Paolisi

Surroundings

The main road of Paolisi eventually leads next to the border with Rotondi. This area, called For'e Tturre ('out of the towers') has been built-up only recently, except for a couple of notable residences, built by the De Mauro and Landolfi families; are to some extent different from the ones in the town centre, as they reveal a stronger country nature.
After overtaking them, the road allows two detours. The one on the left is Via Faenza, which leads to some kind of industrial area, to the farmland of Paolisi and eventually, to the Appian Way. The name of this road comes from the Latin flaventia, 'ceramics'; such a name probably refers to an ancient production of pottery, in two possible ways: either because the river Isclero (sometimes called Faenza as well), which flows in this area, was a source of clay; or because this area was used for disposal of broken vases.

De Mauro House

Palazzo De Mauro

It was originally built in the 17th century as a simple house to be employed while working in the countryside; during the following century, it was turned into a more refined residence, even though it retained some original, rustic characters. Nowadays it is divided among several different owners.
The building stretches for roughly 80 metres along the main road, featuring 8 doors at the ground floor and 8 windows at the upper floor. They feature stone made frames and sills, respectively. Entering the main portal one reaches the internal courtyard, featuring an ancient well curb. Staircases lead to the upper floor, where a vault-covered walk gives access to the various rooms. Despite the loss of some of the original structures, the remaining ones are still impressive enough. Here as well, white stone is the prevailing element.
De Mauro House features a private chapel as well, dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie, to the left of the building. Risorse ambientali [Comune di Paolisi]

Source for the facts given here

View of the front from west, with the chapel The exterior look of the building is austere, in particular if compared with the front of other buildings in Paolisi. The chapel features a small bell cage in the middle of the roof, partially hidden by the front wall. Entrance portal This stone portal, featuring an elliptical arch, was realized in 1760. It is the richest element of the front of the building. The portal at the bottom of the courtyard gives access to the garden, and was once stone-framed as well.
Arcades on the left of the courtyard, with the well curb This is the view that best communicates the original plan of the courtyard. The whole front is divided into vaulted recesses that protect the doors and the windows. A staircase leading upstairs departs from the right.
The courtyard is entirely paved in coarse local stones. The well curb in the corner is brickwork, but scanned by 4 simply decorated stones, placed at regular intervals.
Top of the hook topping the well curb
Entrance to the chapel The inscription topping the entrance reports the date of construction (1797) and specifies that it is not possible to demand asylum here, as it is a private chapel.
The interior hosts a statue of Our Lady of the Graces, celebrated in town. It also features a neoclassical altar.
Keystone of the main portal The keystone reports its date of realization, under the coat of arms of the De Mauro family: two rampant lions under a star, topped by a crown. Staircase in the right corner
Mask sculpted on the side entrance of Landolfi House Ruins of the Faenza mill The mill was fed by a short canal that diverted the waters of Isclero, which is flowing nearby. The mill used to have two grinders; it was built during the 18th century as part of a whole system of mills along the Isclero and the Caroline Aqueduct that supplied the Royal Palace of Caserta with the water coming from the feet of Mount Taburno.
The river Isclero The Isclero at this point of its flow is not much more than a brook, but it must have been much larger. Not far ago its waters were clean, and even teeming with fish. It is therefore suggested that the banks of the river were the place of some pre-historical settlement. Remains of a Roman encampment, more exactly one dating back to the Imperial age, have been found here, as well as ancient wooden works for controlling the water flow. Mount Paraturo as seen from the Appian Way This photo has been taken along the only space along the Appian Way that has not been built up. Some new constructions of Paolisi are visible on the left.
Back to the main road of the centre of Paolisi, not far from the junction with Via Faenza, just along the border with Rotondi, another road on the right side leads uphill along the mount Paraturo. The road runs along the slope with several hairpin turns, finding its way between thick chestnut forests, and eventually turns into a track leading to Chiano Staglia. This is a glade featuring an amazing landscape on the Valle Caudina; a wooden cross has been erected here a few years ago and it is occasionally a destination of pilgrimages. La Croce [Pro Loco Paolisi]

Small photo gallery about the set-up and the consecration of the Cross.

