Arpaia

Appian Way

In 312 BC the Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus decided the construction of a highway leading from Rome towards South, as such a thing was was completely missing at that time. Rome had to ensure quick supplies and backup for its army when fighting for expansion—the defeat of the Caudine Forks a few years before had been also due to insufficient communication between the troops and the city.
The segment crossing the Valle Caudina, which connected the Roman city of Capua with the Samnite towns of Caudium (Montesarchio) and Maloenton (Benevento), was set up at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, in order to connect the Roman colonies that were establishing in this area during the Third Samnite War (but probably it has been paved only a few years BC).
The road ran through the same saddle which most likely had been the place of the Caudine Forks. Even though the usage of the Appian route throughout the following centuries went through different fortunes, this segment of the road kept roughly the same, and has almost always been the main connection between the western plains of Campania, and the eastern mountains of Samnium as well as Apulia the other side of the Apennines. That's why, in particular, the town of Arpaia was born.
Appian Way is currently classified as a State Highway, and partly suffers from not having an appropriate structure for keeping a role of modern trunk line. Its portion running through Valle Caudina follows rather closely the original path. Appian Way [Wikipedia]

The history and the path of the whole Appian Way.

Saddle of Arpaia

Stretta di Arpaia

This is the border between two valleys, the Valle di Suessola and the Valle Caudina. The former, which also includes some hamlets included in the municipality of Forchia, is delimited by two mountain ranges in direction West to East (southbound is the Partenio) and, in its lowest points, it is around 170 m above sea level. As one proceeds eastwards, the valley bottom becomes more and more narrow until it becomes sort of a gorge, and eventually disappears; whereas the ground level along the Appian Way rises to enter the Saddle of Arpaia, just between the Mounts Tairano and the town of Forchia. Throughout the whole territory of Arpaia, the Appian Way remains at around 280 m elevation; only eastern than that, after having entered the core of Valle Caudina, it comes down to around 260 m.
The portion of road preceding Arpaia is rather scenic: as it runs on the side of Mount Tairano, it allows the view on the orchards in the valley bottom on the west side, as well as the green mountains of the Partenio. Stretta di Arpaia [Wikipedia]

A short paragraph about the Saddle of Arpaia

The so-called "Arpaia's bridge" Centuries ago, the Appian Way used to reach the Saddle of Arpaia by running at the valley bottom. At the beginning of 18th century, its path was moved more uphill. This new segment involved a curve just before entering the town centre of Arpaia, dug at the feet of Mount Tairano, on the edge of the gorge that divides it from the mountains around Forchia on the opposite side. This site used to be called Ponte di Arpaia. The background of this picture shows the Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie on the slopes of Mount Castello; and Mount Paraturo further behind. Westward view This is the landscape appearing after overtaking the gorge, and looking back. Some houses of Forchia are visible in the background, together with Mount Orni behind them. On the extreme left there are the slopes of Mount Castello, with a pinaster wood.
The Appian Way leads to the highest point of the Saddle, after which the proper Valle Caudina begins. This is the strategic position where the citadel of Arpaia was built, just on the right side of the current road (but maybe the citadel was built just along the route the road had at that time, and an alternative path was established later). A natural moat used to run along the walls of the Citadel, filled of water coming from the mountains. Due to the rubble these waters carried, this ditch now completely disappeared, but it was still recognizable a century ago.
This road portion has been barely inhabited for centuries, with the exception of an Augustinian convent and another church including a shelter for pilgrims. Starting from the 18th century, professionals, merchants, and middle classes in general became increasingly interested in exploiting the traffic of the highway: the two sides of it got intensively built-up, guzzling the wall of the citadel.
Nowadays, the old core of Arpaia has definitively lost its central role: it is significant that the Appian Way segment in front of it has been named Via Roma, a name usually given to an important street in the centre of the town.
Decorated balcony and upper portal of a residential building of the wealthy class A tower of the town walls turned into a house At the beginning of Via Corte dei Cavalieri, one of the two entrances from the Appian Way into the old citadel, the tower at the south-eastern corner of the town walls has been integrated into a house, but is still distinguishable.
The only remaining wall of the Church of Sant'Agostino The Church of Sant'Agostino was built outside a corner of the walls of Arpaia (corresponding to the current Via delle Grazie) from 1581 to 1612, together with a convent of Augustinian friars. But in 1652 the convent was abandoned, because Pope Innocent X ordered the suppression of the too small ones. The church, with one nave, was similar to the Madonna delle Grazie more uphill; in the 19th century it used to lay completely abandoned, so it stone portal was moved to the entry of the Parish church of Arpaia. The only visible remain of the church is its left wall, sustained by four round arches in stone, almost 5 m tall.
Chiesa e convento di Sant'Agostino [Pro Loco Arpaia]

