This hidden region of Italy is rich in culture, history and endless beauty throughout its towns, people, and diverse landscapes.
Article - Photography: Christopher George
More off the beaten track, this region of Molise is ripe for discovery and adventure, without the overload of tourism that much of Italy suffers from. Molise retains its heart, soul and charm. Something that is hard to find elsewhere in Italy with much overpopulation and tourism.
The landscape of Molise is vast and diverse; from the coastal town of Termoli with its wide golden sandy beach, to the staggering mountains, where hundreds of isolated villages, some dating back over 500 years, perched on the sides of unique mountain ranges, as unique as each historic village set amounts the cliffs. Driving around Molise and viewing the mountain villages is breathtaking. Spending time to discover them is a real adventure to cherish.
There is so much to discover in Molise, along with the authentic people, rich classical history, local food, wines and recipes that are unique and steeped in tradition. The foods of the region are simple and delightful, with Molise priding itself on a healthy diet and environmental methods of farming and sustainability. Many of the industries here are working together to produce foods and ingredients locally, keeping sustainable and seasonal dining as it has been for thousands of years.
With our ability to be mass consumers of unhealthy foods, it was an awakening to visit hotels and restaurants that take pride in local fresh and traditional menus that work much to seasonal produce.
Molise is a real break from the crazy life we all get caught up in when living in the cities and towns dominated with globalisation. This region of Italy has been crafted over centres, and has now started opening up to future generations and growing tourism, discovering its historic legacies and unique charm.
With ‘The New York Times’ citing Molise as one of its top 50 destinations to visit in 2020. Now is the time to discover the charisma and charm of this loving region of Italy.
To experience a region can be tricky and complicating. This is why Molise has collaborated on a joint venture to showcase the heart and soul of this precious part of Italy.
Molise is easy with the Moleasy Partnership
Moleasy is a group of four unique and independent hotels and SPA resorts, offering the authenticity of the Molies region. With all the hotels located in different parts of Molise, this is a great way to visit the landscape of this historical region and sample all its divine attractions and cuisine.
With the Moleasy partnership, they can organise tailor-made tours for small to large groups, leaving all the travel arrangement worry free. With the Moleasy organised tours, you get the authentic journey, visiting places that may be difficult to research and locate, allowing your travel time to be relaxed, comfortable, informative and productive. This means more time to spend enjoying a unique experience.
Over recent years there has been an influx of activity and restoration throughout Molise, rediscovering some to the forgotten and abandoned villages, buildings and areas, cuisine and farming. 3 of these particular developments that we visited are all of extreme historical importance for different reasons. Over several years they have been brought back to life as unique accommodation for the travellers searching rich culture and individuality.
Albergo Diffuso BorgoTufi - Castel del Giudice
The first place we visited was BorgoTufi, a historic village and architectural project scattered over several locations serving as a hotel set in a traditional mountain village. BorgoTufi - Castel del Giudice is a commune in the Province of Isernia Molise, located about 50 kilometres northwest of Campobasso and about 30 kilometres north of Isernia.
Not just a tourism project, but also a project within the community and territory, working in partnership with the locals, private investors and the local council. Abandoned farmland and houses have been brought back to life using local stone and wood, employing craftsman and workers from the area, reviving this picturesque village and its surrounding natural beauty.
The hotel consists of a 5 star restaurant and bar, pool, spa and treatment rooms, along with 35 small traditional houses set around a typical village square. It is like a film set, being all so perfect and maintaining the traditional style, all set within the small existing village and overlooking incredible views of the landscape.
After a peaceful sleep in one of the rustic houses, I took a 7am jog around the village of narrow streets to the top of its hill as the sun was rising. I then jogged back to the hotel, jumped in the pool and had a sauna before breakfast. Something I would never do in London!!
The whole area of BorgoTufi is a sleepy quite traditional mountan village. Taking a town house you have privacy to rest, or work mobile if you need to, walk and take some sports while always having 5 star restaurants and spa at arms reach. This is the place you can begin that book you’ve been meaning to start writing, or taking to canvas and painting those landscapes.
A totally subversive environment where you could spend time with family and friends, but still have privacy.
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Albergo Diffuso BorgoTufi
The costal town of Termoli and its beautiful wide and long sandy beach that are overlooked by Termoli Cathedral built in the 11th century. Here the bones of Saint Timoteo were discovered, Saint Timoteo being a disciple of St Paul, making Termoli an incredibly important spiritual town.
Not being a religious person, I could still feel the significance of its spirituality around the cathedral area, with its small medieval streets and tiny shops. A very beautiful and calm place to wander and hide from the sun, as the narrow streets create shade and breeze. The inhabitance during the year is around 30,000. But during the summer this doubles, so there is a real buzz of activity.
This once rural fishing and agricultural village has become a destination for food and wine lovers. It is a very popular resort for Italians during the summer, capturing much of its charm and Italian style
One of the most popular restaurants is Salsedine which is set directly above the beach, offering uninterrupted views over the Adriatic sea, easy access to the sand and a wonderful large terrace to have lunch outside and enjoy local cuisine of fish, pastas and wine.
The mountain region is so close to the sea, and Termoli has for centuries produced excellent wines enhanced and seasoned by the natural sea air during their growth.
A really beautiful costal town to explore, relax, sightsee, and highly recommended Salsedine for food, wine and relaxation.