View of Airola from the road Airola lies at the feet of Mount Oliveto, topped by the riuns of the castle. On the right of the latter is the Passionist convent of San Gabriele, whereas the bell tower visible in ton belongs to the church of Santissima Annunziata. Lumberjacks at work on the slopes of Paraturo The woods of Partenio have always been among the main economical resources for the towns at the bottom of the mountain range. Scotch brooms delimiting the road
Valle Caudina as seen from Chiano Staglia The mountain on the left is Mount Tairano, recognisable from its quarry. The one at the bottom, instead, is Mount Taburno. Just below it it's possible to distinguish two of the main towns of the valley, Airola (on the left) and Montesarchio (on the right). At the feet of Mount Tairano is Arpaia, instead. The commercial and industrial areas along the Appian Way are recognizable as a diagonal road leading to Montesarchio. The town of Rotondi is partially visible on the right side but Paolisi is not, as it is too close to the mountain edge.
The cross, with Mount Taburno in the background The cross lies just at the edge of the plain, held by robust steel cables. A small altar with a stoop has been realized in front of it, employing stones coming from disappeared ancient houses. The top of Mount Paraturo as seen from the cross Seismic sensor This seismic station has been set up in 2010 by the National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) in order to have more precise data about the earthquake activity in an area that historically has been interested by these phenomena an uncountable number of times. The station is capable of registering speed and acceleration of the shakes. Stazione sismica a 'Chiano Staglia' [Il Sannio Quotidiano]

The inauguration of the seismic station on a local newspaper.

At some point along the road to Chiano Staglia a large footpath, probably inaccessible by car because portions of it are too steep and stony, takes a detour and leads behind the top of Mount Paraturo. Here is the mountain place most beloved by the inhabitants of Paolisi, the Plain of San Berardo. It includes a water spring and the ruins of a mediaeval hermitage. Piana di San Berardo [Pro Loco di Paolisi]

Photo gallery about the plain. It has some interesting pictures of the area, in particular of the hermitage in a time when it was not covered by the underbrush.

Cervinara and its mountains, seen from the path Montesarchio seen from the path A view of the plain

Hermitage of San Berardo

Eremo di San Berardo

According to the documents we have, the abbot of Montevergine (an important sanctuary near Avellino) starting from 1281 was a man called Berardo, coming from Montoro (south of Avellino). It is thought that he abandoned this charge to pursue a more quiet meditation, and for this reason he founded a hermitage on the mountains of Paolisi. Or at least, this is what popular tradition believes, but there is no certainty about his historical existence, nor an official acknowledgement of his sanctity.
The supposed relics of Berardo were moved in 1625 from here to Montevergine, where they are still nowadays. The hermitage here, instead, was already in ruins in the 18th century. Part of the walls were torn down in 1956 as a hut was planned on this place, but the project was then abandoned.
What it is possible to see nowadays (even though with difficulties due to a wild greenery growing in place) is the plan, and some architectural details, of the hermitage and the small church attached. Berardo da Montoro [Comune di Arpaia]

The old website of Arpaia (which is attached to the hermitage as well) preserves the widest source of information available about the subject.

San Berardo by giovannimainolfi [YouTube]

A sequence of pictures taken in a day at San Berardo

Remaining walls of the hermitage The greenery I found at San Berardo prevented a clear view of the structures of the old church: the apse is still standing, together with a vaulted environment that was probably the first tomb of Berardo.
Some pillars, with the plain in the background A vaulted passage among the ruins
The spring of San Berardo The fountain of San Berardo is basically a stone drinking trough for grazing animals, into which the spring water falls. The inscription declares that the current structure was set up in 1767 and restored in 1887. But it is hardly possible to read, in the lines below, that the fountain was originally made by Berardo himself.
The cold water flowing from the spring keeps a large stream throughout the winter months.
Vallone San Berardo The waters flowing from the spring of San Berardo run downhill through this ditch, that eventually reaches Arpaia. A path, more rugged and uncomfortable than the one leading to Paolisi, follows roughly the same route.
Copyright 2014 Antonio De Capua