martedì 20 marzo 2012

Cusano Mutri (Italy) - the country of mushrooms

C U S A N O   M U T R I 

B E N E V E N T O   -   I T A L Y

A Trip
To Mushroom Country

Itineraries - Traditions - Culture and some History

Cusano Mutri (BN) - "Last spring snow" - South View with Mount Mutria (1,823 m above sea level), which is part of the Matese mountains.

September, 2001

prof. Emidio Civitillo, author of the Italian texts.

Translation   from Italian into English of  Paolo Cassella – 9 Tunder Ridge Road – 06482 SANDY HOOK – CONNECTICUT – U.S.A. 
He's originally from Cusano Mutri.

I would like to thank prof. Emidio Civitillo, also in name of all the Cusanesi, to have favored the idea to translate into words our earth, in the making of this guide that will allow so many people to know the history, the traditions, the culture and the beauties of Cusano.

                                                                                     The Mayor:  Giuseppe Maria Maturo

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Note well:  with this "post" (or publication) is shown here a book produced in 2001, with a circulation of 10,000 (ten thousand) copies.
I wanted to do this in my publication "blog" because the book was sold in a short period of time and it is now almost impossible to find. Probably this publication is the subject of great interest to those who were born in Cusano Mutri, or they know to have been a day.
However the many color photographs and much information can also generate interest and curiosity in who has never seen this high mountain village of Sannio.
The book presented below, at the time (in 2001) could be carried out with research and texts in Italian language of me undersigned (Emidio Civitillo) and was funded by:



with the patronage of

Provincial Administration of BENEVENTO

in collaboration with

Banca Sviluppo

Pasta Russo

with the contribution of

Region Campania - ERSAC - C.C.I.A.A. – Comunita Montana Del TITERNO – Cantina Sociale "La GUARDIENSE " – Cantina Sociale Di SOLOPACA - GAIATEL

Left:   Scene of the Living Manger.
Right:   A trip, with SUV’s, to the Plain of the "Field". - view of the little pond.

We thank for the photographic material:
Domenico Florio, Architect - Pietro Iamartino, Surveyor - Angelo Pascale, Photographer

We thank the "J. F. Kennedy" institute of Cusano Mutri for its collaboration

graphics and press by
Tipolitografia new Imprint - Cusano Mutri (BN)

Information: - tel. 0824.862003  -  0824.862120

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Researchers are not all in agreement on the origin and on the derivation (etymology) of the word "Cusano". According to some accredited researchers, the word "Cusano" means “roggia”, little river, and points out that early settlements have been found along a small stream of water (maybe the one in the Sorgenze district, now practically reduced to trickle because most of it water was captivited, about half century ago, to supply the aqueduct for the inhabited center and most of the neighboring zones). While " Mutri ", as it is easy to realize, derives from the Mutria Mountain, which in toponomastic language means snout, raising, dominant high ground. 

Historical center – South-West panorama 

 Close-up image of the previous

According to other researchers, the word "Cusano" would derive from the Jewish word "chos", which means cup, referring to the particular shape of the Cusano valley, in the form of basin surrounded by a crown of mountains, with big difference of altitude (1,526 meters) between the lowest point of the cusanese territory (Gola di Lavello, at 257m a/s/l) and its highest peak (top of the Mutria Mountain, at 1,823 m a/s/l). But this explanation of the meaning of the word "Cusano" doesn't appear very convincing, because it has also been used for giving the name to a town in the  province of Milan (Cusano Milanino), that has well different geographical characteristics from those of Cusano Mutri. In fact Cusano Milanino is found in a plain, 10 km North of Milan, and along the riverbanks of the Seveso river. 
Conflicting news (and also a little convincing) are read, also, on the fact that Cusano Mutri could be the ancient Cossa of the Sannio, from which "Cosano", destroyed by the Romans around 85 B.C. together to Telesia. 
Up to the unification of Italy (1860) Cusano was part of the "Terra di Lavoro" (the Casertano) and  identified with the only name of "Cusano". Since then Mutri was added. 

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I personally think that the best explanation of the meaning of the word Cusano is contained in  DICTIONARY TOPONAMASTICA (geographical names) - Edition UTET, which says among other things that:
... "The name" Cusano "reflects a person's name Latin "Cusius" with the adjectival suffix - "anus" - to indicate ownership."
And again: ... "Who asks what the inhabitants of Cusano, has to answer that their homeland derives from Cossa of Sannio; and this country, not known for the place, and just a little appointed by Livy (historic Roman, 59 BC - 17 pC), contend for many years Cusano Mutri, St. Agatha of the Goths and Torrecuso, according Mellusi. Already we told that Cossa could not be at Torrecuso; now we say that we will not pronunziarci of Cusano; however, the derivation there appears very difficult. "

Historical center – view from Orticelli Square

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NOTE WELL - If we want better view of the map above and other images, you must click twice on the same, or you must click it with the right mouse button, then to the left of the control, which appears "open link in a new window "and then, with the zoom, you can enlarge or not the picture that appears in a new window and you can see more details. To return to the "post", just click on the back arrow in the top left, or close the new window. It's very simple.

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This road map allows you to more easily locate Cusano Mutri, located along the Apennines, in the province of Benevento.

On the map Cusano Mutri is in the middle of the line segment connecting Naples to Termoli (CB). The mountains of Matese, where Cusano Mutri is located, are adjacent to the geographic triangle with vertices the cities of Benevento, Caserta and Campobasso. Cusano Mutri is located in an area with a great tourist destination known for its natural beauty: has been called the "Switzerland of Sannio" and most recently, "The Pearl of the Matese Regional Park."

For its geographical characteristics, the Cusano Mutri valley, all encircled by rather high mountains and with not easy access up to a few years ago, let acquire the area, already in ancient times, the denomination of Castrum Cusani, meaning a fortified place. 
The primitive ideographic symbol with which Cusano was represented (the letter Q) derives, precisely, from the particular topographical configuration of the Cusanese territory, surrounded by mountains with only one outlet: the “Gola di Lavello”.  

- page 5 -

Cusano Mutri, a view of the city center, from the East (near the Contrada Triterno, where I live)

News safer on Cusano go back to 490 after Christ only, when Pope Felice III sent a presbyterian to officiate in the “Castrum” chapel. 
The first vassals of Cusano were the Sanframondo. Other vassals followed starting mid 1400’s: De Vera, De Chiavellis, Gaetano, Colonna, Carafa, Del Tufo, Origlia, Monsolino, Barrionovo and Leone.
In 1584 Don Guglielmo Origlia, gentleman of Cusano, exchanged his domain with Don Ferrante Mosolino, gentleman of Faicchio, who moved his hunting grounds from the slopes of Mont'Acero to the larger ones of Mount Mutria, at the time very rich of wild animals (bears were found here, along with chamois and deers, besides native wild boars, quite different from those, of Central Europe origin, released by man to repopulate our woods within the last decades).
The hunt (the sacred cult of the godess Diana) was in fact the only occupation that kept the local rulers busy at that time. Many times it was the main reason why they would prefer a residence or castle from another. 

"Piazza Lago" (Lake Square), with the remains of the castle of the Marquis. The square is located in the upper part of the medieval village.

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Via Municipio (Municipio Street)

"Piazza Lago" (Square Lake) with the entry from Via Municipio (Municipio Street).

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Still today, an origin has not been found to the particular Cusane dialect. The specific grammar of this dialect finds some discreet similarities only with Faicchio’s dialect, which confines with Cusano Mutri, although the inhabitants of the two communities do not have close contacts, being separated by a rather large and imposing mountain: Mont'Erbano.  
Probably in ancient times families of Cusanesi shepherds might have frequented the Faicchio territory during the winter months with their flocks and, a little at a time, have settled there, as it has also happened to some families of Petrarojesi shepherds. However we cannot exclude the contrary where families of Faicchio shepherds might have come to the Cusanese territory in search of good pastures, especially in the summer months.  


To see is Piazza Lago, which at one time was center of life of the town. There were once many shops, but now only a cafe and a couple of shops remain. 
The square is dominated by a big boulder, on which the ruins of the ancient marquisate castle still rise, destroyed in 1780 following a popular insurrection. 
In one of the boulder’s crevice a grotto has been carved and reproduced in a smaller scale is Our Lady of Lourdes under which a beautiful fountain is found with a pettinide shell. The presence of the shell points out that it was a public fountain. This meant that it was accessible to anyone, while the fountains marked with a flower were private. 
In Piazza Orticelli, located at the entrance of the town, one can find a similar fountain, also made of stone, with a pettinide shell. In the same area of Piazza Orticelli is located the monument to the fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. At the top of the monument is again a bronze eagle in memory of the one that was there until WW2. 

