

The unfinished Pompeii of the 20th century

“Maria contrariosa, quann chiov mette l’acqua a i galline.”
(Mary the displeased, when it rains she watered the hens)

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Location

The village of Apice was born among three rivers – Miscano, Ufita and Calore – and stands on two historic roads – the Via Numincia and the Via Appia – that made it an important economic and social center from the Roman Empire onward. Situated at the foot of the Campanian Apennines, it is structured in two inhabited nuclei: the Borgo di Apice Vecchia, abandoned after the violent earthquake of ’80, and the Borgo di Apice Nuovo, built on the hill opposite.

The Historic Center of Apice presents the specificity of the “shell” settlement with church-castle directories and with a system of parallel streets directed to squares; it expresses a singular unity, articulated in admirable variety, which refers to sources of oriental culture, having considerable value at the basis of civil organization. In its present state, following the reconstruction at another site as a result of the 1962 and 1980 earthquakes for technical reasons, it is uninhabited and retains a special charm; It is of importance for its urbanistic particularity and high significance of civil symbology

Not to be missed

Apice Vecchia is a ghost village, called by Neapolitan writer Antonio Mocciola “the sleeping beauty” and by others “the unfinished Pompeii of the 20th century.” A complex of narrow streets and squares structured around the Hector Castle of Norman origin leads to this uninhabited place dominated by silence, where time has remained suspended among the abandoned houses which still mantein curtains on the windows. The village in recent years has been reevaluated, the lights of the Castle have come back on, and several accommodations (restaurants, pubs, B&Bs) make guests and visitors warmly welcome. Numerous recreational initiatives enliven the various times of the year: from the famous Christmas Markets to the Living Nativity, conferences, concerts, and the many theme nights. 

The Appiano Bridge-also known as the Broken Bridge-marks another special place in this landscape. This Roman-era bridge, dating back to 20 B.C., once allowed the Appian Way to cross the Calore River in the direction of the port of Brindisi. The three remaining piers endure from the age of Trajan, and on their hump-backed course they saw the greatest commercial and cultic trades of the Appian Way pass from the East to Rome. A crucial artery, which historians call “the regina viarium.” Even today among the remains of the bridge, in the riverbed, one can see decorated brick cornices and limestone corbels

History

The etymology of the name, according to historian Alfonso Meomartini, would derive from the Roman consul Marcus Gavio Apicius while other sources trace it to the ancient Japigi. The presence in the village of a district called Contrada Marcopio would make the former hypothesis preferable.The Roman presence in the area is attested by numerous archaeological findings including tombstones and funerary cippus, coins, cameos and household utensils dating from the imperial age. The presence of the Appian Way made it a crossroads of commercial and cultural exchanges that even during the Middle Ages characterized its identity.The favorable geographic location made Apice a point of interest not only in the Roman period but especially in the Middle Ages.The Middle Ages saw it a protagonist in the antagonism of counts, feudal lords, and principalities as a focal point of the grain and wool trade between Apulia and Naples. Longobards, Angevins, Aragonese, and Normans left their traces on the territory and especially in the castle that dominates the highest part of the hill and presided over the once navigable land and river routes.In modern times, the village was hit by violent earthquakes: in 1702, 1962, and 1980. If after the 1962 earthquake, some of the inhabitants did not want to move to the new settlement, with the earthquake that struck Irpinia in 1980 they were all forced to leave the old village.
The houses in Apice had generally one, maximum two floors. The internal stairs were in stone and the bathrooms were often built inside a room, perhaps protected from view by a cardboard partition. On the ground floor the brick kitchen with hearth and a corner for animals. The typical rural architecture of the time, now almost disappeared from Italian territory.

Curiosity

The Appian Way has given the village great encounters. Popular memory has it that St. Francis sojourned in this village and to his hand is traced the imprint printed in a rock.  It is said that the village was in a period of great drought at the time when the Saint arrived and touching a rock began to gush out water that from that moment has not stopped making the land fertile and flowing in that precise spot. 

Vegetables are the pride of the area along with the organic vocation of the majority of the farms. It is possible to find produce from the gardens at the Sunday morning farmer’s market. In the abandoned hamlet, there is a barber’s salon that has remained open continuously from the 1960s to the present.