Nestled between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine Mountains in south-central Italy sit Molise and Abruzzo. These two used to be a single region. They split in 1963. The area is home to some of the oldest settlements in all of Italy, dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries BCE. Before the Roman Empire, the Samnites lived, farmed, and fought here. Shepherds since the Iron Age, they kept sheep and goats for milk, meat, and wool and practiced transhumance (seasonal migration), moving their animals to and from Abruzzo on tratturi (trail networks now over two thousand years old). We may cross some on our journeys either by bicycle or on foot and by van designed in this area.
Many empires held this enchanting corner of the peninsula, from the Samnites to the Romans, barbarians to Normans, French and Spanish to present-day Italy. From 1880-1925, much of southern Italy, including Sicily, depopulated. Given the poor living conditions of the time, many Abruzzesi and Molisani departed as well, following the promise of better lives in the United States, Canada, Australia, and South America.
About Abruzzo and Molise Regions
Today we are fascinated to see the sparse villages of Abruzzo and Molise that still cling to hilltops and mountainsides. Residents keep their customs alive through traditional cuisine, architecture, and lifestyle. Examples are particularly rich in the towns of Agnone, Larino, Bonefro, Campobasso, Termoli in Molise, and in the “most beautiful villages in Italy” (i borghi più belli d’Italia, a designation established in 2001 with the aim of preserving and maintaining villages of quality heritage, found off the beaten path) of Caramanico Terme, Pescocostanzo, Pacentro, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, and Castel del Monte in Abruzzo and Sepino in Molise, some of which we’ll visit on our journeys.