Worthy to be visited, built with ancient construction techniques, are all the churches. They can be visited walking the medieval streets of the old town of Cusano Mutri, the characteristic long stepped stone alleys and suggestive neighborhoods such as “Vicinato Lungo”.  

Via Spinazzola (Spinazzola Street)

The old medieval gate called "Architrave", in the "Vicinato Lungo", which is a long stone staircase between houses in the old city.

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Part of the stairs of Via Cerro (Cerro Street), still in the old town.

Via San Giovanni (Saint John Street), with the little square subsequently modernized, commonly called "Piazza Roma" (Roma square).

Crib made permanent in Piazza Orticelli (Orticelli square) on the inclined plane of a rock wall.


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To the Northeast of the inhabited center there is an imposing rocky hilltop, the Calvario. At its top is the chapel of Santa Croce (Holy Cross), built in 1689 after having demolished the small ancient Longobard fortress, the "Castellaccio", which had been built as an important place of look-out on the old road to Alife. Along the winding path that climbs to the hilltop were built The Stations of the Cross. Attached to the chapel, a convent was built, inhabited from time to time by a hermit. 

The hill of Calvary, a few km north / west of the old village.

In the first part of the small road along the Calvary hill is the 1st stations of the "Via Crucis".

Close image of the first station of the "Via Crucis" along the hill of Calvary.

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The Chapel of the Holy Cross on Calvary hill.

Altar of the Church of SS. Pietro e Paolo (Saints Peter and Paul)

Altar of the Church of  St. John Baptist

Inside the church of St. Nicholas

Chapel of Santa Rita (St. Rita) in the church of St. Nicholas

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Church of St. Vitus, on the northern outskirts of the village.

Church of Our Lady of Grace, at the southern entrance of the village.

Church of "Santa Maria del Castagneto" (Saint Mary of forest of chestnut), more than 2 km from the town towards the south / east.

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Church of St. Joseph, in the district of the same name, 2 km south of the village

The "district St. Ioseph" in Cusano Mutri (BN), located just over 2 km from the city Centre towards the south-west, once known as "Fortepiano" (above and below) and "Cavarena", is now called St. Joseph takes it name from the church. 

This, as compared to the other of which is dotted the valley of Cusano is the latest foundation, was built at the behest and expense of the landowners Paolantonio Petrillo and his son the priest Don Nicholas.
The territory of the "district", although all cultivated, it was then inhabited permanently because insecure and had difficulty reaching the city Centre. 

In the second half of the '700, thanks to the construction of the chapel began in the "district" is also a rural urbanization.
The two clergies of St. John the Baptist (down area) and SS. Peter and Paul (upstairs area) clashed bitterly also because of this "chapel", which fell in the area belonging to the parish of St. John the Baptist, but the owners (Paolantonio Petrillo and his son the priest Don Nicholas) were the parish of SS. Peter and Paul.

To better understand the why of bitter struggles between the two clergies, it considers that at the time the proceeds of the celebration of a religious service was very coveted and highly competitive among the many priests.
The authorization for the construction of the sacred body of the building (the chapel) by the Diocesan Administration of Cerreto, with various prohibitions and constraints, is of 20 October 1745. The laying of the foundation stone took place on 1 May 1746, in the vicinity the feast of Saints: the Apostles Philip and James. This aroused the discontent of the clergy of St. John the Baptist; discontent that degenerated into a brawl on Feb. 28, 1753, just blessed the chapel.
The Holy Mass was not celebrated, because those entitled to patronage and the priests of two parishes quarreled among themselves; all the furnishings of the Altar were thrown away, with the breaking of the crucified. Luckily it all ended without bloodshed, despite the presence outside the chapel of "five or six people who were here with rifles."

Among excommunications, recalls, fines and courts, he came to 1759, when it was ordered closed for lack of "royal assent". The authorization required for the re-opening, given the legal disputes, came 18 years later, ie in 1777, as stated on the anchor preserved anchored tombstone.
The skirmish continued even after the death of the founder, sac. Don Nicola Petrillo, which occurred in 1787, culminating in "calibrated" idea, supported by Decurionate. Cusano was devoid of the cemetery, the chapel there was, so was enough to buy the land surrounding the family of the same founders, thus solving the thorny issue of St. Joseph. 

In 1838 the expropriation was notified Mr. Don Antonio Petrillo, but these, educated man, did motivated opposition to block the initiative.
In 1869 he settled the construction of the cemetery in Rialto, but the advanced works were subsequently blocked for legal dispute with the contractor and the landslide occurred. 

So in 1881 he began to consider and take action to steal the church clergy "or upstairs area", which meanwhile continued in the economic abuse to the detriment of the other parish.
Meanwhile the building was enlarged (and acquired the connotation present); expansion blessed April 28, 1882 with the establishment of a Brotherhood.

On 8 July 1884, the Curia of Cerreto determined that St. Joseph under the jurisdiction of St. John the Baptist. They did unrest that led to the suspension of the functions and then to close the chapel itself.

The reopening took place on April 17th 1887. In litigation between the parishes came almost to an agreement. In 1889 the site was reopened x Realto, or the cemetery. Even the old "substantial", the heirs of the founder, had died; riots occurred again in 1893, but were quelled by the Curia with the writing "... the Patronage of Petrillo would go up in smoke as it went up in smoke the endowment of the Chapel".

With the new century they changed the times and interests, so reaching each relative tranquility. Today's façade of the church, as well as the perpendicular junction with the provincial road network, are of the first half of '900.

Currently the church is officiated: there are venerated St. Blaise (February 3), and Madonnella (September 8). The feast of the Patron Saint (St. Joseph), which was made on the third Sunday after Easter since 1753, a few years ago has been moved to the second Sunday in May.

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In the valley of Cusano, in the extreme Southwest end is located the ancient hamlet of Civitella Licinio, district of Cusano Mutri, with a population of about 800 people. 

View of Civitella Licinio  (fraction of Cusano Mutri) from North / West with the Monte Cigno (Mount Swan).

Turning clockwise 45 degrees the previous picture (panorama North / West of Civitella Licinio with the Monte Cigno or Mount Swan), highlights even more the Monte Cigno profile picture (Mount Swan) which resembles that of 'a person.

The name is found in medieval documents and points to a small inhabited area on Monte Cigno; an abandoned and unknown "civita". 

The appellative "Licinio" would be a deformation, originated it seems in 1811 from the Feudal Commission, who called the area Civitella Lucinio, with evident and arbitrary Italian forced by the local dialect of “Civitella (de) lu Cignu” or rather “Civitella del Cigno”, from the name of the mountain on which its located. The term "Licinio" was added by law in 1863, with the clear purpose to avoid confusion with other towns or inhabited centers, also called Civitella.  

The "Fountain of Field" is located on Mount Erbano, at 1,233 meters altitude. One can reach it from Civitella Licinio.

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Close-up image of the "Fountain of the field" with the great reservoir for giving water to animals in the wild, on a poor mountain of water.

The three towers graven on the "Fountain of the field".

Civitella was literally razed to the ground by the catastrophic earthquake of June 5, 1688 (it was Saturday of Pentecoste, 48 days after Easter), at “ventunora” (21st hour): using the conventional medieval schedule it would correspond today to June 1st at about 5 PM and it had many victims. It seems that the earthquake epicentre, on the maximum degree of the Mercalli scale, was located right in Civitella. According to reports from that time it seems that the destructive force of the earthquake it made look like the “place had never existed”.  

- page 15 -

   Rural women

                                      Rural house abandoned because of migration.

Area "Piperna" - another feature abandoned rural house, located on a rocky ridge.

Cusano Mutri, for the particular geological nature of its underground (see formation of Cusano in the geology essay), was not destroyed from that terrible earthquake, unlike the inhabited centers of the surrounding towns. This is why Cusano Mutri still preserves the original urbanistic structure and architecture of much long time ago compared to other towns in the area.
Civitella Licinio, although a district of Cusano Mutri, has a definite different dialect from that of the main center and of other districts in the area. The dialect spoken in Civitella is very similar to the one spoken in Cerreto, of which it was once part of. 
In October 1943, the bridges (over the Turio River near Cerreto and the one at Gola di Lavello over the Titerno River) on the road to Cusano-Cerreto were demolished. Civitella along with
Cusano and Pietraroja became isolated, thus saving them from the destructions of the Second World War that instead struck harshly other centers of the Sannio  in the province of Benevento. 