Residenza Sveva Hotel
Residenza Sveva is a popular hotel in the historical centre of Termoli with 23 rooms. It is a horizontal structure in the sense that it is spread over several buildings that provide hotel services. The mission is to bring the life of the village as a resident to the tourist visitor. The streets of the village are the corridors of the rooms. Located within the walls of the old town of Termoli, this beautiful old residence offers individually designed rooms, some with a view of the Adriatic Sea. In addition to the antique furniture that decorate the rooms, the hotel offers an elegant breakfast room as well as a lovely terrace to relax and enjoy to food.
Residenza Sveva Hotel
Albergo Diffuso La Piana Dei Mulini - Colle d’Anchise
La Piana Dei Mulini once an important water mill during the 16th century, and in more recent history was reshaped into a hydro power station for water energy until the 1950s when power in Italy became nationalised. Like many buildings in Molise, it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Its historical importance created local investment, bringing love and local development back to the several building and its surrounding area.
This has become another community project for the region, supporting local industry, farming and production. Set on the side of a river, the adjacent land is ripe for truffle hunting, and its a little know fact that 60% of all truffles are sourced from Molise.
With much investment and interest in this area, it has become a tricky balance between creating a more populated thriving community, and retaining its beauty and natural resources.
Rooms at the hotel are comfortable and modest with its restaurants cosy. Set in beautiful natural surroundings just on the banks of the river, this has also become a very popular locations for weddings and large functions due to its banquet hall.
La Piana Dei Mulini
One of the most enchanting outings and explorations during our time in Molise was to the archeological sight of Altilia and settlement, which is close to La Piana Dei Mulini. This Samnite settlement dating back 500bc was a strong hold of the Samnite, and for centuries constantly under attack from the Roman empire. The Samnite resistance was legendary, so much so, the romans attempted to completely eradicate the Samnite from history.
The romans defeated the Samanite eventually after a century, but we still have the settlement here in Molise. It’s impossible to relay the atmosphere of this area without being here. Like Pompei, its mysterious and ghostly surroundings relay the lives and culture of this long gone bustling town.
Domus Hotel Spa Bagnoli del Trigno
For some relaxation we visited the 4-star Domus Hotel, this being the perfect place to stay while visiting the mountan town of Bagnoli del Trigno and its Castle.
Having all the luxuries of a 4 star hotel with pool, spa and treatment rooms, along with a wonderful restaurant for fine dining.
Many of the hotel rooms along with its restaurants and spa look directly out over the mountain town of Bagnoli del Trigno: a spectacular view. Relaxing in the spa pools was bliss, and meals from the restaurant delicious.
It’s a 10 minute drive from the hotel to Bagnoli del Trigno, and the old castles perched at the top of the mountain with views back over the hotel and for miles around the surrounding area. The town around the foot of the castle is intriguing and worth spending some time to wander around the quiet streets and steep allies. Part of the the town is still inhabited, and part seems to be derelict awaiting redevelopment. It is a fascinating place to explore.
Throughout the region there are great photo opportunities, especially in the small towns where life seems to have vanished and nature is taking over once again.
Domus Hotel Spa Bagnoli del Trigno
The town of Agnone is a more bustling and cosmopolitan centre, still retaining all the historical charm of Molise but with more shops, restaurants, bars and the famous historical Pontifical bell foundry. It’s the oldest bell foundry in the world dating back to 1300, and still owned by the Ettore family.
This business has for generations been manufacturing bells of all sizes and is a fascinating visit to see the historic collection of bells in the museum, and witness the history and methods the family business have been using for centuries.
Taking 3 months the produce a bell, it is fascinating how they create the perfect sound. The bell foundry is at the heart of town and is still run by the same family as it was over 600 years ago. Guided tours are highly recommended.
At the heart of Agnone are family businesses and many have been in operation for hundreds of years, and like Molise, food is a central focus.
The Caseificio Di Nucci cheese business founded in 1662 is another one of these heart warming family enterprises. Still owned and run by the same family, this small shop is busy producing its cheeses and open to the public daily.
Along with bars, restaurants and cafes; this historic town is a great place to explore, with lots of architecture to view while sampling its delightful foods.
Villaggio Rural Le Sette Querce - Sesto Campano
The owner of this town Rocco Peluso was born and raised here, and has been restoring it for over 20 years. He and his brother would go to school on a donkey, so the significance of the 25 donkeys living here was beautiful.
Rocco Peluso left the town as a young man to study architecture, and after a successful career he returned to the town and bought it completely as it had fallen into disrepair.
Over a 20 year period of development, the town has been transformed and expanded from the centre out, restoring the buildings into comfortable houses for guests, full of character and traditional style.
This village is a total escape, surrounded only by mountains and nature. Each house is set on the foot print of original houses that were here. The village has a fully functioning farm producing much of the produce for guests, along with the developers mother Filamina who has lived in the village all her life, and now in her 80s still farms the land, and makes the very cheese you eat in the restaurant.
The area supports the local donkey population, and you will see them freely wandering around the land. They don’t stray away from this area as it is their home, so you may well find one of them grazing outside your house.
One of the original houses still exists in its original style along with the furniture for guests to visit as a museum, but also it can be booked as a place to stay for the night.
Anyone who likes natural beauty will find it heavenly here. And like all the places we have visited in Molise, this is a place to lose your self in nature, take inspiration for writing, painting, relaxing or some sport.
The farm is producing cheese, meat and herbs throughout the year. This is a sustainable venture employing a 10 person team, along with the beautiful 87 year old Filimina who doesn't look a day over 60, marching over fields herding sheep.
Our trip to Molise has been beyond fascinating, inspiring and educational. it has also touched our hearts with the people we have met, the stories we have listened to, and the love and hospitality shared with us.
Villaggio Rural Le Sette Querce
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