History of the convent of Sant'Agostino via its mentions in documents.

Carta archeologica e ricerche in Campania, Parte 3 [Google Books]

A Roman inscription was found in 1672 around the church. It went lost later, but its text was recorded and can be read in this book, as part of Site 63. The stone probably was a sign of entrance into the territory of the Roman colony of Beneventum (which, as explicitly stated in the inscription, included the lands previously belonging to Caudium).

Westbound view of Via Roma
View of the buildings alongside the former town wall This compact row of buildings has been built along the north wall of the Citadel, which consequently completely disappeared. A large pedestrian walk has been arranged in front of them, and it is currently the place where most of the everyday life of Arpaia takes place. The white and yellow building is the old town hall of Arpaia, currently seat of the local promotion association (Pro Loco).
Glimpse towards the church of San Michele behind the old town hall Piazza Ponzio Sannita, hidden behind the Appian Way Piazza Ponzio Sannita is located north-east of the Citadel of Arpaia, accessible from via Roma through a couple of short alleys. Originally this area was part of the moat between the Citadel and the Appian Way; during the last centuries it got surrounded by rows of houses. It was properly organised only during the Fascist era; its first name, still informally used, was Piazza Vallone (Ditch Square).

Roman milestones

Cippi miliari romani

Two Roman milestones of the Appian Way have been placed at the two sides of a door on the north side of Via Roma, together with a cubic stone block which has Roman origin as well. The one on the left reports the mile no. XIV from the city of Capua which, according to the Tabula Peutingeriana (mediaeval copy of a Roman 'road map' survived until the modern age), corresponds to the Capuchin convent of Arienzo. The milestone on the right is instead the one no. XVI from Capua, which would correspond to the hamlet of Cagni, near Forchia.
Several sources gave their own version of the discovery of the two columns, but what looks most reasonable to me is that they have both been found in a ditch running at the valley bottom, close to their original location along the Appian Way. I do not know how did they get to their current location.
[Thanks to Claudio Porcaro for his help] N. Lettieri, Istoria dell'antichissima cittÓ di Suessola [Google Books]

This classical book (dating back to 1772) talks about the milestones on pp. 92-95.

Milestone XIV There is no concordance about where this milestone has been found among the sources I have found. I personally believe that different sources got confused among the local toponyms, and that the correct version is that it has been found in 1732 within the ditch that runs at the bottom of the town of Arienzo, close to a low hill behind which a convent of Capuchine friars lies.
If the historial Nicol˛ Lettieri is correct, this column has been kept for a while at a peasant's house near Arienzo. The full text on the column, according to the sources mentioning it, is:
(on the front side) D.M / FLAVIO / VALERIO / CONSTANT / PIO.FELICI / INVICTO.AVG / DIVI.CONSTANTI / PII.FILIO / BONO.REI / PUBLICE.NATO / M.XIV
(on the rear side) IMP.CAES.DIVI.F / AVGVSTVS.COS.XI / TRIB.POTES.VII / S.C / XIV
The rear side cannot be read, as it is too close to the wall behind. I have not been able to spot the "XIV" on the front side, either, probably because it was too close to the ground, and time canceled it. According to the chronological references in this text, anyway, the milestone looks to have been installed in the year 17 BC. F.M. Pratilli, Della via Appia riconosciuta [Google Books]

The finding of this column is mentioned in this 1745 book, on page 390.