- page 16 -

There is a huge single block of stone in a flat area, topped by a suited-made large stone house, near the new road constructed in 2000 which connects Cerreto Sannita to Cusano Mutri, not far from Civitella Licinio.

The "Pesco of Civitella"  ("stone block of Civitella"), also called "the Mourrone" in the local dialect; it is a real attraction.

 Another image of the "Pesco of Civitella" ("stone block of Civitella"), also called "the Mourrone" in the local dialect.

- page 17 -

The old and very important bridge near Pescu (or Piscu) 'MPIS' (large rock in balance) on Titerno river.

When districts Pezza di Perno, Raone and Potete had no chariot roads (up to several decades ago), this  bridge allowed the inhabitants of these districts to walk to the road Civitella - Cerreto near the large rock in balance.

The bridge is located near the northern entrance of del Cigno tunnel built in 2000 on the road Cerreto - Cusano.

Another image of the old bridge near the Pescu (or Piscu) 'MPIS' (large rock in balance) on Titerno river.

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The Cusano Mutri basin extends over 6,000 hectares, with an altimetry that goes from a minimum of 257 m asl (bridge of Lavello), to the 400 m of the inhabited center of Civitella Licinio, to the 450 m of the inhabited center of Cusano Mutri, up to the 1823 m to the top of Mutria Mountain, the third highest peak of the Matese Mountains, after Mount Miletto (2050 m) and the Gallìnola (1923 m), also called the exile of the Matese (“the  æsërë or Matésë” in the Cusano Mutri dialect.
The population in 1,532 was of “135 fires”, indicating that ownership was quite diffused. The number increases up to the 472 taxable owners in 1,669, a sign that the 1656 plague had not affected the population. In 1861 the inhabitants were 3,944, not counting Civitella, and in 1,871, counting Civitella, they were 4,769. In 1984 they were 4,485 and on August 31st 2001 Cusano Mutri, including all the districts had a population of 4,399.    

Shepherd on horseback with his flock in a fairly remote area, near a now rare "primitive haystack" (in the local dialect called "meta") to preserve hay set around a pole .

The economy, up to a few decades ago was essentially agrarian-pastoral. Wheat, corn, potatoes and vegetables were the main crops, completed with  some quite large venyards and a few olive orchards. Now such cultivations are reduced substantially, especially viticulture.  Now at time of harvest many local people go to the surrounding villages in the area and purchase the grapes so they can still keep on making wine with their own equipments. 

Considerable is the production of chestnuts, mushrooms (the famous porcini) wild strawberries and oregano. The breeding, mostly cattle, was in the past very common. The transhumance was practised toward the Puglia region and still today we can find visible signs of the ancient trails ("tratturi"), wide about 60 footsteps, which were traveled twice a year: in autumn toward the lowlands, and in spring back toward the mountains. Obviously the production of the wool and the clothes made of whool was flourishing.  

They have been many (and still today) Cusanesi that have emigrated in search of a job, in the last decades favoring mostly Switzerland and Germany.

They made big sacrifices, however found better living conditions with good salaries, learned different and new jobs and, why not, acquired the ways and customs of the hosting country. The givebacks of the emigrants have been important for the Cusanese economy: in place of the old residences have risen new and modern buildings, with all modern conveniences and comforts.

Cows roaming free in the wild on the mountains of Cusano Mutri.

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Spraying of a potato field

Baskets on the market, important products of the old local crafts.

The modest agriculture has been mechanized and many artisanal enterprises have flourished: contractors, suppliers for the building industry such as companies for the workmanship of the marble, stone, iron, aluminum, plastics and similar products, wood, glass, and so on. The knowhow and cleverness, sometimes learned abroad, of the Cusanesi artisans is today appreciated not only by the people in the surrounding towns, but also in the neighboring region. 
Cusano Mutri puts in the tourism industry a good part of its future growth and development. In this regard the optimism of the Cusanesi rests with the construction project of a new road known as the "bretella" which will allow, finally, a fast and direct connection with the Telesina Valley. In the previous pages we have made mention of the ideographic primitive symbol (the letter Q) with which Cusano was represented, that referred to the particular topographical configuration of the Cusanese territory: a circle of mountains with only one outlet: the "Gola di Lavello" (Gorge Sink). The road that passed through Lavello was, however, a mule trail rising along the left bank of the Titerno River up to the Pesco di Civitella also referred to as “il murronë" by the locals: a kind of isolated large boulder ( in a flat area), surmounted by a small cottage (well suited for that enormous stone), that is found, parallel to the center of Civitella Licinio and next to the new road (“bretella”) connecting Cusano Mutri to Cerreto Sannita and that it constitutes a real attraction.

- page 20 -

The roadway between Cerreto Sannita and Civitella Licinio, passing through the Gola di Lavello, was built in relatively recent times: between 1861 (start) and 1876 (opened to traffic). But it has always been a risky road subject to falling rocks coming down the mountainside: during the 1980 it was, for a certain period, even closed to the traffic because of the falling of large rocks onto the road. This let accelerate the search of an alternative solution and shortly after work started on a new road (bretella) that includes a tunnel under Mount Cigno.  Work was completed in June 2000.


Mushrooms (porcini) typical that grow in the mountains at Cusano Mutri.

Young "bat of drum", one of the most sought mushrooms.

Bat of drum already developed.

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The hat of the "bat of drum" is used in gastronomy. It has a great flavor, particularly when grilling.

The “Mushroom Festival” is the rendez-vous by excellence at summer’s end for tens of thousands of people coming from every corners of Italy to taste the many mushroom (porcini especially)  dishes based of mushroom, offered by the local eateries, such as: gnocchi, fettuccine or tagliatelle, risotto, polenta, lasagna, soup, barbecue, pizza, bruschette, pig roasts stuffed with mushrooms, stuffed dough, breaded mushrooms, stews, and many others.

The feast is not only a gastronomical event, it is also cultural one with the numerous and diversified displays, a relaxating time with many shows, and a real and genuine displays of the local products and craftsmanship where one can admire and purchase things like: honey, oregano, home made liquors of strawberries and herbs, nocillo, pecorino cheese, kitchen utensils, hand carved objects made of wood, stone mortar (similar to the one used long time ago to crush salt), hand weaved, wicker baskets in every size and shape, ceramic objects, embroideries, knitted sweater, etc.. as well as… so many other things to discover.

The Boletus regius, highly sought, is a variety of mushrooms.

- page 22 -

The good egg (Amanita Caesarea) is one of the most respected and sought-after edible fungi, many consumed as salad.
Unlike many fungal species that need high humidity, this species prefers a dry climate.
For its delicacy the ancient Romans called it "Food of the Gods" and protected the forests in which  they were growing

In short the Mushroom Festival is the biggest event of the year in Cusano Mutri. Over the years the Festival has acquired an increasing notoriety. The last few years the event has attracted over 100,000 visitors walking through the streets of Cusano Mutri.

To facilitate the traffic created by the visitors, fields on the outskirts of the town are temporarily turned into parks and people are shuttled back and forth by bus. From late spring to almost the last days of autumn, in the vast woods of Cusano Mutri, many different types of mushrooms are found: from the famed porcino, to the royal agaric, chanterelle, bat of drum, the spinarolo (also known as "virno"), the field mushroom, the gilded steccherino (also known as "cardarella"), honey,  mushroom, the small hands (also known as "titelle"), the russules and the puff-ball, just to name the most common.  

- page 23 -


Chestnuts in thistles.

It’s a festival that is celebrated in the Civitella Licinio district and is quickly becoming an annual meeting place for lovers of the true genuine products harvested in our surrounding woods.  

A chestnut, one of many that can be found in the region of Cusano e Civitella Licino.

- page 24 -

The experience acquired over time has allowed the organizers to improve constantly year after year and offer many different dishes using chestnuts as the main ingredient.

Delicacies such as panzarotti, cannoli, small trunks, ballots (boiled chestnuts) roasted chestnuts, and the well know “castagne del prete” which are a specialty of the area and are extremely appreciated for their rich taste, a true treasure of Civitella Licinio chestnut woods .

Exhibition of varieties of chestnuts to the festival.

- page 25 -


Another traditional event happening in Cusano Mutri that the informed visitor would not want to miss is the “Infiorata” of the Corpus Domini feast.
The show is organized and sponsored by the PRO LOCO group and the Town Council. Many Cusanesi, young and old, as well as some out of towners donate their time and efforts to make it a successful feast.

