Informazioni sul comune / Information about the town
Forchia is a small town located on the northern slope of the Partenio mountain range; just behind the town is mount Orni, 832 m; and east of it is mount Castello, 623 m. The vantage position of Forchia gives a view on the Saddle of Arpaia, a narrow passage between the Partenio and another range called Costa Cauda. This saddle is the western entrance to Valle Caudina and connects it to the flatlands and coasts of Campania: the railway and the historical Appian Way, indeed, run along the Costa Cauda, close to the bottom of the saddle. In fact, Forchia itself lies along a mediaeval variation of the Appian Way, that prefers running along mountain slopes than valleys.
Coherently with the position of Forchia, its name is a modification of the Latin word furculae
, i.e. narrow mountain pass. It is widely believed that the area of Forchia is the place where Romans used to call the Caudine Forks: here in 321 BC they were trapped and humiliated by the Samnites, i.e. the indigenous populations, who forced the defeated army to pass under a yoke. The Romans took their revenge a few yeas later, but they would remember their great mistake in that occasion. However, identification of Forchia's surroundings as the place of these events is not unanimously accepted, as the Roman historian Livy described the area of the Samnites' trap partly differently.
Almost nothing is known about the origins and the early history of Forchia. The archaeological remains lead to the supposition that the village already existed in Roman ages; in particular, remains of some villas and tombs have been discovered and are partially visible.
The first mention of a casalem in Forcle
('hamlet at the Forks') is made only in 797 AD, when a rich man named Wacco donated it to a church outside Benevento's walls. A few years later, in 832, Furculae
was seat a gastaldate
, i.e. one of the local military districts the Langobard Duchy of Benevento was divided into: in this period Buono, duke of Naples and fierce enemy of the Langobards, set the area on fire. In 843, here a battle took place between Radelchis and Siconulf, the two opponents at inheriting the throne of the Principality of Benevento. Siconulf won the battle, but the events ended only in 849 with the division of the Principality between Radelchis in Benevento, and Siconulf in Salerno. Valle Caudina was cut just in the middle: the gastaldate of Furculae was given to the latter, but the remainder of the valley remained a territory of the former.
However, it has been suggested that the seat of this gastaldate was not the current Forchia but the neighbouring town of Arpaia, as the configuration and the position of Forchia put into doubt that it was an important centre at that time. In fact, during the following centuries, Forchia has always been governed just as a casale
(tiny village) depending from Arpaia. But, on the other hand, the seat of the gastaldate might have been the fortified settlement on top of Mount Castello (nowadays referred to as the castle of Arpaia, but it is close to Forchia as well). A similar ambiguity caused a long debate about whether the territory of Forchia or Arpaia was the exact location of the yoke at the Caudine Forks (even though, as said above, it is not even sure that the event took place in this area).
Originally, the inhabited area of Forchia was concentrated in two small cores. A significant growth of the village only started after 1654, namely when the village church became seat of a new parish, separate from Arpaia. An autonomous municipality was established in Forchia in around 1840 [?]. Today Forchia's economy is not only agricultural, as some industrial activities have been established.
Important landmarks in town are not many, but its old centre has quite of an ancient fashion. It consists of an unique main street
, Via Umberto I, which goes uphill from west to east, tightly surrounded by two rows of houses, and the Parish church of San Nicola; the road eventually leads to Arpaia, meanwhile offering some beautiful landscapes of the surroundings. The area at the bottom of Via Umberto I (with the remarkable D'Ambrosio House), and some steep alleys on the right (concealing a Roman-age cistern), are the oldest cores
of the centre. A large farmland
area is included within the town boundaries, west and north of the centre; it features mountain slopes covered with olive groves, and some hidden Roman ruins; the valley bottom also includes some hamlets (and another church, Sant'Alfonso).