Carta archeologica e ricerche in Campania, Parte 3 [Google Books]

This book about archaeological sites in the area reports the milestones as site no. 61 (only partial view is allowed).

Milestone XVI This milestone was discovered by the German geographer Lucas Holstenius during the 17th century. Later on, it was spotted again by the historian Nicol˛ Lettieri roughly in the same setting, i.e. next to a ditch near Forchia, probably close to the current hamlet of Cagni. The full text on the column is, according to what Lettieri asserts:
(on the front side) IMP.CAES.DIVI.F. / AVGVSTVS.COS.XI. / TRIB.POTEST.VII. / S.C.
(on the rear side) D.N.FL.CLAVDIO. / IVLIANO.PIO.FELICI. / INVICTO.AVG. / D.D.D.N.N.N.THAEODOSI. / ARCADI.HONORI. / BONO REIP.NATIS. / M.XVI. / D.D.D.N.N.N.VALENTI / NIANO.THAEOD. / ET.ARCADIO.
Similarly as with the other stone, it looks impossible to read directly the number XVI, as the front side is too consumed, and the rear one is partly too close to the wall. The installation of this milestone must be contemporary to the other one, but the further inscriptions, referring to the emperors Valentinianus, Thaeodosius and Arcadius, are much more recent (between 383 and 392 AD). Carta archeologica e ricerche in Campania, Parte 3 [Google Books]

This book about archaeological sites in the area reports the milestones as site no. 61 (only partial view is allowed).

Church of the Purgatory

Chiesetta del Purgatorio

The Chiesetta del Purgatorio is a small, modern construction (but I was not able to find out when does it date from), built along the Appian Way in the middle of a small square, which includes a garden, and a statue of Pio da Pietrelcina. The fašade of the church includes a small arcade; a fresco and two sculpted skulls inform that this is primarily a worship area for the memory of dead.
The garden on the left was actually the place of another, previous church, dedicated to Sant'Antonio Abate (St. Anthony of Egypt). This was probably built in the 8th century, and was located 2 to 3 meters below the current ground level (because it was on the edge of the disappeared moat). The church is mentioned for the first time in 1514; during the following century, a small hospice was attached to it. The building was neglected during the 17th century; after being restored in the 18th, it was abandoned for good during the Napoleonic era. Only a few ruins were remaining in 1865; nowadays its southern wall with the altar is visible under the ground level. Chiesetta di Sant'Antonio Abate [Pro Loco Arpaia]

A detailed history and description of the destroyed Church of Sant'Antonio Abate.

Side view of the Church within its square, with the Appian Way on its left side.
One of the skulls scuplted at the two sides of the entrance Fresco in the lunette above the entrance The main altar of the previous church of Sant'Antonio Abate At the bottom of the garden on the left of the Church of the Purgatory, a hole in the ground allows vision of the altar of the old church, roughly 2 metres below current ground level. Some remains of stucco around the recess are still preserved. According to descriptions dating back to the 18th century, the recess was filled by a painting of Saint Anthony of Egypt and the Holy Spirit surrounded by angels.
Mount Tairano as seen from the countryside north of the Appian Way Mount Tairano as seen from the countryside north of the Appian Way Column marking the road to the Abbey of San Fortunato This column has been probably placed along the Appian Way in the 17th or 18th century by will of the Archbishop of Benevento Vincenzo Maria Orsini (future Pope Benedict XIII), who came visiting the Abbey of San Fortunato to take possession of it. It marked the beginning of the road going uphill to the Abbey, and originally there was a wooden cross at its top. Alternatively, the column marked the boundary between the Archdiocese of Benevento east of it, and the Diocese of Sant'Agata de' Goti, including Arpaia itself, west of it.
The top portion of the column has been lost some decades ago; the remaining part has been placed above the current pedestal only after it was accidentally hit and torn down during the reconstruction works after the 1980 earthquake.
According to a tale, while Orsini was praying knelt under this column, the cross felt down to his head. Orsini, irritated, cursed the town of Arpaia; and that year no grapes grew in the whole town.
Copyright 2014 Antonio De Capua