 Floral carpets on main square (Piazza Orticelli) of the village. 

Floral carpets.

The day of the event it is possible to admire and appreciate the final results of a collective effort that started weeks earlier with the presentation of sketches or designs to the organizing and judging committee by the various groups of volunteers. 
The projects are kept secret and friendly rivalries go on among the various groups for who will have the best “carpet”. 

It is  followed with the long and hard operation of collecting, picking and finding the various items needed to make the floral paintings. It could be any of the following: flowers, leaves, berries, wheat, earth, coffee grinds, ground stone, etc...

Floral carpet.

- page 26 -

The weekend of the event the whole town is abuzz. It starts on Saturday afternoon with the outlining of the project on the street surface and church floors by the design of each group. Very early Sunday morning the rest of the volunteers show up with all the supplies and the long and arduous job of laying them starts.
The air is filled with the scent of the different flowers and the streets come alive with colors. The volunteers work feverishly through the morning hours as last changes are being made and the designs take shape. Visitors, friends and family members start to come by and give works of encouragment. By mid-afternoon the projects are completed and the roads turn alive with bright colors.
Visitors are by now in the thousands to appreciate the many different “carpets”. The motifs are of all types: from landscapes, to faces, coats of arms, peace inspired signs, mosaics that they recall a church, stained windows, etc…
Carpets and elegantly embroidered sheets are being occasionally shown from the windows and balconies of houses. Temporay altars are built later on. The event is culminated with a religious procession through the decorated town streets starting and ending in one of the 2 main churches: either starting in San Giovanni Battista and ending at San Pietro e Paolo or vice versa.  In short a real spectacle. 


The church of St. Giovanni Battista in Cusano Mutri has had from a long time a relic,  they think,  to originate from Christ’s crown when He was crucified. It’s a splinter of wood, Spina Santa, about two and half centimetres (1 inch) long, set on stand and anchored on a torch.
Tradition says that this wooden splinter, together with two others, was brought by a crusader named Barbato Castello, on his return from the Holy Land. In 1693 the Holy Thorn turned bright red like a lit candle twice. The same happened again on February 3, 1710 during the procession of Sant'Onofrio.
 Another miracle is described in detail in the notarial report dated August 3, 1805. At the time the people who were still living under the aftermath of the earthquake of July 26, decided to organize a procession of penance. They took the vessel containing the Spina Santa and the statue of the Vergine Addolorata to Mount Calvario.

Once there, while the benediction was being imparted to the faithfuls, the end of the Spina Santa became white, as it would bloom. The same penitential procession, very touching and emotional, is still perpetuated today on August 3

Monstrance-shaped reliquary, in which is kept the "Spina Santa" in Cusano Mutri, solid silver, engraved, dating back several centuries ago.

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The natural environment around Cusano Mutri is characterized by a mountainous chain with ample woods and suggestive landscapes that bring every day more tourists and lovers of the outdoors, especially in the area of Bocca della Selva, who’s easily accessible by car. But, perhaps, there are even more interesting aeras for our visitors. Plans are to re-descover and improve old paths and trails. Afterward find and train local guides that could take groups of tourists through the woods in a safe environment and at the same time give them information about the area.
Given the predominantly mountainous environment of Cusano Mutri, with its wide-ranging woods that extend into the neighboring communities and all the mountains that form the Massiccio del Matese it is only natural that we have a rich and varied wildlife.

The most known animals in the  territory of Cusano Mutri are: 

 - the wolf 
- the wild boar  
- the hare 

The Hare - This wild animal, active only at night, unlike the rabbit to that looks like, does not have the den, so the day it hides in the bushes and, if necessary, takes advantage of its remarkable speed in the race to escape predators.

- the fox  
Male "red fox" (Vulpes vulpes)

- the badger (meles meles) 
- the marten  
- the beech-marten 

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Of these three mustelides,  the badger (Meles meles) is the largest (which has an average weight between 10 and 16 kg).

Marten is similar to the weasel, but while marten (Martes martes), weighing on average less than 2 kg, has a long pointed snout, a color uniform fur and visible yellow patch on the throat, beech marten (Martes foina), which weighs  over 2 kg, is instantly recognizable for large white spot on the throat that; bush that forks at the center extending along the inner band of previous legs.

Beech marten who caught a thrush.

- the weasel  
- the skunk or polecat 
- the hedgehog 
- the wild cat 
- the partridge 
- the jay 
- the magpie 
- the wood-pigeon 
- the missel
- the blackbird 
- the green woodpecker 
Marten on a tree looking for prey

- the red woodpecker 
- the grey crow or rook
- the crow 
- the falcon 
- the hawk 
- the kestrel 
- the owl 
- the eagle owl 
- the common owl 
- and large number of migratory birds, in summertime as well as wintertime. 

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The peregrine falcon is present  on the rocky faces of the mountains of Cusano Mutri.

The "common owl" (weighing 250-300 g) is far smaller than the "royal Owl", which weighs 3,260 grams.

The royal Owl, much larger than the "common owl", is rare, but it is still present in the region.

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The wolf population, whose numbers had dwindled, but  was never extinct in this area, is making  quite a recovery. Especially in the past the wolf has worried (and done damages) the shepherds for  their continuous assaults to the flocks of sheep.
In recent times, and currently, the problem is increasing, however it seems that the responsibility of such assaults is shared between wolves and groups of wild dogs.

Lone wolf

Pair of wolves. Note the eyes of  the two wolves, one crafty and the other mysterious.

The wild boar also finds this area as an ideal habitat and is quite common, but it is a breed introduced mainly for hunting purpose. Up to the first half of the 19th century (1850) the autochthonous breed could be found, extinct since.

Still today, some senior citizens recall stories and particulars about the presence of the wild boares in the past. They tell stories that many times people found parts of body  of wild boars  (feet especially) near the entrance of a wolf’s den.

The boar has nocturnal habits. On the day is always well hidden in the woods.

From the same people, we have also heard stories of chamois (called "crapiæ" in the Cusanese dialect) roaming the least accessible areas of the mountains surrounding Cusano Mutri like near the cliffs of “Costa del Monaco” or “le Macchie”. It lived there until the end of the 19th century. Probably it was of the same breed of the chamois (rupicapra ornata) we can still find in the National Park of Abruzzo. Like the autochthonous wild boar, the chamois were also subject of the early rudimentary forms of hunting practiced by few people, with weapons and ammunition today displayed in museums. There also reports that deer used to live here in the past but nobody has been able to confirm this.

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 Together with the autochthonous wild boar and the chamois the bear is also extinct, who was,  almost with certainty, of the same type of bear (marsicano: aboriginal of the Marsica, that is a zone of central Italy) one can find today in the afore mentioned National Park of Abruzzo. Close to the mule trail along the steep ascent from the "Costa del Monaco" to Fontana Paola in the San Felice and Cerracchito districts there is a small cave called “the bear’s den", confirming the possible presence of the plantigrade roaming the mountains of Cusano Mutri long time ago.
 There is a long term project in the works, which would require careful thoughts and attention and it would be to re-introduce rare species, still around a few decades ago, such as the rock partridge, the royal eagle (today we can still find old nests in some canyons and boulders) and royal owl, who’s a large nocturnal bird capable to plunder wild animals up to the size of a fox (which is not quite a feat). The royal owl, also known as the" bufù " in the cusanese dialect for its distinguable head, was most likely still around some 50 years ago in “maurégl'”, in the area of Fontana Stritto (located in the Cerracchito district), nesting in the rocky ravines, sheltered from the cold winds, resting daytime and hunting at night.

The rock  partridge (Apennine: alectoris graeca graeca), very diffused up to the early 1960’s, has become rare by now.
A rock partridge (Alectoris graeca) photographed with a telephoto lens.

Rock partridge in comparison with the blackbird, which is one of the best known birds.

Rare picture of a group of "rock partridges Apennine" also called large partridge (alectoris graeca graeca).

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With a strict and enforceable protection program coupled with a re-introduction program (which is very possible) we will be able to see thrive again this bird in our mountains.
The rock partridge (alectoris graeca), also called the large partridge, is a bird from the galliform family of the fasianidis (of which also the pheasant belongs to ). he belongs to that group. It has the size of a small wild chicken with beautiful bright colors and lives on sunny mountain slopes in groups (brigades) of about 10 in average. If threatened, they spread apart by foot or fly away but quickly reunite again. The large partridge is about 35 centimeters long and wheighs in average 600 to 900 grams (1.5-2.0 lbs).
Other partridges are: the red partridge (alectoris rufa), the Sardinian partridge (alectoris barbara), the white partridge (lagopus mutus) and the starna (perdix perdix), also called the grey partridge. In Italy there are presently 3 subspecies of rock partridges: the Alpine rock partridge (alectoris graeca saxatilis), the Appenine rock partridge (alectoris graeca graeca) and the Sicilian rock partridge (alectoris graeca whitakeri).
As already mentioned, the partridge lives mostly on the ground. If threatened it can run away at a fast pace or, if necessary, take off in a rapid flight along the mountainous slopes, almost always in descent, because of the unfavourable relationship between its body weight and the surface area of its wings, that are rather small but strong. The flight, at take off, is very noisy, then continues with a long and fast glide toward a lower area (dive), and at times it finishes with a long flight up again, almost always ending on an invisible point from the starting point and at a respectful distance. Its diet consist of grasses, seeds, buds, bugs and berries. The eggs, in average from 10 to 14, are deposed in a depression of the ground, sheltered by a stone or even under of it, where the dirt has been removed creating a small niche or under the cover of a hedge. The small hole (or depression) is lined by dry grasses, leaves and musk, in way from to form a comfortable nest, where to brood with care the numerous eggs. 
The rock partridge has a preference for the mountainous slopes with little or no arboreal vegetation, moving during the summer months, all the way up of our Appenine mountains and up to the 3000 meters on the Alps. It is returning in our mountains, where, as already specified, was abundant up to the 1960’s and from which it has disappeared because of an epizoozia desease (infectious illness) and because of the cause of a poor management of our wildlife. 

The protection of our wildlife will obviously happen ,even if it’s a gradually (but with determination), and pay special attention the the hunting laws, especially in the protected zones.

The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is definitely one of the highlights of the Matese mountains, where is Cusano Mutri, but not a few people who still do not know that on the Matese live some eagles.
Of course, we no longer have those several breeding pairs present until the middle of last century, but there is little record that it is still the presence of a fixed pair nesting and other subjects  of "Golden Eagle", especially young eagles in search of a land to be possessed which often roam into other areas of Matese.

A minimum of supervision would be something not only valuable, but even essential, to ensure the survival of this beautiful bird of prey.

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When we introduced the subject "Fauna and Flora of CUSANO MUTRI - Brief Notes", we underlined the wealth of woods in the Cusanese region. 

The altimetry, as already mentioned, goes from as low as 300 meters at Gola di Lavello to the 1,823 meters at the peak of Mutria Mountain. Therefore in the Cusanese territory we can find  different climatic zones: the "lauretum", that goes up to about 600 meters of altitude; the " castanetum ", from 500 to 1.000 meters of altitude; the "fagetum", from about 1.000 meters up to the limit of the arboreal vegetation. 

Trout length of 45 cm at the top Titerno River at Cusano Mutri.
Live trout photographed in nature by my son Andrea. The photo was taken at the top Titerno River, which comes from Pietraroja mountains, falls in Cusano Mutri basin and, after passing through many other cities, is a left tributary of the Volturno River.
This trout was measured by the recovery of a hawthorn leaf on the water in which she was.

Comparing the actual measurement charts of the sheet, and being known measuring trout graphic, it was possible to obtain the actual measurement trout using the following proportions:

Picture taken on the mountains of Cusano Mutri in a beech wood.

In the lower climatic zone (the " lauretum ") we find a woody vegetation that reaches at times up to the zone of the "castanetum" and is primarily constituted by: salicacee, poplar, black alder, manna-ash, ash, walnut-tree (regal juglans), black walnut-tree (juglans nigra, of North American origin, recently introduced), hornbeam (carpinus betulus, reaching up to 25m in height), the oriental hornbeam, in dialect called " scorbo " (almost always of shrubby dimensions, because it grows very slowly), “carpinello” (also called black hornbeam), hazel tree, cherry tree, oak tree (four different varieties grow in the area: English oak (the wood is very appreciated, called " èschë " in dialettale), Turkish oak, roverella (italian oak, called " cerqua " in local dialect) and the holm-oak (called" ìuc'ë " in dialect), linden tree (2 varieties grow in the area: tilia cordata, also referred to as the wild or mountain or small leaf linden and tilia platyphyllos, with bigger leaves and a bigger and longer branches; the main characteristic that distinguishes these two varieties of linden trees is constituted by the presence of an orange down under the leaf of the wild linden tree), the rowan, the curly maple (acer platanoides), the mountain maple (acer pseudoplatanus, recognizable by its flowers somehow drooping rather than erect), the rural maple (oppio or " occhië " in dialect), the American maple (Negundo, recently introduced), chestnut tree of India (ippocastano) found mostly in gardens.
Obviously in the " castanetum " area the typical tree is chestnut  tree , as in the " fagetum " it is the beech tree.

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Together the two afore mentioned trees, form a true forest (in an environment rather cool and damp, resulting of rare forest fires), we find here and there the mountain maple (acer pseudoplatanus, also called maple Sicomoro), the holly and the yew (taxus baccata).

Wild orchids on the mountains of Cusano Mutri

Edelweiss photographed on Mount Mutria

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The people coming from Cerreto Sannita to Cusano Mutri, exiting the tunnel of Monte Cigno, are greated by a rather suggestive natural scenery before them and decidedly different from what they left behind: around the lower end of the valley, which is somewhat level for a short distance alongside the Titerno River, recently a new road (referred to as the “bretella”) has been built winding its way through the scenic countryside of rolling hills dotted here and there with houses somehow isolated from each other and from about 2/3 of the population of Cusano.

Around the valley in the form of a basin arise imposing mountains, to be admired not only for their height but also for their particular asperities (steep and long rocky ridges, cliffs and deep precipices, big boulders, highlands, deep canyons, etc.), for excellent springs, for the incredible panoramic views below as one slowly ascend the mountains, for the green of the many woods everywhere and for the natural beauty of the landscape. 
During the wintertime the peaks are covered with snow for months and its real treat for the eye. All this has contributed to Cusano Mutri to receive, long time ago, the well deserving appellative of the “Switzerland of the Sannio”. The similarities of the Cusanese landscape to the Swiss might seem for the reader a long shot but for the one who’s familiar with the area knows that besides the landscape we go within a few kilolmeters from balmy temperatures in the valley,  to wintry weather in the mountains.

But the visitors coming to Cusano Mutri have also the possibility, by travelling a few more kilometers to see: 

-      The geopaleontological park of Pietraroja, where the complete fossil of a baby dinosaur, Scipionyx samniticus also know as “Ciro”, has been recovered as well as numerous other rare fossils. On April 24 2001 Antonio Bassolino, Governor of the Region Campania, accompanied by  Carmine Nardone, President of the province, came to Pietraroja to visit the park. Mayor Nicola Torrillo, took them through the park and the local museum. On that day Governor Bassolino, surprising everyone around, made an unexpected announcement: "Everything that that has been predisposed - he said - has been done to welcome " Ciro ", who in due time will return … home, to Pietraroja".
The Titerno valley has been for centuries (and it still is today) driven toward emigration. From Pietraroja, to Cusano Mutri and to the many agglomerations along the Titerno River, the people wish that for the dinosaurs to return to where they were found. It has been documented that visitors will come see where the world known baby dinosaur “Scipionyx Samniticus” was discovered thus bringing more tourism into the area. Currently the dinosaur’s fossil is, from 1999, exposed to the public in a show organized by the Provincial administration at the Museo del Sannio di Benevento until the end the year.
The Mount Civita  of Pietraroja, on which the dinosaur was recovered, is part of the chain of  mountains surrounding the basin of Cusano Mutri, from where, with its imposing rock walls, the  "Civita di Pietraroja" offers a magnificent view. At its foot, within Cusano Mutri’s territory, is found, on the edge of the canyon, the famous " Fountana Stritto ", a spring of very light, clear and fresh water. The water has a slight alkalinity (with pH = 8) and it has therapeutic values. 

- The remains of a Benedictine monastery of eleventh century , dedicated to the Holy Cross, on the provincial road of Pietraroja – Sepino. 

Its location on the summit of the pass of Saint Crocella (1.219 m asl), near a niche built in October 1960, representing a stone cross and tombstone, on which is inscribed in Latin: "Crux parva ubi monasterium clarum" (Small cross where once an illustrious monastery existed). The Santa Crocella pass area besides having a very inspiring and suggestive landscape is also quite an important political borderline between the towns of Pietraroja and Sepino, the provinces of Benevento and Campobasso and the region Campania and Molise. 

The pass of "Saint small Cross" climbing from Pietraroja (BN).

The pass of "Saint Crocella" passing through Pietraroja (BN). This place, at an altitude of 1219 m. above sea level, is about 16 km from the city of Cusano Mutri and is on the border line between:
- Pietraroja communes and Sepino,
- the provinces of Benevento and Campobasso,
- and the regions of Campania and Molise.

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The pass of "Saint small Cross" at the beginning of the road down to Sepino (CB). 

The  small tabernacle of the pass of "Saint small Cross", built to remind visitors that at this point, was made after the year 1000 a Benedictine monastery dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Close image of the little tabernacle built on October 1960, with stone cross and a stone plaque on which is written in Latin: "crux parva ubi monasterium Clarum" (small cross where there was a famous monastery).

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The remains of the ancient Sepino, in Altilia locality, in territory of Commune  of Sepino (CB), about 25 km from Cusano Mutri.

- The remains of the ancient Saepinum, in the district of Altilia located within the confines of the town of Sepino (Campobasso province). According to researchers the Roman city rose in the underlying lowland and at the beginnings of the first century A.C. was a surrounded quadrilateral wall. The four archways, today renamed with conventional names such as Boiano, Tammaro, Benevento and Terravecchia, are surmounted by busts of divinities, inscriptions and Barbarian statues. A theater dating to the imperial ages shows the grandstand set against the surrounding walls. The city was crossed by a path, on which there was a gate with a guard; numerous mausoleums have been identified outside of the town walls.  

Altilia, Sepino town (CB) - Remains of an ancient Roman city in the 1st century before J C.

Altilia, Sepino town (CB) 

Altilia, Sepino town (CB) 

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Cusano Mutri (BN) - Locality "Bocca della Selva" (mouth of the forest) in winter at night (1393 meters above sea level)

"Bocca della Selva" (mouth of the forest) on the side of Benevento, climbing from Cusano Mutri.

- Bocca Della Selva, tourist resort of Mountain, now well known, located about 20 km from the town of Cusano Mutri, on the north side / west of Mount Mutria, at an altitude of 1393 m. above sea level (top saddle longeside  the scenic route south  Matese, running through the mountain village to the front of the bar, the altitude of the Bocca della Selva, is the same as the top the  massif Taburno.

- What's Near Bocca della Selva, visit: 1) - Lake Matese, 2) - Campitello Matese, 3) - WWF oasis of Guardiaregia and Campochiaro.

Matese lake in winter. The lake is over 1000 meters above sea level. On the right you can see the Monte Miletto (2050 m), the highest peak of the Campania region.

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- Downstream from Cusano Mutri you can admire the artistic ceramics of Cerreto and of San Lorenzello, and to know too, local products such as wines and oils of the region that are in demand, and of quality.

- Bocca della Selva, touristic place – a well known mountainous location by now, to the Northwest of the Mount Mutria, at an altitude of 1,393 m above sea level  (highest point of the scenic road South - Matese that crosses the mountain village,  front of the café bar); the altitude of the Bocca della Selva, is the same level of the highest peak of the mounts of Taburno. 

- From Bocca della Selva, further ahead one would find: 1) - the Lake of the Matese, 2) - Campitello Matese, 3) - the WWF oasis of Guardiaregia and Campochiaro.  

- In the valley of Cusano Mutri one can admire the cermamics art of Cerreto and San Lorenzello , find typical local products and craftsmanship, such as excellent wines and quality oil. 

Who is "SCIPIONYX Samniticus", aka "CIRO", fossil of dinosaur  found at Pietraroja (BN), bordering Cusano Mutri.
"Scipionyx samniticus", aka " Ciro ", was found in the late  70’s by an Veronese amateur paleonteologist  named Giovanni Todesco, in the territory of Pietraroja (BN), who with its  832 meters above sea level is the highest village within the province of Benevento. But Todesco didn't recognize with certainty the fossil as a dinosaur.
Many years passed and only in 1993 the discoverer contacted paleonteologist Giorgio Teruzzi, of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Milan, that ricognized " Scipionyx " for what it was: a dinosaur fossil! The locals (campanis studious) confidentially nicknamed it " Ciro " immediately, but only on Thursday March 26th 1998, with the official presentation by the Museum of Natural History in Milan, and at the same time the release of a study published by " Natures " magazine, " Ciro " has become world famous.

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Somehow embarrassed by such as common name scientists renamed “ Ciro ” and gave him a much serious and very scientific name: “ Scipionyx samniticus. " Scipio " perhaps in honor of Scipione Breislak, a famous borbonic geologist who lived the mid to last 1700’s, who in 1798 first described the fossils of Pietraroja.
while "onix " means claw, to point out the typical leg extremities with which the carnivorous biped grabbed the prey, then dismembered them with its strong set of teeth. Finally " samniticus " refers to Sannio, the Latin name of the zone of Benevento and Pietraroja.

Fossil puppy prehistoric dinosaur (SCIPIONYX Samniticus), better known under the name "Ciro"). It was found at the end of the decade from 1970 to 1980 on Mount Civita Pietraroja (BN) in the mountains of Matese. Prehistoric Animal lived 113 million years ago.

He belonged to a species very similar to the fearsome carnivorous dinosaurs called "velociraptor" and as themselves, "Ciro" belonged to a species that walked on its hind legs, and was able to run very fast, like almost all carnivorous predators.

"Scipionix Samniticus" is the first dinosaur fossil  found integer in Italy and it is the only dinosaur in the world in which they are visible  the hard parts (bones, teeth, shells), and various soft tissues such as the intestine (with leftovers last meal), liver, trachea, eyes, skin, and bundles of muscle fibers in the chest. Stand out also the hooves mo 'claws.

" Scipionyx " lived about 113 million years ago, in the lower Cretaceous age, the third period of the Mesozoic era, inclusive between 145 and 65 million years ago, in an lagoon type environment, called the "Sea of the Tetide", characterized by groups of islands that many million of years after would have transformed in our regions. At that time the average temperature was higher tha today, even if we take into consideration the fact that the area where Italy would have appeared on the surface was almost near the equator. In short the climate was hot, tropical like, very similar to what we have today in the Bahamas Islands.

The Paleontological Park of Pietraroja (BN), where the fossil was found, the small prehistoric dinosaur ("Scipionix Samniticus or CIRO). The park, located at 840 mslm near the center of Pietraroja, is about 6 km (As the crow flies) from Cusano Mutri.

According to different scientists, probably crushed by a wave of flood during a flood caused by a hurricane, " Scipionyx ", because he was small, weak and a puppy, therefore incapable of defending himself against the fury of the elements, drowned and his body went to rest on the slimy bottom of the lagoon. The body was covered by layers of sediment (fine and varied material floating in the water and ultimately depositing on the bottom) and in that kind of natural coffin deprived of oxygen and bacteria that would let it decompose, the body of the small animal began a slow process of petrification together with the same sediment in which he remained imprisoned. The calcareous layers where " Scipionyx " was buried, then slowly rose up, and ultimately emerged from the waters to form what are today the mountains of the Sannio.
When it died, " Scipionyx " was a few weeks old and measured about fifty centimetres (20 inches) long (the fossil is obviously shorter, due to the position that the small animal assumed when he was petrified). As a fully grown animal it would have reached the length of a meter and half  (about 5 feet) and the weight of 15 - 20 kilograms (33 – 44 lbs). The animal walked on its hind legs and probably was able to run at a fast pace, just as it would be required from a skilled carnivorous predator. 

" Scipionyx samniticus " is the first dinosaur found whole in Italy and is the only world dinosaur in where one can see the hard parts (bones, teeth, hulls), as well as the different soft parts such as the bowel (with remains of the last meal), the liver, the trachea, the eyes, the skin and bundles of muscular fibers of the breast. Recognizable are also the thick nails  like claws.   

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We would like to bring you on some of the itineraries that will allow you, by walking along pathways and old mule trails, to admire a landscape of rare beauty, in that natural amphitheater that is the basin of Cusano Mutri, surrounded by a chain of mountains that reach almost 2,000 meters in altitude. 

Gorges of Lavello - Bridge of the Moulin of "Zi Fiore" (working with running water) 

Path obtained by adjusting an old mule track in the mountains, in a beech forest.

Mount Erbano - The "plain of the field", 1,000 m above sea level, about one kilometer long.

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                                             Mule track on Mount Erbano

Poppies flowers near an old rural house.

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1) – Traveling on the provincial road, from Cerreto Sannita toward Cusano Mutri, set along the left flank of the Titerno river’s ravine between Mount Erbano and the Mount Cigno, and approaching the entrance of the tunnel under the Mount Cigno one has the feeling of entering a very different landscape from the one left behind made up mostly of plains and gentle rolling hills. Exiting the tunnel you will faced with the basin of Cusano Mutri, a beautiful and suggestive scenery, with very high and rugged mountains, covered with snow, sometimes from fall to late spring. 

2) - With the opening to the traffic of the Cigno’s tunnel there is no longer needed to travel the old narrow and winding road alongside the Gola di Lavello sometimes called "Hell’s canyon” or “the Colorado of the Sannio." 
Before the provincial road was built, the Gola di Lavello was crossed following the mule trail starting at the end of Cusanese basin, passing through a very rugged terrain alongside Mount Cigno and the Titerno river, between cliffs and precipices, for about 3 kilometers, to finally reach a more friendly and hospitable territory to journey through in the Cerreto Sannita area.

From above mentioned mule trail, which could be reactivated, it is still possible today to reach a cave that robbers, in the post-unitary decade (1860 - 1870), used as a shelter on the slopes of the ount Cigno. 

3) - Another cave used by robbers in the post-unitary decade is the Grotta delle Fate (Cave of the Fairies), located on the oriental side of the Mount Civita  of Cusano, in a narrow, deep and suggestive valley denominated Caccaviola  (from its violet water). The Grotta delle Fate or Grotta dei Briganti (Robbers’ Cave) is well hidden and inaccessible and located to the rear of Pietraroja, Northwest direction, on the right side (with source of Titerno behind you) of the deep " canyon " futher up from  “ Fontana Stritto ". The robbers climbed to their refuge by climbing the rock wall using harpoons and ropes.

The famous "Grotto of Robbers" upstream of  Fountain Stritto, on the right side of the throat.

The december 15th 1863, the general Pallavicini, with the help of captain Diaz, after some days of siege, arrested the brigand Varrone and 6 of his accomplices. 
Still today at the base of the rocky wall one can find bullets shot by the soldiers during the siege that ricocheted off the rocks.
The cave can also be reached by starting at a lower area of the Cerrachito district and  walking along a path halfway up the Civita Mountain of Cusano. The path can be seen across from Fontana Stritto, but at a higher elevation. 

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The undersigned (Emidio Civitillo) sends, tied to a rope, equipment for taking photographs, two persons who mounted (with some difficulty) in the grotto, with climbing of a rock wall.

Pietro Iamartino from the edge of the grotto pulls up a rope attached to the photographic material.

The famous "Fountain Stritto", spring of natural water, very light, fresh and slightly alkaline (pH = 8), has therapeutic properties.
"Fountain Stritto" is located in Cusano Mutri valley a few kilometers from the city, eastbound. It is about "Caccaviola" Canyon  (by the purple water) through which the Titerno river, just downstream of the "cave of robbers" or "fairy grotto".
Photo taken south to north.

Currently The Grotta delle Fate can be reached more easily and with less time by taking a dirt road that departs from the panoramic road South-Matese, just past Fountain Tasso (Fontana Tasso) direction of Bocca della Selva.  


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Once engaged on the road with an ATV type vehicule its possible to go all the way to Piana della Mitria, passing by the Maccatore. From there on proceed afoot to reach the cave. 

4) Following the mule trail found in the upper part of the Cerracchito district, near the San Felice district, you will reach an area called the " Maccatore ", at the Northeast of the Civita of Cusano. In that area there are several places where you will be rewarded with geat panoramic views of the whole valley below . Places like the “sommita della Civita di Cusano" (top of the Civitiva of Cusano) and the “miniera di bauxite abbandonata” (the abandoned bauxite mine). 
Still following the same mule trail, recently improved so it can be rode with a  car suitable to this road, it is possible to reach, higher up, some perennial springs with excellent quality of drinkable water. 
Also well known is the Costa del Monaco mule trail, in the piedmont district of San Felice, which allows to reach Fontana Paola (Paola Fountain) and Fontana Vertolo (Vertolo Fountain), overcoming a gradient of about 600 meters. 
Climbing the Costa del Monanco, besides admiring a beautiful landscape, its possible to visit the ancient bear’s den and the cave of friar Roberto’s in which there is a small spring.

5) – From the rural hamlet of San Felice,  in the Northwest direction one can reach above the Macchie area, at an altitude well over 1,200 meters above sea level. Once at Bocca della Selva, located on the slopes of the Macchie, is necessary to proceed afoot or by horseback along the ancient mule trail. As the ascent goes along, one is rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the Cusanese basin and the towns in the Telesina valley. 
Continuing to climb toward the summit, you will pass by Pesco Lombardo at 1,567 m a/s/l and Monte Pastonico at 1,640 m a/s/l.

6) – worth mentioning is also the trail starting at Bocca della Selva in direction to the summit of Monte Mutria also known as Mutricchio at 1,823 m a/s/l. The hike takes about an hour. From the summit of Monte Mutria hikers can see the Lake of Matese, the provincial capitals of Benevento (especially if its nightime) and Campobasso as well as unobstructed panoramic views in every directions. 

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Bocca della Selva has the ski resort and it can be reached traveling along the provincial road from Cusano Mutri toward Pietraroja and Sepino. At the intersection of Sepino and Morcone, follow the road signs for Bocca della Selva.  

At Bocca della Selva, take the road to the right of the restaurant. After a while the road ends and it becomes a path.

From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.

The first part of the hike is through a forest of beech trees rich when in season of wild berries, mushrooms and populated by hares, squirrels, wild boars, wolves, jays, buzzards and hawks. 

Photo taken from Mont Mutria above Bocca della Selva (mouth of the forest) in the summer. From a distance you can see in the direction North -West, the "Lake of Matese" and on his right il Monte Miletto (2,050 m), the highest peak from the Campania region.
A place called “Cinque Denari” is crossed, named this way because of a very unusual fact: in a clearing we have five groups of beech trees, perfectly spaced from each other and looking just like the playing card of 5 of “denari”. 

In Selvetella (small forest) location, still today one can observe two large craters, formed when 2 bombs were dropped but did not explode during the Second World War conflict.

 The landscape becomes quite desolate near the summit and is made up of mostly of rocks and some patches of grass. However in season one is rewarded with a spectacle of rare beauty for reaching the top: a beautiful field of blooming alpine saffrons,  pasture orchids, mountain fleur-de-lis as well as alpine stars.

At the summit one forgets quickly all the work it took to get there and is repaid by an incomparable panorama: the unobstructed view from Molise to Campania to Abruzzo regions as well as the Lake of Matese and the peaks of Mount Miletto, the Gallìnola, the Maiella, Mount Vesuvius and, on a clear day, Benevento and even Naples with its gulf. 

Quite frequently you will meet shepherds who bring their sheep, cows and horses to graze on the slopes. The run is a little bit tiring, it takes about two hours, but in the end you will feel satisfied to have had the will and the courage to climb to 1,823 m of altitude.  

Devout followers of San Antonio have built at the summit a small niche with the statue of the patron Saint and every year they celabrate Holy rite of the Eucharisty before Ferragosto (mid August). 

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Departing by car from St. Felice, a district near Fontana Stritto, one reaches the Cerracchito district; after having parked the car, walk for about 3 km (about 2 miles) up a dirt road surrounded by rocks, gorse bushes and thistles. 

From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.

Be careful and alert because a viper could crawl from under a rock!  
As you walk along, before arriving to the Civita, the road splits and one side brings to the "Cava del Mortaio”. At cave’s entrance notice a slab of rock that fell off the wall covered with inscriptions and sketches. According to the legend, the arrow that can be seen on the rock points to the house of the National Guards Commandant (of which the alleged brigands followed every moves). 
Then continuing toward the Civita, at the summit you will discover a large field, during blooming season, of snowdrops and narcissus (in March) and later on dandelions, barberries, gorse bushes, calendula, tooth of lion, campanule, tassel hyacinths; from here you can see the valley of Cusano and the Civita of Pietraroja. 


From the Civita, passing by " Maccatore " (from maccaturo: tiny patch of cultivated ground), you can reach to the old Bauxite Mine. The trail unwinds through a rough terrain; be careful! There is also the possibility to come face to face with a more or less friendly reptile.! 
Up to the early 60’s there was an aerial cableway (in operation up to 1936) used to bring down to the valley the material extracted from the mine. The Montecatini company managed the operations until it decided to stop the exploitation of the mine because of poor returns. The access to the tunnels is strictly forbidden because the structures are unstable. Also by now they have become the refuge to many animals (among them bats) and, probably, some type of large mammals. Of interest are the entrance of the mines, the old santabarbara and the structures of this old complex to be considered as a site of “industrial archaeology”. 

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You depart from the center of Civitella and, walking up the narrow streets you will pass in front of the church of the Madonna della Neve, to find yourself in a dense plantation of chestnut trees. Follow the dirt road, at times quite steep, coasted by heather, plenty of violets and cyclamens. 

Another photo (this time in summer) of the "Plain of the Field" (plain of the field) on Mount Erbano. This is a mile long and is approximately 1,000 m above sea level, between the beech forests.

If you pay careful attention to the surroundings, don't move and stay in silence: you will notice or hear a jay, a blackbird, a robin, or squirrel will plya hide and seek with you. Foxes also live in this area.

From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.

After about an hour and half of walk, you will reach the Campo, located in a light depression of the land. You will be rewarded by a large blooming field (when in season) of tarassaco, fumaria, bugula, grass cross. 

Continuing the walk you will, most likely, come across animals grazing, mostly cows and horses. After about half hour, you will reach Fontana del Campo with its clear and fresh waters. The Fountain is made of stone with the engravings of the coat of arms of Cusano representing three bell towers and not the three towers as other reprentations. Near by you can see a boulder with a “Q” representing the ancient symbol of Cusano. 


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Departing from the Campo, you can walk to Calvaruse. It is necessary to be well equipped because the trek is quite long. Matter of fact it takes about 4 hours to complete the journey. If you stand still under a tree, you might hear the scrunch of a jay or the song of a crow; if you are lucky, you might see a wild boar or a badger. In this area also live foxes, weasels and hares. 

From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.

The trees that grow around here are mostly beech trees, with some mountain maples, oriental hornbeams,  oaks. The area is also covered with holly and ruscus bushes. In springtime snowdrops, canine roses, cyclamens and violets bloom all over…. 

This region is also rich in fruits found generally in the wood. 
From several places along the way, where the vegetation is thinner, you can have great panoramic views of the Telesina Valley.  

As you walk along the trail you will come across a light depression in the terrain referred to as “il fosso del calcagno” (the heel’s ditch), where, according to the legend, witches gathered to dance so often that the ground somehow caved in a little. Always according to the legend, near by there is Fontana Lunara where the witches gathered to drink. The fountain was in a different location but following a landslide it moved to the present location. 

" Grandfather Giovanni " recalls that according to stories told by Cusanesi elders, the fountain, known for its excellent water, was fitted with bronze faucets. They got lost during the landslide. 

Inside of the "Grotto of Robbers" on Mount Swan.
From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.

Inside of the "Grotto of Robbers" on Mount Swan.
From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.


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Inside of the "Grotto of Robbers" on Mount Swan.
From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.

page 105

Section of the "Grotto of Robbers" on Mount Swan.
From "Green Adventure" - Secondary school of the State "JF Kennedy" of Cusano Mutri.

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FROM “PESCO APPESO” to GROTTA CHIUSA (Grotta dei Briganti)  -  Itinerary

The Grotta Chiusa, better known as “Grotta dei Briganti", can be reached from the River or from the Madonna della Libera. To be reached from the Titerno you must take the path that is found in the Pesco Appeso area. Once in the Titerno riverbed cross it and look on the right side the mule trail in direction to Monte Cigno. 

The mountainside, arid and steep, introduces aspects of the carstic era landscape, with ruts, holes in the ground, channels, underground tunnels, caves and caverns. Along the way you will see calcareous peaks looking like obelisks shaped like menhirs, statues, small steeples giving this area a picturesque and majestic look. 
Oaks and holm oaks, together with gorses and brambles, cover the mountainside who’s also a refuge to badgers, hares, vipers and other snakes. At about 500 meters above the valley and almost to 200 meters below the Rocca del Cigno, ther is a big cave with the entrance toward the last prominences before the cliffs. The entryway, narrow and sinuous, forces the visitor crouch and crawl for the first 3 meters. 

Once you get through this you will notice a passageway that opens up in the form of a funnel with access to a  room. The left side of this room is very uneven with more or less deep ditches. The right side instead is the form of a porch with many hanging stalactites of ochraceous color and polyforms. : some are thin an long, others are in a round shape. The ground is muddy, the stalactites that hung from the ceiling are sharp and force the visitor to lean. 

There is some type of arcade with calcareous bends while on the right side you will notice stalagmites in the form of amphoras. Through gash in the rock, you enter the second room, also filled with stalactites and stalagmites, sometimes connected and forming colonnades and pillars like structures. Those are of all sizes, large and small, in the caverns called “la Cattedrale” (the Cathedral) and “il Coccodrillo” (the Crocodile)".

It’s a very fascinating itinerary offered to more experienced and well equipped hikers ready to face the many challenges one has to overcome along the way.                                


in Cusano Mutri (BN)
December 6
Feast of St. Nicholas - patron
March 16                                   
Recurrence of birth and death of "Zi monæch 'Sant'" Between Charles of San Pasquale
Whit Tuesday
Feast of St. Mary
2nd Sunday of May                
Feast of St. Joseph
June 24                                  
Feast of St. John
June 29                                 
Feast of St. Peter
July 2                                   
Feast of Maria SS. Delle Grazie
2nd Sunday of July
Feast of St. Paschal
July 16
Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
July 26 - Civitella Licinio
Feast of St. Anne
August 5 - Civitella L.               
Feast of Our Lady of the Snows ... (every seven years celebrated solemnly)
2nd Sunday of August         
Feast of St. Anthony
August 16 - Civitella L.         
Feast of St. Rocco
Aug. 22                               
Feast of St. Lucia
Sunday after Ferragosto
Feast of St. Rocco in Cusano center
August 24 - Civitella L.
Feast of St. Bartholomew
September 8
Feast of Maria SS. Del Rosario - Madonnella
3rd Sunday in September
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Whitsun Tuesday and day of SS. Trinity           
Procession of Our Lady of the Rosary
Aug. 3
The Holy Thorn Procession to Calvary
Corpus Christi Day
Flower Festival
The week after the August holiday                     
Racing wheelchairs
Last ten days of September
Mushroom Festival
Last weekend of October - in Civitella L.         
Chestnut Festival
First week of January
Living Nativity
Holy Friday
Living Passion
Last Carnival
Carnival - skits and traditional games
Every Sunday
Country market

Emidio Civitillo - Cusano Mutri (BN)

You can see several pictures of Cusano Mutri (BN) with background music of the song "Cusanarella".

To see them, click:

Panoramic images of this mountain village.

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Cover and Introduction
historical signs Cusano Mutri
Meaning of the word Cusano
Road map to more easily locate Cusano Mutri
The architectural beauties and the monuments
The hill of Calvary
The chuches
History of Church of St. Joseph
The hamlet of Civitella Licinio
Rural houses and rural women
Stone block of Civitella
The old and very important bridge near pescu (or piscu) 'mpis' (large rock in balance) on Titerno river.
The economic activities
The mushroom festival
The chestnuts festival
The floral arrangements as artistic carpets and images
The holy thorn (la spina santa)
Wildlife and vegetation
The rock partridge (alectoris graeca) 
The golden eagle (aquila chrysaetos)
Wild orchids and edelweiss 
The outskirts of Cusano Mutri
The pass of "saint small cross" 
The remains of the ancient Sepino, in altilia locality.
 Locality "Bocca della Selva" (mouth of the forest) 
Who is "Scipionyx Samniticus", aka "Ciro", fossil of dinosaur  found at Pietraroja (BN), bordering Cusano Mutri.
Walking along the pathways and old mule trails  on the mountains of Cusano Mutri
Cave of the fairies
“Fountain Stritto”
From mouth of the forest (Bocca della Selva) to the summit of Mount Mutria -  itinerary
From upper Cerracchito to the Civita of Cusano - itinerary
From the Civita of Cusano to the abandoned mine of bauxite - itinerary
From Civitella Licinio to fountain of the field (fontana del campo) - itinerary
From Campo to Calvaruse - itinerary
Inside of the "grotto of robbers" on Mount Swan.
Appointments of tradition in Cusano Mutri (BN)
Video - several pictures of Cusano Mutri (BN) with background music of the song "Cusanarella".

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